Jeff Samardzija has been a valuable innings eater for the San Francisco Giants, and he’s a candidate for NL Comeback Player of the Year honors this season.
It was a Plan B move for the Giants, who were hot on the trail of Zack Greinke before he signed a massive six-year, $206.5 million deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It was helpful to put a significant piece in our organization,” general manager Bobby Evans told reporters of the signing. “This guy’s a horse.”
It was a fair assessment.
Samardzija was coming off three straight 200-inning seasons, during which time he posted a 4.09 ERA and 1.23 WHIP while earning a spot on the All-Star team in 2014.
He kept that streak in his first season in San Francisco, going 12-11 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.20 WHIP with 167 strikeouts in 203.1 innings.
The following year, he led the NL with 207.2 innings of work while posting a 4.42 ERA and 1.14 WHIP with 205 strikeouts and just 32 walks for an NL-best 1.4 BB/9. Unfortunately, he also led the league with 15 losses, and the Giants failed to contend despite a number of big contracts.
Injuries finally put a stop to his 200-inning streak in 2018 when he pitched just 44.2 innings and struggled to an unsightly 6.25 ERA and 1.63 WHIP over 10 starts. A pectoral strain and shoulder inflammation led to three injured list trips and it was essentially a lost season in what was a trying year overall for the team.
The 34-year-old has bounced back in a big way this year.
He ranks among the NL leaders in ERA (3.38, 12th) and WHIP (1.09, t-ninth), and he’s pitched extremely well of late to emerge as the clear No. 2 guy behind Madison Bumgarner.
With one final year and $19.8 million left on his contract, Samardzija still has time to improve his ultimate legacy with the San Francisco Giants. For now, he claims the No. 21 spot for the decade.
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