The San Francisco Giants have had plenty of injuries to their starting staff this year. With Jeff Samardzija continuing to struggle with his control, something has got to change for him until the others get back
Jeff Samardzija has struggled with consistency throughout his career. He’s had stretches where he is one of the most dominant starting pitchers in the game and then he’s had stretches where he is the literal worst starting pitcher in the game. Samardzija continues to get opportunities because he’s an inning eater, but he also still has great stuff. In his third year as a member of the San Francisco Giants, his results remain inconsistent. It raises the question; what is the cause? It’s his wind up.
Mechanical changes in 2017
In the beginning of the 2017 season I noticed something about Jeff Samardzija’s mechanics. In previous seasons, as Samardzija went into his leg kick he also rotated his hips a little extra and slightly turned his back toward home plate. Pitchers do this for various reasons. Some want to engage their hips more to generate more velocity, some want to hide the ball a little better, and some just do it because it feels right.
The drawback of doing this is that it can cause your front shoulder to pull out early. When the front side pull sout early it causes pitches to drift to the pitchers arm side. This is an issue Samardzija has been dealing with this season.
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On his first start of the season his wind up no longer featured that rotation of the hips. He was keeping his front shoulder and front hip more in line with home plate. As the season progressed it was clear that it was something he was working on.
From start to start there was some inconsistency with his new mechanics, but he seemed resolved to focus on keeping his front side better aligned with his target out of the wind up. At the end of the year, Samardzija had pitched his way to his lowest full season walk total and solidified his reputation as a strike thrower.
As Samardzija returned from a pectoral strain at the beginning of the 2018 season, his control was not as good as observers were used to. It was chalked up to his lack of a spring training.
Now seven starts into 2018, it seems there’s more to it than that. In his first start of 2018 I noticed that he had returned to his original wind up. So that raised a new question. Why?
Here’s my theory:
The adjustments Samardzija made to his wind up were adjustments suggested by Dave Righetti for the 2017 season. Although the result of this adjustment led to a career low in walks, Samardzija had a higher ERA in 2017, than he did in 2016. It’s possible that when Curt Young was named Giants pitching coach for the 2018 season, Jeff Samardzija felt compelled to go back to his old wind up.
It’s kind of like when you get a new step dad and he doesn’t really know the rules of the house. Curt Young may not know of any changes to Samardzija’s wind up from 2016 to 2017. Subsquently, Jeff Samardzija had abandoned something that may have been very beneficial to his career.
Just pitch out of the stretch. Who needs a wind up anyway? It just seems like if you’re going to tinker with a wind up so much, why not just get rid of it? Now you only have to worry about maintaining one set of mechanics.
I think it was detrimental for Samardzija to ditch the mechanics he was using in 2017 because there were positive results that came from the adjustments. I understand that these adjustments may not FEEL right, and his normal mechanics FEEL better, but it’s clearly not working.
Mechanical adjustments take time to yield results and become muscle memory. And even if it FEELS weird it has to FEEL better than having an ERA over 6.