Sunday, May 29, 2016

Your 2016 Giants: The Shark Fin Is Circling, Senses Blood In the Water

A couple of good recent articles on Samardzija.  One was a Beyond the Box Score analysis of how he has been able to pitch so well this season after last season's abomination, pointing out that he was returning to his prior form, using the pitches that are his best pitches, his sinker and his cutter:
That cutter and sinker are back up to where they need to be to induce more grounders. The sinker, in particular, returning back to where it was in previous years represents an encouraging trend. And as such, his groundballs per ball in play are back to looking like exactly what they should look like... 
This return to form, although not necessarily a "resurrection", is taking place across the board. He hasn't experienced any sort of real velocity change, but the fact that he's able to utilize all of his pitches is allowing those strikeout numbers to creep back up. After a 6.86 K/9 season last year, he's currently at 7.69 in 2016, with a swinging strike rate up a touch (9.8 to 10.4) from last year. His walks are also down, at 1.82 per nine thus far. The rest of his statistics across the board feature a 2.66 ERA, a 2.77 FIP, and a WHIP down at 1.03. Not only are these numbers vastly improved from last year, but these are some of the best figures that Shark has posted in his career. As a veteran pitcher,, and having spent a previous year in baseball purgatory, Samardzija appears to have the look of a guy who knows exactly what works for him and what doesn't and the Giants are allowing him to roll with it. 
What might seem like a simple, and perhaps even obvious, change for him has led him down the path to not only earning that $90 million contract, but perhaps even justifying it as a bargain at some point.
This is matched up with professional observation by Mike Krukow, from his KNBR show, as reported by CSNBA:
"He's simplifying things," Krukow started. "A lot of times, guys have four or five things they can do with the ball. They feel compelled that they have to throw all of them. 
And I think what (Dave) Righetti and (Mark) Gardner have done with this guy, is they've simplified it, and said 'Wait a second. Let's take a look at what your true strengths are. 
"Your true strengths are your fastball ... and your cut ... so you've got two different types of movement, one going away from the other. And it's late movement. Why not let's focus on being able to corner pitch with it. To locate. 
"We'll introduce a slider, we'll throw it out there, and we'll work on an offspeed pitch to give you an eventual third speed.' That's what they've done." 
"His mechanics are impeccable and he's got great finish with the crack of the whip," Krukow added. "He's in command so that maximizes velocity, movement and location capabilities. He's got all that going. 
"And I think because of his athleticism he's able to repeat this stroke of the arm with great consistency." 
"It gets back to Dave Righetti. If you're a pitcher, and you've got abilities, whatever type of athlete you are, you're going to get better around him," Krukow declared. "You're going to get better around Mark Gardner. They're the best at what they do. This is just another example of it." 
Krukow closed the topic by making a bold prediction. 
Samardzija's "not a finished product. He is a work in progress. I think when he masters that third speed, that changeup, you're gonna see a guy who's gonna be a perennial All-Star and he'll challenge for the Cy Young. I do believe he has that type of ceiling."

ogc thoughts

This was the sort of stuff I was hoping the Giants would be doing with Samardzija once they got their hands on him.

To build on top of what was noted in the Beyond the Box Score (surprised the author didn't point out this chart):  Fangraph Samardzija Pitch Values.  While this has limited predictive value, it is a descriptive stat, showing how good he has been in the season.

Surprising the Cutter Has Been So Good

Amazingly enough, he had not had a lot of success with his cutter in the past (and part of the value shown in this table is the sequencing that happens for the pitcher, based on the circumstances he happens to be in for each instance, making a pitch more or less valuable, depending on how the sequencing is), his only year was way back in 2011, yet the Giants keyed on that pitch, had him simplify to using mainly his fastball along with the cutter.  Yet, despite his lack of success before (remember, sequencing matters), they have found the right sequencing to enable him to create a lot of value with this pitch, something none of his pitching coaches nor team scouts ever realized.

Slider Has Always Been His Plus Value Pitch

Plus the slider is his most often used third pitch this season, which has always been a very valuable pitch in the past.  Apparently by paring back the usage of the slider to key situations, he has been able to create even more value than ever before with his slider, despite not using it as much (and we are only nearing the one-third point of the season).

Now Slider is Keyed with Cutter

Likewise, the Giants keyed on his cutter, which he didn't use as much before in his career.  They have nearly doubled the usage of the cutter in 2016, from 20.2% in 2015 (and roughly 10-13% before) to 39.4% currently.  They still use his four-seamer a lot, but dropped that a lot from before, from roughly 30-ish in last few years to 22.8% this season.  Two-seamer has been reduced too, from the 24.1% in 2014, his most successful year by far (and only one previously, really).  The splitter has been almost eliminated, down to 5.4%.   Even the usage of the slider was down, from the 20-ish he was at before, and it seems like the Chicago White Sox realized that and tried to double down on that, pushing his usage up to 24.4%, but the Giants now only employ it 15.1%, and in spite of the lessened usage, he has almost created as much value with this pitch as any other season he has used it.

Resulting in Success in 2016 Unlike 2014

And this season is totally unlike his most successful season in 2014.  In 2014, he created his value with his fastball, slider, and split-finger fastball, with most of it from his fastball.  For the Giants, most of the value is created with the cutter and slider, with some from the fastball.  It is totally counter-intuitive, because Samardzija is known for his fastball, and yet he is creating most of his value from the other two pitches in his repertoire.

Maybe someone can explain to me, but Beyond the Box Score used Brooks and noted his usage of the sinker, but PitchFX has no sinker to speak of, so I don't know how to reconcile the two sources of pitch type data.  Based on the up and down, it appears that the two-seamer is what Brooks is calling the sinker, but while Brooks has that around 28%, FG has it around 17%.   And FG has the cutter at 39.4% while Brooks has it at around 32%.

And Success with Slider Exponentially Increased

In any case, a lot of additional value is being derived by whatever the Giants are doing with Samardzija.  Looking at the "/C" values, which rates the value of each pitch per 100 pitches, his slider's value has leapt from the 1.0-1.5 per 100 pitches value range to 3.07 per 100 so far this season.  And showing how screwed up Samardzija was with the White Sox, after easily creating value in the 5-8 range previously, he was actually -6.7 with the White Sox.  His cutter value was returned to what it was long ago, in 2011, when he was still a reliever.  And while his fastball value is not that high, on a per 100 pitch basis, is his best since 2014's 0.50, as it is at 0.38.

Despite Plus Plus Velocity, Success With It Has Been Spotty

Despite his plus plus velocity, none of his pitching coaches or teams have ever had him produce value regularly with his fastball.  No wonder Samardzija, according to Baer, told the Giants that he really wanted to join the Giants, and when told that the Giants were busy with Greinke, but would sign him if that fell through, he purposefully stalled negotiations with other teams in order to see what happens.  And once that fell through, that is why the Giants signed him so quickly.

The Giants success with the Shark has come faster than I had hoped.  I thought maybe half to a whole season, then he'll be ready to take over for Cueto before Cueto leaves after two years and opting out.   With a three headed monster, all we need are average back of rotation starters to have a great season.  And Cain's recent stretch of good pitching shows what can happen when you get four good starts in every turn of the rotation.

Giants look good to run away with the division, but, again, injuries to the lineup is the Achilles Heel.  We've already lost Pagan, and aches and pains have took out Panik, Pence, and now Span.  Continued health is what we need to keep the good times going.  


  1. I'm unsurprised that different sources apparently identify a given pitch differently. The trajectories can, I guess, be accurately measured by pitch f/x, but since (a) the pitch identification refers to the grip on the ball and the manner of throwing, which may not produce the desired trajectory, and (b) one man's fastball or cutter or what have you differs from another man's, as to the trajectory expected and therefore a fortiori the trajectory actually achieved, I don't know how one can put a lot of trust into one's pitch identification. And of course that goes ten times over and in spades if the ID is made by eyeball rather than by f/x.

    1. Yeah, good points about the difficulties in identifying pitches. Thanks for the comment.

  2. Another interesting quote:

    Jeff Samardzija made an interesting comment last week after another in a string of successful starts.

    Not only has he felt locked in with his pitching mechanics, but when they get thrown off, he can pinpoint what’s wrong and instantly fix it.

  3. You haven't written anything in weeks. I was hoping for more... Maybe some draft analysis. But I guess real-life has you busy.

    (Just because I rarely comment doesn't mean I don't read.)

    1. Believe it or not, I had not read your comment before I posted my PQS post.

      Yeah, been very busy, put in 60+ hours then 50+ hours last week, and headed towards 50-ish this week. Plus, been following the Warriors as well, so that took time as well.

      And this is my first draft in years that I didn't even follow along with the draft, barely looked at the mocks in May in preparation, just been very busy lately with work and stuff.

      Also, when a team goes 21-8 in a month, there's not a lot to complain about. :^)

      Lastly, my well of thoughts was running dry. A lot of my writing is in response to questions that come up from other fans, or comments made by fans or beat writers that get me curious. That got me going this season with a number of the posts I did earlier, at the start of the season. Again, perhaps going 21-8 did not engender much complaints that I could work against. I mean, the main thing was Casilla giving up all those blown saves. One tweeter I followed supported him totally, but, I don't know, something felt different, I was ready to go to a closer by committee situation, at least for a while until he calmed down.

    2. But I have been working on the draft. Here are my initial thoughts, to whet your appetite, I hope to get something out by the end of the week.

      I feel really good about the early part of the draft. The guys we drafted basically fell to us. I recognized Krook's name from his prior draft, and was surprised to see him as our 4th pick. And Reynolds was viewed by some as a possible first rounder. And I think I found one early list having both their names in the teens.

      I would compare this draft, knee jerk reaction, as comparable to when we got Susac and Osich, in that both were considered first round picks at some point, have some good skills that, if developed, would yield a good significant player, and for whatever reasons, fell to us.

      Looking at the BA 500, released just before the draft, the Giants ended up with 15 players off that list. We will probably sign most of our picks from the first 20 rounds, as the Giants normally does, but probably not many in the 30's, where they tend to do a lot of speculative picks.

      Definitely not Laskey, who was ranked 81st but selected in Round 31, I can't imagine that we can scrounge up enough loose change from paying underslot to sign him. The 81st pick gets $776,700, and right now the most they can give him is $375,600, and we'll see how it goes signing others, but I would not expect that to go up much higher, in fact, it could go down.

      I think Lee, Deeg, and Montgomery are possibilities, even though drafted in the 30's where the Giants tend to not sign guys, because the Giants (that is, Barr) seemed to change strategies here (could just be opportunity this time though) by selecting a bunch of guys in the back end of the Top 500 list, guys who we have some chance of signing because the $100K plus maybe tuition money to finish school later, and some of their 5% overslot (only slightly less than $175K this year) could be enough to get them signed, a couple of them are JC's.

      Plus, Ryan Howard has already signed for underslot, which gives the Giants another $100,900 to play with. Jim Callis of Pipeline noted that he "gets job done w/glove, decent bat". He's a lifelong Cards fan, like Palo Alto close to AT&T, and was drafted by the Giants before, in last year's draft, 31st round. He was an overdraft in that BA only had him ranked 199 and we used the 155 pick on him. The 199th pick is slotted for $229,700, so the Giants gave him a little more than that, and pocketed the rest.

      The Giants might be hoping to save some more money as they selected a number of college seniors in the first ten rounds, Brusa in the 6th, Barangar in the 9th, and Bostic in the 10th. However, Brusa and Bostic were selected around where they were ranked, so any savings there will probably be low, besides which, the 10th round pick already has a low slot, basically have to pay the Sr rate of $5-10K to rack up any savings. If I had to predict, I would bet on savings from Barangar, then we'll see about the other two. We saved on Howard, as he was overdraft, but I thought we would get some savings too on Williamson, as he was drafted way before he was ranked, and yet I think we didn't save anything on him (and he was right to wait, he's been a good prospect).

    3. I see Jacob Heyward, 18th rounder, as the big fish that they are hoping to reel in. He was ranked 291st on BA list, but we got him with pick 545. 291st pick is slotted for $159,800. So he looks very possible since they can already spend $100K on him with no problem.

      While we have some cushion right now, I have to think that they will need to spend some of that to get Reynolds, Quinn, and Krook signed, as all three were drafted a bit after where they were ranked. So we don't know how much we will have left for Heyward or the 30's until these picks get signed. Once they are done, then we'll have some visibility on how possible these other picks are. Just Reynolds alone, his bonus slot is $1,090,000, but he was ranked at 31st, $1,972,100. There is basically no way the Giants can cover that gap, even if they were able to low-ball all the seniors, so he could be a hard sign, depending on how much he was hoping to get that $2M vs. $1M, vs. the opportunity of becoming the top OF prospect for a team that don't have a lot of top OF prospects who are near the majors. He could rise fast if he's any good.



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