Rest in power, winning streak.
May 2, 2018 – May 7, 2018
You will be missed.
Coming into the game, the Giants were on their longest winning streak since July 2, 2017 when they capped off a series sweep against the Pirates. They’ve had losing streaks of at least four games five times since, so this felt a little special. It’s been a long time since the Giants have been on a roll. They’re still 12-5 over their current five-series win streak, so getting pounded by the Phillies doesn’t have to portend doom.
But I have concerns.
I noted in my series preview the challenge Jeff Samardzija would face in pitching Citizens Bank Park, a stadium designed for Pony league. Samardzija’s a fly-ball pitcher, and he’s always struggled with giving up dingers. It’s one of the reasons his time in a White Sox uniform was so unsuccessful.
In three starts at Philadelphia, Samardzija had allowed twelve runs in seven innings with two home runs. Those came across four years, the most recent of which was in 2013. So that shouldn’t have mattered too much, right?
The first three batters Samardzija faced went like this:
· Three-Run Homer
That wound up being the game winning hit, since the Giants couldn’t do anything against Zach Eflin and the mighty Philadelphia bullpen.
Samardzija lasted just four innings, giving up five runs on two more dingers. At least he doesn’t have to pitch in Philadelphia again this year.
By the end of the first inning, Samardzija had already walked as many batters as Giants starters did all weekend in Atlanta. If you’re feeling optimistic, that means the starters were really good against the Braves. If you’re not feeling so optimistic, that means something’s wrong with Jeff Samardzija.
Last season, Samardzija finished fourth in the majors in strikeout-to-walk ratio behind Corey Kluber, Chris Sale, and Clayton Kershaw. This season, he might finish fourth to last if things continue like this.
He didn’t walk anyone after the first inning, though!
He did, however, give up another dinger.
One of the main concerns for Samardzija is his fastball velocity. His average fastball is down by about a MPH and in his last outing it reached as low as 89. It also reached 96, so it’s been inconsistent to say the least. What does his declining velocity mean? Maybe nothing. He might just not be 100% after injuring his pectoral. It might also mean that he’s doomed.
Here’s his average fastball and sinker (or two-seamer) velocity on a game by game basis going back to 2014.
His average velocity has dipped in a Giants uniform before, but only for one game and then it goes right back up. In 2015, he had some periods of sustained velocity loss. You might also remember that 2015 was when he had the worst ERA among qualified starters in the AL.
The good news is that Samardzija’s average four-seam velocity was up to 95 MPH tonight, and the two-seamer or sinker was up as well. The bad news is that he didn’t really know where it was going. At least the velocity is there. Now if he could just work on the control.
It’s hard to get too worked up about a lousy pitching performance when the offense doesn’t score a single run. This might not be preferable to Samardzija allowing one run on eight innings, but if Samardzija needs to build up his arm strength, he should do it when the Giants were going to lose anyway.
The Giants don’t really have anyone who is in a slump. Brandon Crawford’s been getting hot, Austin Jackson has been getting back to normal, and Gregor Blanco has had good at-bats lately even if the results weren’t there. In their five-series win streak, the Giants are third in the majors in runs scored. So it’s all the more impressive that Zach Eflin and the Phillies bullpen didn’t allow a runner to even reach third.
Gabe Kapler didn’t have to wonder about taking Eflin out before facing the order a third time. Gabe Kapler didn’t really have to do anything. The analytical strategies he’s been talking about employing (but hasn’t) are all about gaining the slightest advantage, and there was no further advantage to be gained. His starting pitcher was painting the black with his fastball. His hitters were clobbering every mistake that came their way. His defense was taking hits away making sure the Giants didn’t get away with any more BABIP-related nonsense.
I was looking forward to watching more DJ Snelten, but I fear tonight’s outing might be the last we’ll see of him for a bit. The Giants are currently running with eight bullpen arms, so they don’t need him around, especially with Reyes Moronta avoiding the DL and Hunter Pence potentially coming back soon.
From the moment, I saw Snelten’s delivery, I hoped he’d pitch his way into a permanent spot in the bullpen. He’s all elbows and angles. He’s like a cubist painting, but he’s also just so funky and loose. He’s free form jazz. He could have been my deep cut to earn me cred points in conversation. “Oh, you like Adam Ottavino and Josh Hader? Mainstream stuff is cool, I guess. But have you seen DJ Snelten?”
But like free form jazz, you realize maybe nobody else is into it not because it’s too unorthodox or edgy. Maybe it’s actually just kind of bad?
I hope DJ Snelten is good.
I hope the Giants are good, too. I’m pretty sure they are. It would be nice if they were more convincing.