Jeff Samardzija had a breakout 2014 season, making the All-Star team and throwing a career-high 220 innings with a 2.99 ERA at age 29. With one season remaining before free agency the A’s traded him to the White Sox, who hoped to get an equally strong “walk year” from Samardzija.
Instead he’s been a mess, allowing the most hits (195) and most earned runs (98) in the entire league on the way to posting a 4.85 ERA in 182 innings. And he was particularly awful in August, going 0-6 with an 8.82 ERA after actually looking like he might turn his season around during a good July.
So what’s wrong with Samardzija?
Here’s manager Robin Ventura’s attempt at an explanation, via Doug Padilla of ESPN Chicago:
I think anybody that is like him that is a sinker guy, he sinks and cuts it, sometimes he’s probably trying to throw a cutter, and it will sink. If he’s trying to throw sink, it will cut. If you are having a sink, you better get it down in the zone or have them beat it in the ground.
So too many pitches zigging when Samardzija wants them to zag, basically. He’s allowed 23 homers after giving up 20 all of last season.
Padilla tried to delve a little deeper into the problems, but Samardzija has mostly avoided talking about any mechanical issues or “even speculation that he might not be 100 percent healthy.”
I feel good. Everything’s as is, it feels great, I’m throwing all the same.
With free agency and the potential for a huge payday right around the corner that’s perhaps understandable, but at some point the poor performance speaks for itself. His velocity is the same as 2014, but Samardzija’s strikeouts are down 20 percent and he’s inducing 20 percent fewer ground balls.
Orioles 5, Mets 4: Henry Urrutia with the walkoff bomb to cap a night in which the O’s rallied from 3-1 and 4-3 deficits. It was Urrutia’s first big league homer. A Mets fan caught it and gave it back to him, after which Urrutia said “That’s the best gift for me tonight. Now I can give that baseball to my son.” If this was a bad 1980s action movie the terrorist with whom Urrutia served in special forces back in the day would now kidnap the son, causing Urrutia to go on a rampage after him. In the final battle, Urrutia and the terrorist would exchange some one-liners, the terrorist would say something like “we’re not so different, you and I” and then Urrutia would kill the terrorist with the actual baseball from that homer, and the credits would roll as he hugged his son. Man, they don’t make good movies anymore.
Rangers 7, Mariners 2: Derek Holland came back from four months on the disabled list and allowed two runs while pitching into the seventh inning. Mitch Moreland, Mike Napoli and Elvis Andrus all went deep as the Rangers keep pace with the Angels and Astros in the west and the Angels and Orioles in the wild card race. Still not quite believing the Rangers are in the thick of things, but they are.
Brewers 8, Marlins 7: Remember when I said a week ago or so that the only time I notice Khris Davis is when he hits two homers in a game? It happened again. A two-run shot and a three-run shot for a man with the most specific and odd super power of all the comic book heroes. Not as useless as Aquaman or anything, but still very esoteric as far as these things go.
After the low-budget A’s won 5-4 in 10 innings Tuesday night, they beat baseball’s biggest spender again to win consecutive games following a seven-game skid on a recent road trip through Toronto and Baltimore.
Fun fact: there is basically no correlation between payroll and playoff contention this year, with just as many low budget teams in playoff position as high budget and just as many big spenders near the bottom of league standings as poor sisters. It’s always fun for baseball writers to talk about payrolls, but it’s fair to say that the A’s disappointing season is just as much a function of their bad decisions as their payroll this year. As such, it’d be just as insightful to say the “green-wearing team beat the blue-wearing team” in the above passage.
Padres 3, Braves 2: The Padres complete the three-game sweep of the Braves, for whom San Diego has become a personal hell in recent years. But at least the opposition beating up on my boys looked sharp as hell yesterday:
Phillies 7, Blue Jays 4: Aaron Altherr, which sounds like a name some underaged kid makes up on the spot when questioned by campus security about where he got that beer, homered, doubled and drove in three runs. The real story here, however, is that this was the first Phillies game in nearly a decade and a half in which Chase Utley was not a member of the team. Which is causing some feelings among Phillies fans, you should know:
Pirates 4, Diamondbacks 1: J.A. Happ pitched six shutout innings. Not gonna say there was a lot going on at the trade deadline, but I completely missed that Happ was traded to the Pirates. Hi, I’m Craig Calcaterra, baseball news man.
Red Sox 6, Indians 4: David Ortiz, Travis Shaw, Jackie Bradley Jr. and Ryan Hanigan all homered. It was Dave Dombrowski’s first game as team president following his, I dunno, inauguration, or whatever it was that happened yesterday. As Bradley hit that homer, I assume he was fondly remembering all of the times he flipped peaking outfielders for way better value in trades when he ran the Tigers. I almost feel bad for Dave Stewart, because the odds of him getting fleeced out of a great player when Dombrowski calls him this winter have been taken off the Vegas boards.
Royals 4, Reds 3: Ben Zobrist had four hits. And, for the first time in my baseball-watching life, some dude tried to score from third after the infield fly rule was called. Jason Bourgeois of the Reds, specifically. He was tagged out. What in the heck? Bourgeois was also picked off first base early in the game. Not the best day on the basepaths for him.
Cardinals 4, Giants 3: Yadier Molina hit his 100th career homer to put the Cards over the Giants. He also had an RBI single in the game. I suppose this will cause Cards fans to renew that whole “Molina is better than Posey” argument that always makes me smile. Posey has 99 homers in his career, for what it’s worth. In five fewer seasons.
Tigers 15, Cubs 8: Tigers starter Daniel Norris homered but he also suffered an oblique injury, so a decidedly mixed bag for him last night. A worse bag for Jon Lester, who got pounded by Tigers hitters to the tune of three homers and seven runs in two and two-thirds innings. Nick Castellanos homered twice and drove in five.
Astros 3, Rays 2: Carlos Correa homered and hit a walkoff single in the 13th inning. It’s so cool to watch a star being born. Two straight walkoffs in extra innings for the Astros over the Rays. An .895 OPS and a 20-homer pace for Correa, who will end the season playing in around half of his team’s games. This kid is going to be incredible.
Nationals 4, Rockies 1: As I’ve been watching Nationals fans melt down over the past few weeks, two of their favorite targets have been Stephen Strasburg and Jayson Werth. Here Strasburg pitched seven strong innings and Werth hit a tiebreaking triple in the eighth, so I guess they get a day off of abuse.
Angels 1, White Sox 0: A sixth inning homer from Carlos Perez was all that happened with the bats here. Jered Weaver pitched shutout ball into the seventh. That homer was all that Jeff Samardzija let happen. In light of that, how this game went nearly three hours is a mystery to me, but I guess not everyone is Mark Buehrle.
Mets 5, Nationals 2: Curtis Granderson and Daniel Murphy went back-to-back in the third inning and then Lucas Duda added one more. That was more than enough for Noah Syndergaard, who went eight innings allowing only two runs and putting the ball more or less wherever he wanted to. The Mets win the biggest game in the history of Citi Field and move into a first place tie with the Nats after the sweep.
Astros 4, Diamondbacks 1: New Astro Carlos Gomez hit a two-run, go-ahead single in the fourth and Colin McHugh allowed one run on eight hits in seven innings. More hits than innings = “scattered” hits. If there are mushrooms on the hits, they’re “capped.” It’s all on the Astros’ secret menu.
[Moss is] hitting just .217/.208/.487 this season and perversely, is hitting lefties better than righties — but he has a line of .254/.340/.504 over the previous three years. And of course, the Cardinals and their devil magic tend to turn everyone into a near-superstar as soon as they’re acquired. If they didn’t get Moss they could’ve probably signed Will Clark out of retirement again and have him hit .280/.340/.500. That’s just how they roll.
So of course Moss hits a pinch hit walkoff RBI single in this one. Hail Satan.
Blue Jays 5, Royals 2: Things got chippy here, with Royals starter Edinson Volquez pitching inside to Josh Donaldson, eventually hitting him with a pitch in the third inning. Then came retaliation later in the game, and benches-clearing incident. Which wasn’t a brawl because guys just don’t brawl these days. Of course the silliest thing here is that after all of the Royals throwing at Jays, — including Ryan Madson pitching inside to Troy Tulowitzki and Donaldson in the seventh inning — umps eject Aaron Sanchez and DeMarlo Hale for hitting Alcides Escobar in the bottom half of the seventh. So, if you’re the aggressor in a plunking war, you get three or four chances but the first time you plunk back, you’re outta here. I’m sure that’s not written someplace in the unwritten rule book.
Pirates 3, Reds 0: Benches cleared here too as a plunking of Marlon Byrd on Saturday carried over to Sunday with Pedro Villarreal hitting Andrew McCutchen with a pitch followed by Tony Watson hitting Brandon Phillips. Finally, for good measure I guess, Mark Melancon hit Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart. Wheee! Oh, both here and in the Jays-Royals game there was actual baseball played too. Click the box scores for that. We’re just here for the fighing.
Dodgers 5, Angels 3: The Dodgers got something of a mixed bag from their recent acquisitions, with Mat Latos giving up only one run on four hits over six innings and leaving with a 2-1 lead. But Jim Johnson, who came over in the same trade, gave up a tying homer by Kole Calhoun with one out in the eighth. Onto extra innings where Andre Ethier ended it with a two-run homer. It was his second one of the day, and both times he put the Dodgers in the lead. That’s some serious takin’ care of business.
Marlins 5, Padres 2: Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria broke a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the ninth inning with a walk-off three-run home run off Padres reliever Brandon Maurer. That helped the Fish avoid a sweep. Which really is bad for them because they’re totally in the race with the Phillies for the top pick in the 2016 draft. So, yes, quite the setback.
Tigers 6, Orioles 1: Welcome to Detroit Daniel Norris. The Tigers’ acquisition in the David Price deal went seven and a third innings allowing one run on four hits. J.D. Martinez hit a three-run homer in the first and the Tigers would never trail.
Rays 4, Red Sox 3: The Rays avoid a sweep thanks to a late rally keyed by an Asdrubal Cabrera double followed by a James Loney single in the eighth. Which reminds that James Loney played 30 games for the Red Sox back in 2012 which seems like a dream.
Braves 6, Phillies 2: Atlanta avoids the sweep at the hands of the Phillies. I got all sad that the Braves traded away prospect Jose Peraza, but that sadness is tempered by things like Jace Peterson having three hits, including a three-run home run. I mean, he’s nothin’ special, but the Braves have a long and rich history of winning with kind of crap second baseman so they can do it again a year or two from now, right? Think of it as a tribute to Keith Lockhart. Julio Teheran pitched well on the road. That does not happen very often.
Yankees 12, White Sox 3: Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira homered and Stephen Drew had three hits and four RBI. This against Jeff Samardzija of all people, so not bad at all. The bottom three in the Yankees order, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius and Drew, combined for seven hits, six RBI and eight runs scored.
Cubs 4, Brewers 3: The Cubs win their fifth straight, but it was costly as Kris Bryant leaving the game following a headfirst slide into second in which Jean Segura’s glove hand came down kind of hard on Bryant’s head. He sort of slid into Segura’s leg too, as he was really moving. He was woozy after the game and went through concussion testing. Joe Maddon thinks he’ll be fine, though.
Mariners 4, Twins 1: Logan Morrison hit an RBI double in the M’s three-run 11th inning. Nelson Cruz hit a 440+ foot homer earlier in the game.
Rangers 2, Giants 1: Mike Leake allowed two runs in six and a third in his Giants debut but that’s not good enough when your boys only score one. Martin Perez — who got destroyed by the Yankees his last start out — allowed only one run while pitching into the ninth. I think we all have days we just pretend never happened. Perez’s was last Tuesday. “What happened last Tuesday?” Perez asks. “I don’t think anything happened. Was there even a last Tuesday?” He continues.