San Francisco Giants Morning Minute: Shark Swimming in Clearer Waters

Jun 17, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) looks on after he pitched the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 17, 2016; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) looks on after he pitched the second inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

On this edition of the San Francisco Giants Morning Minute, we discuss the Shark swimming in clearer waters, and Span’s rising strikeout rate.

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Good morning, San Francisco Giants’ fans, and welcome to another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. On Friday, the Giants opened a three-game set with the Tampa Bay Rays with a victory, coming away on the happy side of a 5-1 score. Jeff Samardzija earned his eighth win, while Chris Archer took his ninth loss.

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers in extra innings, but after a loss the day before while the Giants were off, they are 6.5 games back in the National League West. The Colorado Rockies lost on Friday, are two games under .500, and nine games back in the division.

Here’s what went on Friday in Florida.

1 – Shark Swimming in Clearer Waters

Coming off three straight clunker starts, those old questions about Jeff Samardzija were starting to rear their heads again. Was he a bad signing? Did the team spend too much? Should we be worried? Samardzija took the mound on Friday night and made us all forget about those questions.

Samardzija toyed with Rays’ hitter for nine innings, forcing them into numerous weakly-hit outs. He only struck out four, but used his nasty movement and deception to get soft contact as he swam to his first complete game as a Giant. He surrendered four hits, and didn’t allow a walk for the fifth time this season (he didn’t allow a walk six times in 32 starts last year).

Most importantly, Samardzija was efficient with his pitch count again. In 14.2 innings in the previous three starts (during which he gave up 22 hits and 13 runs), he threw 278 pitches, or about 19 per inning. On Friday, Samardzija threw 115 pitches in nine innings, about 12.8 per frame.

In hindsight, we should have seen a performance like this coming. Did you know hammerhead sharks are the primary natural predators of stingrays? It’s just the food chain.

2 – Span’s Rising Strikeout Rate

When the Giants signed center fielder Denard Span to a contract this offseason, he came with a reputation of being a great contact hitter that’s going to put the ball in play and rarely strike out. During the first two months of the season, Span lived up to that reputation.

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For a long time, Span had the lowest strikeout rate on the team, sitting well below 10 percent, which also ranked him among the 10 lowest rates in the game. In his first 55 games of the season, he struck out 22 times in 249 plate appearances (8.8 percent). Since then, things have changed.

In his last nine games (42 plate appearances), Span has struck out 12 times (28.6 percent). That’s caused his rate on the season to take a big jump, up to 11.7 percent. He doesn’t even lead the team anymore, as Joe Panik‘s 11.5 percent rate just barely beats him out.

In the past week, Span has recorded two hat tricks (three strikeouts in a game). Before that, he hadn’t had one since August 16th, 2013.

Span hasn’t quite been the impact player at the top of the lineup the Giants had been hoping they’d get. He’s had these short stretches where it seemed like he was preparing to break out (like the series in Arizona in May where he collected eight hits in a three-game stretch), but he just hasn’t been able to sustain it.

3 – Rays’ Fundraiser

The Rays held “Pride Night” on Friday, and held fundraisers to donate money to the victims of the shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. According to the team, they did extremely well.

If you’re a Giants fan who was at the game on Friday, or a Rays’ fan, and happen to stumble upon this somehow, good on you for your donation. If you couldn’t make it and still wish to donate, you can do so here.

4 – Ishikawa Walks it Off

In case you missed it, Travis Ishikawa is back with the Giants on a minor league deal, playing with the Sacramento River Cats. On Friday, he hit a bases-loaded single in the 10th inning, walking it off for the River Cats. He’s ready for October.

Next: Giants Morning Minute: Brewers' Staff Just What Doc Ordered

And that will do it for another edition of the Giants Morning Minute. Up next, the Giants and Rays continue their series, with Albert Suarez jumping back into the rotation for his third start of the year (and pushing Jake Peavy and his sore neck back a day). Matt Moore his start for the home crowd.