The Oakland Athletics have two new pitchers, and we don't know a thing about them beyond what we see on their Baseball-Reference pages (which are here and here). So, I asked Al Yellon of Bleed Cubbie Blue to give us a brief introduction to them. Rather than ask him specific questions, I just set him free and tell us whatever he thought we should know. Here you go!
By Al Yellon
When the Cubs selected Jeff Samardzija in the fifth round in 2006 and lavished a five-year, $10 million, major league contract on him (you can't do the latter any more, FWIW), people scoffed.
There were a number of reasons they did this, some reasonable, some not. The Cubs didn't have any picks from the second through fourth rounds in that draft and then-GM Jim Hendry, who had strong connections to Notre Dame coach Paul Manieri, wanted Samardzija badly.
At the time many thought Samardzija would go to the NFL. He hadn't pitched all that much in college. But he correctly figured he'd have a longer career and make more money in baseball, so off he went.
By September 2008 he was in the big leagues as a reliever and did reasonably well. But the next two years he struggled, as the team didn't seem to know what to do with him. He went back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and the big leagues and Triple-A.
In Hendry's last year as GM they finally moved Samardzija to the pen full-time and he had a solid year in middle relief, posting a 2.75 ERA and 1.295 WHIP in 75 appearances (88 innings) with 87 strikeouts (though 50 walks). When Theo Epstein took over, Samardzija told him he wanted another shot at the rotation and Theo gave it to him.
He's been very, very good at times, especially the first half of this year. You likely know about his lack of individual wins despite posting a sub-2.00 ERA most of 2014. That's due to lack of run support -- he ranks 137th of 138 qualified starters this year in runs per start, just 40 runs scored total in his 17 starts.
The cautionary tale for you is that he was mediocre-to-bad in the second half last year. From July 1 to the end of 2013 he posted a 5.47 ERA and 1.515 WHIP with 15 (!) home runs allowed in 100⅓ innings. He'll likely enjoy the O.co Coliseum as an extreme pitcher's park. He's cut down on his walks this year (has the best WHIP of his career).
"Shark" is a Chicago-area native who always seemed to like playing in his hometown. I ran into him at my local supermarket once, just another guy in the neighborhood. If you're wondering about the origin of the nickname, it has nothing to do with him having some sort of shark-like demeanor or attitude. One of his Notre Dame teammates thought he looked like the shark in "Finding Nemo." It's true:
About Jason Hammel, you likely know almost as much about him as I do, considering Hammel has been a Cub for three months. He seems past whatever injuries have ruined previous seasons and he is having by far the best year of his career. One of the things he's done best this year is not walk people -- just 23 walks in 108⅔ innings, for a total WHIP of 1.021, which is eighth-best in the major leagues (and would rank fourth in the American League behind Chris Sale, Felix Hernandez and Masahiro Tanaka, pretty good company).
Good luck to the A's in their quest to win the World Series this year with this win-now type of trade.
Thanks for the info, Al! And good luck to the Cubs in their quest to win the 2018 World Series with their absolutely stacked farm system.