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San Francisco Giants: Can Jeff Samardzija Rebound from 2018 Season?

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 14: Jeff Samardzija #29 of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at AT&T Park on July 14, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 14: Jeff Samardzija #29 of the San Francisco Giants delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Oakland Athletics at AT&T Park on July 14, 2018 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Stephen Lam/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija had a nightmarish season in 2018. However, he could be poised for a rebound in 2019.

The San Francisco Giants right-handed pitcher battled shoulder discomfort for much of the 2018 season. Even when Spring Training began last season, he never seemed right.

So far this spring, Samardzija seems to be back to his old self. He even has regained some of the zip on his fastball:

Samardzija struggled with his fastball velocity while battling shoulder discomfort. It actually never fully returned last season.

It is no secret that health will be the key for Samardzija this season. Not only will health be the key to having a better season, but it could improve his trade stock as well.

Admittedly, his trade value will be weighed down because of his contract. However, with 2 years remaining, it is likelier than ever that the San Francisco Giants could find a trade partner.

Beyond health, the key to a successful 2019 season may be workload management and better defense. Samardzija is an innings-eater, but managers are showing a quicker hook than ever before to optimize a starting pitcher’s performance.

Below are Samardzija’s stats each turn through the lineup:

Not surprisingly, Samardzija, like many pitchers, struggle pitching to a lineup for the third time. Hitters have posted a .770 OPS against Samardzija in the third go-around.

Even less surprising, Samardzija gives up his highest rate of home runs (26.19 AB/HR) in the third time through the lineup. This likely explains much of the spike in slugging percentage in this category.

So, load management will be key for Samardzija. Limiting his exposure to 2 turns through the lineup may be the best way to optimize his performance and keep him healthy.

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His OPS against in the first 2 turns suggests he is still an effective pitcher. However, he becomes easier to hit in the 3rd time through as either his arm tires or hitters become more comfortable with his pitches and sequencing.

Whether it is Farhan Zaidi or Bruce Bochy making the decision, it does seem likely the San Francisco Giants will look to manage player workloads a little more. Samardzija seems to be a player who could benefit from pitching fewer innings.

On a different note, Samardzija could benefit from some better outfield defense. From 2016-2017, he posted a 4.12 ERA, but a 3.73 FIP. This FIP is similar to several notable pitchers including Chris Archer and Jose Quintana.

The variance between ERA and FIP was uncharacteristically large in 2017. Samardzija’s 3.61 FIP in 2017 indicates that he was a better pitcher than his 4.42 ERA may suggest. Better defense should help bring his ERA down if her peripheral numbers remain constant.

Especially in 2017, Samardzija was disproportionately affected by the San Francisco Giants poor outfield defense. Their outfield defense should be better this season.

Samardzija has looked good this spring. The fastball seems to have returned, and that’s positive news given the type of injury he experienced last season. His days as a 200-inning workhouse might be behind him, and even though he still wants to be a workhouse, he is a prime candidate of someone who could benefit from pitching just a little less each start.

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