Jeff Samardzija has four years left on his contract with the Giants. There’s always a chance that he’ll get traded before the end of the deal, but there’s nothing in the organization’s recent history that suggests that would happen. Even when the Giants were dreadful from 2005 through 2008, they never rebuilt. And the market for a 35-year-old starter making close to $20 million probably isn’t going to be so hot in 2020.
It’s ... it’s just hitting me now. We’d better get very used to Jeff Samardzija.
This doesn’t have to be a bad thing! For one, he was pretty solid last season, which should give us all hopes that he can be pretty solid again. His list of comparable pitchers includes Ryan Vogelsong and Kevin Correia, which is about right, even if they all had different repertoires. That’s a fair way to describe Samardzija’s floor.
His ceiling, though, is up for debate. He has the stuff, and he did make an All-Star team once because of it, but it’s probably time to stop looking for the 32-year-old pitcher to morph into something he’s never been. It doesn’t matter if he’s tall. It doesn’t matter if he’s somewhat inexperienced for a 32-year-old, considering his years he spent playing football and his time in the bullpen. It doesn’t matter if the fastball is still crisp. He is not a right-handed Randy Johnson, just waiting for everything to click into place. He is Dave Burba. He is Bud Norris. He is Scott Feldman.
He’s just 200+ innings of it, which is quite helpful, really. Consider his FanGraphs WAR for the last five seasons:
2012 - 2.7
2013 - 2.7
2014 - 4.1
2015 - 2.6
2016 - 2.6
That seems very hard to do. Hopefully it means we’ll get a 4.0 WAR season this year, followed by a pair of 2.5-WAR seasons. If you can think of a better way to use math, I’d like to hear it.
Baseball-Reference’s WAR, which is based on runs allowed rather than strikeouts, walks, and homers, likes him a smidgen less, but even at his worst, his ability to absorb innings made him more valuable than the random pitcher you can find in the thrift shops. During the season, it feels like Samardzija is erratic, looking like a pitching titan in one outing, and looking like someone with a secret bat-flip fetish in the next. But on average, he’s just about the most consistent starting pitcher in the game.
How’s his velocity holding up?
2013 - 94.3 mph average fastball
2014 - 94.6
2015 - 94.3
2016 - 94.3
SEE? He just might be a cyborg. A fuzzy, long-haired cyborg.
This might be the shortest projection post in the history of McCovey Chronicles. Before last season, we were worried about him leading the American League in earned runs in 2015. It seemed flukish — the product of a bad ballpark for pitchers and a worse defense — but it was still a $90 million gamble for the Giants that freaked me the heck out. Now we have another season entered into evidence, and it’s pretty clear that Samardzija is Samardzija is Samardzija.
Reasons to expect Jeff Samardzija to get better
- He’s big
- He throws hard
- Sometimes big pitchers who throw hard do well!
Reasons to expect Jeff Samardzija to be roughly the same pitcher he’s been for the last four years
- He’s been roughly the same pitcher for the last four years
Reasons to expect Jeff Samardzija to decline substantially
- He’s 32
- Seven spring innings?
He didn’t have the breakout, AT&T Park-fueled magic season that it was easy to dream about, but there are still more reasons to think Samardzija will help than any evidence to the contrary.
It’ll be a drag when we get that evidence. It’s probably going to come when the contract is far from over, and it’s going to limit the Giants in the offseason. Until then, though, he’s a pitcher the team is happy to employ, even if he can be a tad frustrating at times.
Last year, I expected him to be Jeff Samardzija:
Jeff Samardzija, 2016 projection
Turns out, he was Jeff Samardzija.
Jeff Samardzija, 2016 actual
That might be the most accurate projection in the history of the site. What do I win? Just send it to me. I like surprises.
I guess there’s no choice but to let this ride.
Jeff Samardzija, 2016 projection
Copy, paste, and change the strikeouts. I’m happy he’s on the Giants, even if you won’t catch me saying that after one of his patented dinger meltdowns.