After a three home run barrage last night, the Giants will try to keep the good times rolling against the Nationals’ Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson’s 2018 was beset by injuries to his hamstring and wrist, limiting him to just 91.1 IP. He posted a 4.22 FIP and had 65 strikeouts to 20 walks, so he was a solid rotation cog for them when he did appear and they’re certainly counting on him to be one again this season.
He’s basically the Nationals’ version Jeff Samardzija — or, more precisely, the version of Jeff Samardzija the Giants wanted when they signed him to a 5-year $90 million deal. The results have been anything but great (so far, an ERA+ of 98 with the Giants), but they might be on the upswing.
On Saturday, I noted that Samardzija’s peripherals — specifically, his spin rates and average velocity — were still good and his stuff was major league quality. Couple those with the Giants’ intention to use him for just five innings rather than as a work horse / innings eater-type and there is a good chance he turns into a quality league average rotation cog. Yes, an overpaid one, but an effective, reliable presence in the rotation nevertheless.
His performance last Thursday against a moribund Rockies lineup was his best start (7 strikeouts in 7 innings pitched, 3 hits, 1 walk, and 0 runs allowed) for the Giants since September 2nd, 2017 (9 strikeouts in 7 IP), and by Bill James’ Game Score system, the 8th-best of his Giants career. He will probably not duplicate that performance against a healthy and balanced Nationals lineup which looks like this:
#nationals changing it up. #sfgiants pic.twitter.com/Ft76l4R1SS— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 17, 2019
But, again, the Giants are looking to just get five solid innings out of him. Matt Adams is 9-for-17 with 3 home runs off of Samardzija. Juan Soto, Hellickson, and Victor Robles have yet to face him, but everybody else in the lineup has and has at least 2 hits off of him in their careers.
Meanwhile, the Giants will keep things the same as last night:
Same ol’ same ol’. #sfgiants pic.twitter.com/ZmPI9SaDFZ— Henry Schulman (@hankschulman) April 17, 2019
Buster Posey is 1-for-10 against Hellickson; Duggar and Samardzija have never faced him; but, every other Giant has and has at least a hit off of him. Hellickson has a lifetime 2-2 record in 5 starts against the Giants.
Unrelated to all this, but maybe a little bit related, given who’s on the mound for the Nationals today:
No Phils SP has pitched a 9-inning CG since Jeremy Hellickson in September 2016— The Good Phight (@TheGoodPhight) April 17, 2019
I just thought that was interesting. Max Scherzer (5) and Stephen Strasburg (1) are the only Nationals pitchers with complete games over the past three seasons, however. So, you know, what are the odds...