When Jeff Samardzija started on Monday in game one of a double header, most Chicago White Sox fans probably groaned, fearing his dismal season would continue, however something else happened: it took 28 batters for the Notre Dame alum to retire 27 hitters and throw a complete game against the division rival Detroit Tigers. His one blemish came on a Victor Martinez bloop single to lead off the fifth inning. What was even more impressive to me was that it took Samardzija only 88 pitches to throw a complete game, completing a “Maddux” where a pitcher throws a complete game shutout on less than 100 pitches, named after the great Greg Maddux who did so 13 times. So how did a guy the fans on the south side grow to hate since acquiring him in December pull off such an amazing feat? It appears he was tipping pitches. Given how this season has gone, no one expected Shark to pull off such a game. Chris Sale, sure. Even rookie wunderkind Carlos Rodon has seemed like it can happen with him on the bump. But Samardjiza? His last start lasted 3.0 innings of 11-hit ball and 10 earned runs on 91 pitches. Three more than he threw in 9 innings on Monday. Quite the feat if you ask ESPN’s Doug Padilla.
Does this mean Samardzija can continue to be effective if all his problem was that he was indirectly telling the hitters what was coming? Perhaps. Samardzija is well aware he can ill-afford to continue the stretch he was on prior to the one-hitter if he wants to maximize his value on the open market this winter and maybe this builds his confidence and his momentum to close out the season. As the late great Yogi Berra said, “baseball is 90% mental. The other half is physical”. Knowing now that he was having these failures because of pitch tipping actually makes me feel more confident in the Merrillville, Indiana native because he obviously still has great stuff. If he can continue to have repeatable mechanics for all his pitches, he will succeed–just as we saw on Monday afternoon. A true win-win scenario for the White Sox come free agency. If he rejects the qualifying offer (which no player has ever accepted) and signs somewhere else, Rick Hahn get another draft pick to work with in next year’s June draft. Should the clubs elect to resign him (which will have many fans throwing empty bottles at the front offices) they will know where his struggles originated and can tailor his coaching to maintain and further his success. I do believe this is a key turn around for Samardzija because who knows how long he has been plagued by this issue. Once he moves past it he can become the pitcher the White Sox sent four prospects to the Oakland Athletics in order to receive.