Posts Tagged ‘the shark’

As a fan of the San Francisco Giants, I find conjecturing about the future to be one of the most compelling of all baseball-related activities. With their recent past, and with this year’s team assuming the mantle of continued success, the Giants offer up unlimited opportunities for this pastime.

I mean, one can pose meaningful questions about every MLB team, but some have more relevance than others. For either Atlanta or Minnesota it could be, which team will lose a hundred games first? For LA it could be, will Yasiel Puig ever figure out what constitutes appropriate major league behavior, or is he stuck in middle school?

For the Chicago Cubs, one of baseball’s ongoing legends and not for any reason that the Cubs care to dwell on, it’s simply a matter of, will it finally happen?

For me a big part this postulating about October, centers on The Shark, the moniker affixed to Jeff Samardzija. He arrived with this nickname and has lived up to it from day one. A shark is big, he is aggressive, he is silent and he is deadly.

All of last winter there were whispers, some of them clearly audible within baseball circles. Weren’t the Giants taking quite a chance, what with that 4.96 ERA in 2015, and all those home runs?

And what about all of this pitch-tipping talk? Does anyone think that it’s possible for everyone in baseball to know about this characteristic, without maybe the White Sox and Samardzija himself, also being privy to this knowledge?

At six-five, 235 pounds, right-handed Samardzija IS big, complementing southpaw Madison Bumgarner’s height and weight. With an approximate strikeout-to-walk ratio of 4-1 (62-18), an ERA of 2.54 in ten games started, and a WHIP of 1.06, one can ascertain that The Shark is aggressive.

Samardzija is a team player, meshing well with the Giants, and he keeps a low profile. He goes about the business of performing competitively by letting his actions set the tone, not his mouth. The image of him breaking that bat over his knee a few weeks ago looms large. The Shark is silent.

Finally he has won seven games and is tied with Johnny Cueto for the club lead. Both are well ahead of the pace for twenty-game win seasons. The Shark is deadly.

The Cubs (.702) are also deadly; they currently have the best record in baseball at 33-14. The Giants’ own 31-20 (.608) record pales in comparison.

I have put forth the proposition that these two teams will meet in October. Nothing has occurred thus far to deter this line of reasoning. If I am correct, one team will go on for the opportunity to win its first world championship since Teddy Roosevelt was President, while the other has the chance to win its fourth title in seven years.

When two teams have such a wealth of talent and success within their ranks, intangible factors assume greater proportions. Having played for the Cubs the bulk of his career, I might expect Samardzija’s level of play to reflect that deep association.

It’s no secret that players inevitably put their best game on display when they meet a former team. Whereas it’s just human nature, it takes on added dimensions in baseball when so much is at stake.

I expect that we will see The Shark display all of those four qualities I just mentioned when this October match-up occurs and it could be just the edge that the Giants need to delay the Cubs’ success story for at least another year.

After all, 2017 is not an even-numbered year.



If you are a San Francisco Giants fan, you will remember the off-season comments being tossed around concerning the acquisition of Jeff Samardzija, also known as The Shark.

“His 4.96 ERA last season [2015] was the worst of his career.”
“Look at that 6.86 K/9 ratio; what’s up with that besides walks?”

“He reached career highs in hits allowed (228), earned runs (118) and home runs (29), while posting an 11-13 record in 32 starts.”

“He plunked a dozen batters in 2015…” 

Samardzija himself said, “I was tipping my pitches.”

During one fatal stretch leading up to his two final starts of the 2015 season, he went 1-8 with a 9.24 ERA, giving up a career-high ten earned runs to Oakland on September 15th, in a 17-6 loss.

To many fans it seemed as though the Giants were somewhat bottom-fishing, especially after losing the prize, Zack Greinke, who signed with Arizona. Granted, Johnny Cueto is a star[fish], which is why The Shark’s signing paled in comparison.
On this date in 2015, Samardzija was 2-2, with a 4.88 ERA, almost exactly what it would turn out to be for the season (4.96). Today, he is 5-2 and his ERA is a svelte 2.88, while his WHIP is a minuscule 1.12.
Whereas we are only approaching the one-quarter mark, Samardzija seems to get better each time he takes the mound. Friday night’s eight-inning effort saw him yield six singles, a Jake Lamb double, and the first career triple by starting pitcher Shelby Miller.
In all Friday, at Chase Field in Arizona, he surrendered one earned run, walked none and struck out three. Earlier in the season he pitched eight full innings of two-run ball in Colorado. Those who said he “would have to post decent numbers, pitching in AT&T Park,” are correct to a certain extent. 
They just ought not to have shortchanged him. 

So why the difference and more importantly, how were the Giants able to figure out-over the winter-that they could expect this kind of production from The Shark in 2016?
According to Nick Doran, who wrote a piece over the offseason for the Dynasty Guru, it includes several small negatives, which combined to create the bigger discrepancies. Doran listed the move from the National League to the American League as one reason, because Samardzija had to face a designated hitter each game, instead of the pitcher a couple of times per game.
Next Doran mentioned the shift from Wrigley Field to U.S. Cellular, which he called “a tougher place for pitchers.” He then went on to talk about the White Sox having the 28th Defensive Efficiency Ratio, which when compared to the defense of San Francisco, cannot be glossed over.

Doran elected to disregard the speculation about pitch-tipping, because he felt that it was impossible for all of the other clubs to be aware of it, without the Sox also having that information. It’s just too hard to keep something like that under a team’s radar because bad news travels faster than an Aroldis Chapman fastball.

What he thought more likely to have contributed to 2015’s shaky season, was the fact that Samardzija doubled the use of his cutter, while simultaneously reducing the number of times he used his sinker. The results played havoc with his career stats and the Giants were astute enough to be able to make that observation and draw their own conclusions.

With one of the best pitching coaches in baseball, in Dave Righetti, the Giants felt certain that they could get Samardzija back on the winning track. One-fourth of the season does not a full year make, but at least the issues that plagued The Shark last season, have not reared their ugly heads so far and bitten him in the backside.

In fact the combined stellar starts of all three of the rotation’s top pitchers, including Madison Bumgarner (4-2, 2.72 ERA) and Johnny Cueto (5-1, 2.97 ERA) have given manager Bruce Bochy a little more rope, when it comes to not hanging himself on the decision to stick with Jake Peavy and Matt Cain.

Both pitchers are gaining confidence and throwing better than they have at any time so far this season. Peavy’s effort Saturday night in Arizona, was his best start of the season, and that followed Cain’s last start against the Toronto Blue Jays, also his best effort, even if it was in a losing effort.
Better to encounter technical difficulties early in the season, while there is still plenty of time to correct them, than to find out too late that the ship has sprung a leak.

By then it may turn out necessary to spend so much time bailing out water, that it results in abandoning ship, which means missing the playoffs.

The Giants cannot afford to do that because they have an engagement with the Chicago Cubs, one which will determine the National League Pennant winner.

As it is, Peavy and Cain will get the opportunity to face the Cubs in the upcoming series beginning this coming Friday, at AT&T Park. I like the fact that San Francisco will first confront the Cubs with the fourth and fifth members of their rotation, because if they can succeed with the lower end, imagine how well they could be expected to do with the upper end.

And if the Giants cannot compete, then they can consider going back to the drawing board.
Until then, keep that drawing board locked up and throw away the key, because the key is pitching and both Cain and Peavy have been infused with a coating of graphite.
Hopefully, they’ll use it to unlock the mysteries of how to stop the Cubs’ offense.