What happened to Jeff Samardzija in 2015?

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I'm writing this here, because Baseball Essential already had an analysis piece on Samardzija. You can read that here.

After losing out on Zack Greinke to the Diamondbacks, the Giants turned to Jeff Samardzija on Saturday, inking him to a five-year, $90 million deal. He spent parts of seven seasons with the Chicago Cubs starting 66 games and relieving in 123. After transitioning full time to a starter in 2012, he posted a 3.83 ERA, 3.55 FIP in nearly 500 innings before being traded to the Athletics in 2014.

With one year of control left, the A’s shipped Samardzija to the White Sox where he had his worst season yet. He still pitched over 200 innings, but had a 4.96 ERA, 4.23 FIP and his strikeout rate dropped nearly six percent. What happened?

From 2012-2014, Samardzija threw five pitches at least 10% of the time. According to Brooks Baseball, here’s the breakdown:

Notice the difference in cutter rate. It increased almost ten percent while his four-seam and sinker rates went down nearly seven percent each. He also started throwing his slider more often, nearly a five percent increase.

The slider in 2015 was one of his main issues. From 2012-2014 opponents had OPSs of .578, .659 and .563, but .787 in 2015. Line drive percentage went up nearly seven percent while average velocity went down one. At age 30 his velocity should be slightly decreasing, but with little difference in movement or velocity there must be a difference in location.

Raw data from 2012-2014 and just from 2015: There’s not much difference except from 2012-2014 he worked more at the belt than below the strike zone.

Now here’s isolated power: When Samardzija did throw it belt high, the contact rate was up and ISO was up compared to 2012-2014.

One possible fix is his release point. Last year started releasing the point more on the side and stayed there through 2015. The low points in the 2012-2014 graph are from the changes he made in 2014 while in Oakland:

Even with Samardzija's stuff and relatively light workload Dave Righetti and the Giants have a tough test ahead of them. Right now, ZiPs projects Samardzija to accumulate nearly 13 wins during the five year deal assuming full health, but that's asking him to be just a league average (or so) starter.

ZiPs - Dan Szymborski of ESPN

The big question is whether or not he can get his strikeout rate back to around his career level and if he can do that then this deal will look like a bargain.

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Pirates acquire Aramis Ramirez

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According to Craig Calcaterra of NBC Sports, the Pirates are close to acquiring Aramis Ramirez from the Brewers. Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette confirmed it. Pittsburgh's starting third base Josh Harrison was recently placed on the disabled list with a left thumb injury, so Ramirez will provide a stop gap there until Harrison returns.

The Brewers player development announced that the Pirates are sending Yhonathan Barrios to the Brewers in return.

Ramirez, 37, announced that this would be his final year and he gets to return to the place where he started his big league career. He is having sluggish year slashing .247/.295/.430 with 11 homers, 94 wRC+, and a 1.2 fWAR. His defense is still superb at the hot corner.

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Brewers hire Craig Counsell as manager

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According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Brewers have fired Ron Roenicke and hired Craig Counsell to replace him as manager.

Counsell, 44, last played in 2011, but had a job in the front office with the Brewers and was looked at as a possible general manager replacement down the road. He spent most of his career playing second base, third base, and shortstop with the Diamondbacks, Rockies, Marlins, and Brewers. He slashed .255/.342/.344 with 42 home runs, 82 wRC+, and 17.7 fWAR in 1624 career games.

The 7-18 Brewers have the worst record in baseball and felt there needed to be a change. Counsell doesn't have managerial experience, which makes it a questionable hiring. 

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Wainwright expected to miss remainder of season + notes

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After staggering out of the batter’s box Saturday in Miller Park the veteran right-hander Adam Wainwright received news that he is likely done for the season with an Achilles injury. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports says that Wainwright hasn’t gone for an MRI yet, but the expectation is a torn Achilles.

General manager John Mozeliak said on a local radio show:

“I would imagine that with this injury Waino will not pitch again this season, but we want to wait for the reports Monday”

The 33 year old missed 2011 with Tommy John surgery and missed the Cardinals’ World Series run, but the difference was that the organization had time to find another starter. In 1566 career innings pitched, all with St. Louis, he has posted a 2.98 ERA, 3.11 FIP with a 35.1 fWAR.

The Cardinals do have some pitching depth to get them through the season with Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Lance Lynn, John Lackey, Tyler Lyons, and Marco Gonzales, but they could look to add some pitching at the deadline.

Wainwright is due around $75 million through 2018, so there could be concern about his future with the team. Achilles injuries could be difficult to deal with especially if it’s a pitcher’s push off leg.  


- Yasiel Puig and Joel Peralta of the Dodgers were placed on the DL. Puig has a left hamstring strain and Peralta has been experiencing dead arm. 

- Max Scherzer of the Nationals is unlikely to make his next start due to a jammed thumb that occurred during an at-bat Thursday.

- Brandon McCarthy of the Dodgers left Saturday's start against the Padres due to tightness in his elbow. He will get an MRI on Monday. 

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Rangers close to acquiring Josh Hamilton

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According to TR Sullivan of MLB.com, the Texas Rangers are close to acquiring Josh Hamilton from the Los Angeles Angels.

We do not know the terms of the deal yet, but I would guess that either the Angels would eat his contract & receive a low-grade prospect back or the Rangers pay for most of his salary while taking back 30-40 grade prospects. We’ll see.

Hamilton went to Major League Baseball a month or two ago saying that he relapsed with cocaine among other drugs. He wasn’t punished by the Joint Drug Agreement causing the Angels to become upset about the lack of punishment.

The 33 year-old outfield signed a five-year deal worth $125 million with the Angels in December of 2012 and has close to $90 million left on his deal.

In 2014, Hamilton slashed .263/.331/.414 with a 113 wRC+, 1.2 fWAR in 381 plate appearances. 

From 2008 to 2012 with Texas, Hamilton slashed .305/.363/.549 with 142 home runs, 136 wRC+, 22.2 fWAR in 2814 plate appearances. Hopefully he can get his life together and play baseball at a high level. 

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Notes from Wednesday in baseball

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Jackie Robinson Day - Robinson's No. 42 was retired throughout the major leagues in 1997. Former commissioner Bud Selig, in 2005, decided to honor it every April 15th in major league baseball by having every player/coach wear no. 42. 

Kevin Pillar made a spectacular catch to rob a home run Wednesday. Check it out:

Pillar also went two for four with a couple runs batted in helping the Jays beat the Rays 12-7. 

- Alex Rodriguez smashed his 656th home run, now four from tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. Here was that monster of a hit:

- After Felix Hernandez of the Mariners left his last start with a tight right quad, MLB.com’s Greg Johns reported that he will start Saturday against the Rangers. In 12 innings pitched this season the 29-year old has a 3.00 ERA, 3.22 FIP, 1.08 WHIP.

- Yasiel Puig is out of the lineup again Wednesday after suffering a mild hamstring injury during Monday’s game. Andre Ethier will get the start. Puig is likely going to be available Friday. 

- The Diamondbacks have recalled Cuban outfielder/third baseman Yasmany Tomas from Reno after spending a week with the Triple-A club. He signed a $68.5 million deal in the offseason. With emergence of Jake Lamb (small sample size) at third base it is likely that Tomas gets his at-bats in the outfield. 

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Harvey back, Bauer good, Webb traded

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- Matt Harvey started his first game following Tommy John surgery and went six innings, striking out nine, giving up no runs, four hits, and one walk. He was limited to 91 pitches after being out for nearly two years.

Harvey, 26, last pitched in 2013 and posted a 2.27 ERA, 2.00 FIP in 178 1/3 innings pitched with a 6.5 fWAR. The Mets won the game & took the series in Washington to open up their season.

- Trevor Bauer, 24, went six no-hit and shutout innings today in Houston but had to be lifted due to high pitch count (111 pitches). The Astros finally got on the board in the ninth inning off a Jed Lowrie homer, but Cleveland still won.

In 2014, Bauer posted a 4.18 ERA, 4.01 FIP in 153 innings pitched with a 1.3 fWAR. This spring he had a 26 to 1 strikeout to walk ratio.

- The Dodgers acquired RHP Ryan Webb from the Orioles today along with minor league catcher Brian Ward and a competitive balance pick (no. 74 overall) for right-hander Ben Rowen and Chris O’Brien.

Los Angeles will pay Webb’s nearly $3 million salary for 2015. In 2014 the 29-year old posted a 3.83 ERA in 49 1/3 innings with Baltimore.

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Kluber, Carrasco agree to extensions with Indians

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According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Indians and Corey Kluber have agreed on a five-year, $38.5 million extension. Kluber could potentially make $77 million.

Kluber, 28, put everything together in 2014 and won the American League CY Young Award. He posted a 2.44 ERA, 2.35 FIP, 7.2 fWAR in 235 2/3 innings pitched. 

The Indians weren't done there. Jeff Passan of Yahoo reported that the Indians agreed to a 3-year deal with Carlos Carrasco worth $22 million guaranteed. The deal will buy out his arbitration years and one year of free agency. 

Carrasco, 28, had a career year in 2014 posting a 2.55 ERA, 2.44 FIP, 3.1 fWAR in 134 innings pitched. He has a career 4.30 ERA, 3.75 FIP. 

Opening Night is here. Jon Lester against Adam Wainwright 8:05 EST.

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Justin Verlander to DL + notes

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The Detroit Tigers have announced that Justin Verlander will start the season on the disabled list with a triceps strain, not a cramp. Verlander and the Tigers still think it’s a mild strain and will likely be available a week after Opening Day. This is his first trip to the disabled list.

Verlander, 32, posted a 4.54 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 2.8 fWAR in 206 innings pitched in 2014, arguably his worst professional season. He has six years, $162 million left.


- The Mets and center fielder Juan Lagares have agreed on a four-year, $23 million deal according to Jim Bowden of ESPNJeff Passan of Yahoo! reports that the deal is for $23M over 4 years with a $9.5M club option and a $500,000 buyout.

- Christian Vazquez, catcher for the Red Sox, will undergo Tommy John surgery, according to Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal. Ryan Hanigan will be the Red Sox' Opening Day catcher.

- According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, the Giants are close to extensions with manager Bruce Bochy and GM Brian Sabean. Three World Series' in five seasons will earn you a big paycheck. 

- Blue Jays signed LHP Felix Doubront. In 438 innings pitched with Boston and the Cubs he has a 4.78 ERA, 4.30, and 3.5 fWAR.

- Coco Crisp will be out 6-8 weeks due to bone spurs in his elbow. Josh Reddick isn't back yet, so you could see the A's go after one of Boston's outfielder: Daniel Nava, Allen Craig, Shane Victorino, Jackie Bradley Jr.

3 days until Opening Day 

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Mariners, Rays swap Ramirez for Montgomery + notes

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According to Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, the Rays have acquired right-handed pitcher Erasmo Ramirez from the Seattle Mariners for left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery.

Ramirez, 24, was out of options and wasn’t going to make the team out of Spring Training. In 206.2 total innings at the big-league level he posted a 4.62 ERA 4.66 FIP with a 0.5 fWAR. He had an 18.4 K% and 8 BB%.

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Montgomery, 25, hasn’t seen the big leagues yet, but has posted a 4.28 ERA in 789.1 innings pitched in the minors including a 4.29 ERA in 2014. He is looking like a future relief man. 

- Notes

- Justin Maxwell made the Giants' roster and former first round pick Gary Brown was designated for assignment. With Hunter Pence fracturing his left forearm, there was going to be a roster spot open. Maxwell made the team over Brown, Juan Perez, and Jarrett Parker. Maxwell will likely platoon a bit with Gregor Blanco and Nori Aoki, maybe even give Angel Pagan multiple days off a week. In 919 career PA, he slashed .224/.311/.417 with a 97 wRC+, and a 3.2 fWAR.

- In 2015, the mean salary will be over $4 million, which is a new record. $4.25 million, to be exact, according to NBC.

- Ken Giles, Phillies' right-handed relief pitcher left his outing due to back tightness, according to Jim Salisbury of CSNPhilly.com. Salisbury added that Giles isn't worried about it and thinks he will be ready for Opening Day. Giles, 24, broke out last year posting a 1.18 ERA, 1.34 FIP in 45.2 innings pitched.

- Jose Mijares, 30, has been suspended 50 games for "drug of abuse" according to MLB HQ. Mijares won a World Series in 2012 with San Francisco while being a key middle reliever, specialist in the bullpen. He is currently a free agent.

The Office of the Commissioner of Baseball announced today that free agent Minor League left-handed pitcher Jose Mijares has received a 50-game suspension without pay following a second positive test for a drug of abuse in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

- John Axford of the Rockies left Rockies' camp after his two-year old son was bit by a rattlesnake near the home they're staying at in Arizona. He was bit twice on the foot, according to Nick Groke of the Denver Post, and is now stable. Axford made Colorado's club and will make nearly $3 million in 2015. Get well, Jameson Axford.

- After leaving his start on Friday due to triceps cramps, Justin Verlander could end up starting the season on the disabled list, according to George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. He is going to pitch in a minor league game this Friday, meaning the decision will likely come soon after that. 

Five days left until Opening Day (Night? Whatever)

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