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."