You’ve been looking at this Samardzija thing all wrong.
Do you have your pitchforks ready? Jeff Samardzija is worth the money, and I’m going to tell you why.
Yep, feel that blood pressure spike. How? How can a guy who’s now 12-14 in a Giants uniform possibly be worth the $90 million the Giants front office doled out to sign him last offseason?
The answer is quite simple really, and it’s been on display not only during his short time with the Giants, but throughout his entire career as a starting pitcher. Jeff Samardzija does something that is much harder to come by then most people think: He makes every start, year in, and year out.
When you hear the names Sale, Kershaw, Verlander, and Cueto, the mind immediately jumps to All-Star games, Cy Young trophies, and huge paydays. Not so when one hears the name Samardzija (after you mistakenly say bless you to person who said it). Yet none of those established aces has thrown over 200 innings in each of the last four seasons, and Jeff Samardzija has.
Let’s take a look at the five starters who have joined the Shark in surpassing 200 IP every year since 2013, and the contracts they’re under:
–David Price: 7 years, $217 million ($31MM per season)
–Max Scherzer: 7 years, $210 million ($30MM per season)
–Jon Lester: 6 years, $155 million ($25.8MM per season)
–Cole Hamels: 6 years, $144 million ($24MM per season)
-Madison Bumgarner: 5 years, $35 million ($7MM per season)*
*Discount price the Giants currently pay, a number that is going to at least quadruple when he reaches FA.
An honorable mention goes out to Felix Hernandez, who broke a string of eight consecutive 200+IP seasons last year. He makes $26.8MM per season.
See what we’re driving at here? Samardzija chews up innings with the best in the game; frontline aces who make 30% more than him. The disparity between his overall performance and that of the starters named above is why he makes $6-$10 million less per season than they do.
Samardzija takes the ball every fifth day with extraordinary consistency, and he’s been doing it for a long time now. Yes, it’s all funny money anyway, and $18 million a year sounds preposterous for someone who’s above average, but not great at their job. But it’s all relative folks, and the Giants payed market value for what Samardzija brings to the table.
Another important factor to bear in mind, the Giants don’t need Samardzija to pitch like an ace. They already have two of those, and a third starter in Matt Moore who has his moments of inconsistency, but has also shown shades of dominance in big spots (See: Tail end of 2016). All the Giants need from Samardzija is to be the best damn fourth starter around, and it’s hard to argue he’s not.
If we take a look at the fourth starters of the other NL West clubs , we see names like Brandon McCarthy, Robbie Ray, and Antonio Senzatela. Not exactly world beaters. And the Padres couldn’t even tell you who their fourth starter is because it changes on a weekly basis.
The Cubs are trotting out Brett Anderson in the fourth spot of their rotation, who’s the polar opposite of Samardzija in terms of durability. The Mets, for all the praise their starting rotation gets, have some guy named Robert Gsellman as their fourth man. The only NL team that may be able to claim a fourth starter as strong as the Giants is the Nationals, who currently have Gio Gonzalez in the slot.
It’s easy to see a 5 year, $90 million contract and set expectations sky high. But again, consistency at the level Samardzija maintains is valuable, and hard to come by. From 2012-2015, he averaged 206 IP per season, posting a 4.03 ERA and 1.23 WHIP with 2.5 BB/9 against 8.3 K/9. Those don’t look like the numbers of a pitcher who was 17 games under .500, but Samardzija was 35-52 over that span.
Prior to Sunday’s start against Colorado, his record with the Giants stood at 12-13, with a 3.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 2.5 BB/9, and 7.6 K/9 over 215.1 IP. Did I mention he was consistent? Thus far, the Giants have basically received the exact pitcher they paid for based on prior track record, and it has afforded them the luxury of having 4/5 of their rotation set in stone. Again, that is not the case with many teams around the league, including contenders.
So while you lament his 0-3 start, and shake your fist at the reality that professional athletes make huge sums of money, keep these factors in mind. A premium is placed on stability in a profession where names and faces can change on a daily basis.