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Jeff Samardzija and the injury-riddled season

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Samardzija was just one of many Giants to get sucked into the wood chipper of the disabled list. His was one of the worst cases.

San Francisco Giants v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Stat Line

10 GS, 44 2/3 IP, 30 K, 26 BB, 6 HR, 6.25 ERA, 5.44 FIP

Jeff Samardzija’s 2017 was arguably his best season since 2014. The ERA didn’t look pretty, but Samardzija’s strikeout to walk ratio was one of the best in the majors. By fWAR, 2017 Samardzija would have led the 2018 Giants by a win and a half. The thing that dinged him was the outfield defense. Giants outfielders posted -45 DRS in 2017. With an improved outfield defense heading into 2018 (only -4 DRS!), it appeared that Samardzija was in for a big year.

In 2018, everything that could go wrong did go wrong, so Samardzija got hurt in Spring Training. He would miss the first few weeks of the season. Missing three or four starts would be no big deal.

When Samardzija came back, his velocity was way down. In his first start against the Angels, his average fourseam and sinker were down two MPH from his final start of 2017. He made it through five innings without giving up a run despite walking as many batters as he struck out.

His velocity figured to come back. He was still getting caught up after missing a big chunk of Spring Training.

His velocity never came back. Not really. He had one start where his velocity looked okay, but that came in Philadelphia where Samardzija’s tendency to give up dingers was exacerbated by the child’s sized ballpark.

It wasn’t just his velocity either. His command went haywire, too. He went from having an elite strikeout-to-walk ratio to having a near Tyler Chatwood-esque ratio. His 5.24 BB/9 and 6.04 K/9 were both his worst since 2010 when he appeared in just seven games.

Samardzija made another trip to the disabled list and made three more discouraging starts before he went back to the DL for good.

Role on the 2018 Team

Samardzija was supposed to be the number three starter. The Giants were counting on Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, and Samardzija to carry the rotation while they hoped they could fill out the final spots with two of Tyler Beede, Derek Holland, Andrew Suárez, Ty Blach, and Chris Stratton. The Giants needed Samardzija to perform because they didn’t have a pitcher who projected to be above replacement-level.

Role on the 2019 Team

Samardzija’s poor performance in 2018 can be blamed almost entirely on injuries which means there are two ways for his 2019 to go. Either his body will be fine, and he’ll be back to the Samardzija we saw in 2016 and 2017 (who was pretty good!). Or his body won’t be fine because he’ll be 34 years old and pitchers don’t have to come back from injury.

Clearly, the former would be preferable, but it might not be the more likely outcome.

Either way, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which Samardzija isn’t on the roster next year. His trade value is at an absolute low. Unless the new GM moves him along with prospects to dump his salary, Samardzija will remain a Giant in 2019. Even a move like that would be challenging because Samardzija has a no-trade clause and can block a trade to eight teams. Those teams are likely the ones that would accept such a deal.

Final Grade: FW

Samardzija gets a failure to withdraw. It counts the same as an F toward his GPA, but it reflects that he should never have been out there to begin with. Whether through the team’s insistence or Samardzija’s own desire to compete, Samardzija never appeared to pitch when he was 100 percent. Would some extra recovery time have prevented Samardzija’s lost velocity and command? Would making sure he had fully healed have staved off a return to the DL? Probably not, but it’s possible.