What’s wrong with Jeff Samardzija?

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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.

Yasmani Grandal signs a four-year, $73 million deal with the White Sox

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The first truly big free agent signing of the offseason has gone down: the Chicago White Sox just announced that they have signed catcher Yasmani Grandal to a four-year, $73 million deal.

Grandal, 31, was the best catcher available in free agency. He is coming off a fine year with the Milwaukee Brewers, with whom he had to settle for a one-year pact in 2019. He hit .246/.380/.468 with 28 homers and 77 driven in. It was his fourth straight season with 20+ homers. While his catching has been criticized due to some high-profile mistakes in the postseason, the two-time All-Star once again proved himself to be one of the best pitch-framers in the game if not the best. Between the bat and the glove he has a claim to being one of the best all-around catchers in baseball.

The signing leaves open the question of what happens to James McCann, who was himself an All-Star this year. It’s not that hard a question, of course, as Grandal is a far superior catcher to McCann in every respect. The Sox could make McCann a backup. Alternatively, they could try to trade him to fill other holes on the roster.

The White Sox finished 72-89 in 2019 but are showing signs of coming out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. This signing pushes them a big step into that direction.