San Francisco Giants Have Cause for Concern with Jeff Samardzija

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 07: Starter Jeff Samardzija #29 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 7, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 07: Starter Jeff Samardzija #29 of the San Francisco Giants throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on May 7, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images) /

The San Francisco Giants aren’t in the greatest spot with their pitching rotation right now. A guy who should be depended on, has had some rough outings so far in 2018. The question is, how long can they ride that out?

The ace of the 2017 San Francisco Giants staff was sadly Jeff Samardzija. For a staff with the potential the Giants had, that was disappointing. But with how the staff has pitched here in 2018, The hope was that Samardzija was going to be able to provide a shot in the arm for the rotation until Bumgarner comes back. The complete opposite has happened.

Samardzija’s start went like a lot of his have in recent weeks: 4 innings, multiple walks, multiple homers, a lot of runs surrendered. That’s not the Samardzija that Giants fans were hoping to count on. So what’s so concerning here? It’s still spring training for Samardzija.

Seriously, “shark” looks about three weeks from being ready. His mechanics are off, shown by the lowered velocity and inability to spot anything. Velocity concerns are real, but the concerns on the velocity shouldn’t be surrounding his elbow, or body, it’s strictly around mechanics.

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When Samardzija is locating his fast ball, and all of that, he’s dangerous. He’s not doing that. Actually, he’s not doing that in general. Samardzija lived inside the zone the last few years, and peak command and ability to spot his pitches allowed him to do so.

Taking a look at Fangraphs and their pitching data, Samardzija spotted 47% of his pitches in the zone in 2017. This year, he’s down to 38.7%. That’s not encouraging, especially when the percentage Samardzija’s pitches batters swing at is down 2%. So less pitches in the zone, less swings.

This would be worrying if he was just regressing to a mean, and had over-performed the last couple of years. What would make me believe this is a mechanics issue, is the fact that his career averages are so far off. If he was losing velocity and movement on his pitches, but keeping them in the zone, then we can discuss “losing it.” I mean, he has lost “it,” but “it” is his mechanics. Now, it’s up to him and new pitching coach, Curt Young to help him regain that.

The good thing is that Young has worked with him before, and they had reasonable success. When Samardzija spent a few months in the East Bay (traded to Oakland for Addison ****ing Russell), he and young actually had a successful couple of months. While his numbers caught a slight up-tick in Oakland, he was performing wildly above his average for the start of the year with the Cubs. He had a 3.14 ERA, 0.931 WHIP, 99K’s and 12BB.

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There is too much data to say Jeff Samardzija is a bad pitcher. Is he not an ace? Duh. That’s not who he’s supposed to be. And he’s technically not getting “ACE” money. Ace money nowadays is like $25million AAV minimum. So chill with that talk. He’s making what a top of the line middle rotation starter should make. Why? Because that’s what he is.

But let’s stop arguing with twitter trolls, and look at what we’re dealing with right now. Samardzija was likely rushed back from the DL. For someone who missed a month between spring training and the start of the season, 2.2 innings in the minor leagues isn’t ideal. Especially when that outing had an inning and a third of halfway decent pitching.

The first inning of his start was a disaster, against High-A ball. That should’ve told the Giants enough that he wasn’t quite ready.

And sadly, he somehow survived the majority of the Angels game, which again allowed the Giants and their bad feel for when players are “ready” to feel like they did it right.

****By the way, I’m not a fan of how the Giants medical and training staff has rushed players back. They did it with Pence multiple times in 2014 and 2015, Angel Pagan in every year but 2012, and so on so forth. The fact they clearly did it again with Samardzija is extremely concerning.****

The main problem is, the Giants don’t have very many good options outside of a seriously struggling Jeff Samardzija. Right now the Giants rotation consists of Ty Blach, Chris Stratton, Andrew Suarez, Jeff Samardzija, and Derek Holland. That’s not good. At all. Their only other options to start at the moment: Tyler Beede.

After Beede’s first two starts at the big league level, I’m more convinced that we’re looking at the next coming of Kyle Crick than we are an actual useful rotation piece. That’s the hard part. If the Giants had Cueto and Bumgarner in the rotation, then I think they’d be just fine with having Samardzija figure his stuff out longer in the minors.

Next: Is this Giants' success for real?

They could’ve afforded more than 2.2 innings in San Jose. But they couldn’t. So we’re stuck with a struggling Samardzija who is left to figure out his mechanics in big league games. Until he does, the Giants are sadly going to suffer. So buckle up folks! It’s going to get a little bumpy.