Our next player on our alphabetical list of San Francisco Giants player reviews is left-handed pitcher Sammy Long.
12 games, 40.2 innings, 5.53 ERA, 4.23 FIP, 38 strikeouts, 15 walks, -0.4 rWAR, +0.2 fWAR
Every team has a player or five who look better than their stats indicate. I’m not talking about the way that Brandon Crawford does every year — I’m talking about the players who you pull up on Baseball-Reference and say, “Huh. I don’t remember it unfolding quite like that.”
Long was that player for the Giants in 2021. His ERA (5.53) was bad. His FIP (4.23) was much better, but still not particularly good. His xFIP (4.93) was also bad. And even if you search around the more specific stats — like strikeout rate and ground ball rate — they don’t paint a picture of a soon to be dominant pitcher.
Maybe I loved the narrative: Long once started training as a firefighter after being cut by the Tampa Bay Rays, presuming his professional baseball career to be over. He’d bounced around with minimal success before finding his way to the team he grew up rooting for, on a Minor League contract. Maybe that clouded my vision.
Perhaps I bought into the strong Minor League numbers, which were especially brilliant before his first MLB call-up. Maybe that felt predictive and exciting.
There’s even a small chance that my untrained baseball eye saw something worth being excited about when watching his mechanics, command, control, and raw stuff.
Either way, I left the 2021 season being excited about Long’s future, and I enter 2022 being excited about Long’s future. After all, he’d only pitched 155.2 innings at any professional level prior to this season. His best days are ahead of him, and for whatever reason — logical or otherwise — he already seems better than the numbers would lead you to believe.
Role in 2022
The Giants currently have four starters for their rotation, and have been a little quiet about a potential quest for a fifth. I’m assuming they’ll add a trusty fifth starter, but if not, Long is probably set to duke it out with Tyler Beede for the final spot in the rotation.
What’s more likely is Long sticking around as a long reliever (for now) and spot starter, who splits time between the Majors and AAA.
How do you grade Sammy Long’s season?
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