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Jeff Samardzija pummeled, Giants drop series

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The Padres had as many three-run homers in Sunday as the Giants have had all season. That seems like a problem.

San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres
Same.
Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

I mean, hell, I guess I’ll update the list from last night and take the rest of the afternoon off.

Hector Sanchez home runs, by opponent
1. Giants (4 in 17 plate appearances)
2. Rockies: (3 in 123 PA)
3. Padres: (2 in 81 PA)

He’s done it! Bless him. Hector Sanchez has hit more home runs against the Giants than he’s hit against any other major league team, despite spending five seasons with them and collecting 637 plate appearances. He has fewer than 100 plate appearances in his Padres career, but it doesn’t matter. Sanchez has hit more homers against the Giants than he’s hit against any other major league team.

That’s funny. Seriously. Laugh at that. There is absolutely no benefit to getting mad. It’s funny. The Giants gave the universe Cody Ross, and this is what it spit back. It’s a game. This is funny.

Sanchez hit a three-run homer before I even sat down, and the game was over. Hit by pitch, single, homer, and it didn’t matter what Jeff Samardzija does for the rest of the day. It’s over. The Giants couldn’t hit Trevor Cahill, and they were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, because of course they were, and this was a two-and-a-half-hour game that was over in four minutes.

If you were morbidly curious, FanGraphs calculates a pitcher’s ERA, FIP, and xFIP for every game.

You’re familiar with ERA. It’s the average of how many runs a pitcher allows for every nine innings he pitches.

FIP is based on the strikeouts a pitcher gets and the walks and home runs he allows. It’s not concerned with hits allowed because the idea is that even the best pitchers might see fluctuations in their hits-allowed total that are beyond their control.

xFIP is the same thing as the above, but it also assumes that fly balls leave the ballpark at a predictable rate. So if a pitcher has more fly balls leaving the ballpark, he’s unlucky, according to xFIP.

According to ERA, Jeff Samardzija was unspeakably bad on Sunday.

According to FIP, he was pretty bad.

According to xFIP, he was pretty good.

This is the same pattern for his season statistics, too, except his FIP is much kinder. The ERA says Samardzija is completely incompetent. The xFIP says he’s pretty good.

Let Jeff Samardzija be the pitcher who buries xFIP in an unmarked grave, then. It doesn’t work for everyone in the rabbit-ball era. Specifically, it doesn’t work for Samardzija. It’s always been a little too easy to hit home runs against him, but it’s also easy for anyone to hit home runs against any pitcher in 2017. The combination of the two is an upside-down latrine when it comes to this particular pitcher.

Samardzija will apparently always give up a home run at the wrong time. It’s wrapped around the double-helix that earned him the $90 million contract, and the pre-existing condition was inflamed by the home run surge from the last two seasons. He leads the league in walks per nine innings, and he has the best strikeout-to-walk ratio in the majors. But hitters don’t care about strikeouts or strikeout-to-walk ratios. There is no shame in swinging and missing, so long as some of those swings lead to home runs.

Samardzija is the worst possible pitcher for this era, then. He needs a time machine to head back to 1983, when everyone was super self-conscious about striking out. Choke up on 0-2, fellas! Put the ball in play!

That’s not what they do now. Cory Spangenberg was down, 0-2, and he still swung like he was expecting a fastball down the middle. Which he got. It was the fourth home run the Giants have allowed on an 0-2 count this season, which actually isn’t that bad. It’s just compounded by the fact that they’ve hit exactly zero home runs on an 0-2 count this year, even though they’ve had at least three in every season since AT&T Park opened. They hit 11 homers on an 0-2 count in 2010, somehow.

And when they give up those homers, they sting. You knew this was coming:

Three-run homers by Giants, 2017: 2
Three-run homers by Padres in Sunday’s game: 2

That’s the kind of stat that gives the Giants extra credit in xFIP. And you’re right not to care. Advanced stats can’t figure the Giants out. None of us can.

In a way, it’s almost better for the Giants to fail like this against the Padres. Because the Padres are bad, and it allows for moments of clarity. Here, I found a good way to express how bad the Padres are: Hector Sanchez was their cleanup hitter on Sunday. They have a season OBP under .300, and even though they hit more homers than the Giants, they have the exact same adjusted OPS. They should be just as bad as the Giants.

And yet, the Giants are worse. The dreams of a second-half renaissance took a hit with them losing a series against the fourth-place team they’re chasing. They might be worse than everyone. They’re going to pretend like this season never happened and come back with a Bumgarner-Posey-Crawford core next year, and all we ask is that they make us feel good about that.

So far, so bad. There’s still a lot of second half left, but we have three games of evidence that suggest the Giants will lose two out of every three games they play, which was the case in the first half.

The Phillies won, by the way. The Phillies won. So this wasn’t a total loss.

Also, Game of Thrones is on. That’s exciting.

When it comes to baseball, though, Jeff Samardzija keeps giving up home runs at the wrong time, which invalidates all of the good work he offers in between. He does that better than any pitcher in baseball, just like the Giants avoid scoring runs better than any team in baseball. I guess we’re lucky to watch it. In a very specific, esoteric, unfortunate way, we’re lucky to watch it.