It has been no secret that the San Francisco Giants were looking for solid starting pitching and the team was quick to regroup after a failed attempt at Zack Greinke by signing right handed starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija to a five year deal worth $90 million. This news was first reported by Alex Pavlovic via Twitter.
Giants fans may be quick to point out that Samardzija was the pitcher of record for the most runs allowed, hits allowed, and home runs allowed in the American League but a move to a more pitcher friendly park with a more dependable defense may be enough to curb those negative statistics.
The 2014 All Star, who split that year between the Chicago Cubs and the Oakland Athletics, is a tough sell based on the stat sheets. As a starting pitcher, Samardzija has yet to pitch a winning season with his career record (exclusively as a starter) sitting at 42-65 (.392). His ERA as a starter is 4.02. His 2015 campaign with the Chicago White Sox ended with an 11-13 record, a 4.96 ERA and his lowest WAR (0.2) since 2011.
In 2014, combining his time with the Cubs and the A's, his RAA was 16 but in 2015 he'd completely flipped and posted a -17, a career low swing of 33 runs in the wrong direction. 21 of the 29 home runs Samardzija gave up last season were off the bats of left handed hitters who also had a .133 better SLG%. Excluding those two stats, which are pretty significant stats, his splits are pretty even between right handed and left handed batters.
In his career he has pitched to 61 batters in AT&T Park and hitters hit .268 off of him with one home run and six runs total.
If this all seems like bad news, it shouldn't. While Samardzija has struggled with wins and runs, his stuff is still pretty solid. He throws three primary pitches (slider, sinker, 4 seam) and can throw in a cutter or splitter from time to time. His four seam fastball still clocks in the 93-94 mile per hour range, his sinker, at 95 mph, is above average, and his pop up inducing cutter comes in around 93 mph.
This first chart shows the velocity of his pitches over the past two seasons.
This chart shows the frequency of use of each of his pitches. Take note that in 2015, for the most part, he was balancing all five of his pitches more and relying on his fastball less than in 2014 (particularly early in the season). There is a drop off in his cutter use towards the end of 2015 but considering his above average ability to induce pop flys with that pitch, one should assume that barring a mechanical issue, that pitch will be more relied upon in AT&T.
At the end of the day, this signing may be a bit of a gamble. It is very possible that Samardzija will find the success that his talent deserves while in San Francisco but it is also possible that the ability and the production are much more in sync than most credit.
The signing is pending a physical on Tuesday and the yearly average (official breakdown isn't available at the time of this article's writing) is about double what he earned with the White Sox in 2015.