Samardzija with the Chicago White Sox in 2015
|San Francisco Giants – No. 29|
January 23, 1985 |
|July 25, 2008, for the Chicago Cubs|
(through July 24, 2016)
|Earned run average||4.11|
|Career highlights and awards|
Jeffrey Alan Samardzija (//; born January 23, 1985), nicknamed The Shark, is an American professional baseball pitcher of Serbian descent for the San Francisco Giants of Major League Baseball (MLB). He played college baseball and football for the University of Notre Dame, and was recognized as an All-American wide receiver. Previously, he played in MLB for the Chicago Cubs from 2008 to 2014, the Oakland Athletics in 2014, and the Chicago White Sox in 2015.
Jeff's father, Sam Samardzija, was a semi-professional hockey player, and his older brother, Sam Samardzija Jr., Jeff's current representation, was an All State football and baseball player who attended Indiana University and is now a sports agent in Major League Baseball. When Samardzija was in high school his mother, Debora Samardzija, died of a fatal respiratory disease.
Samardzija grew up in Valparaiso, Indiana, where he attended Washington Township Elementary School and Valparaiso High School, and was a letterman in football, basketball, and baseball. In football, he was a three-time first team All-State honoree, and was twice named the team's Most Valuable Player. After his junior year, he was invited to participate in the Indiana football All-Star game. In baseball, he was a first team All-State honoree. He graduated from Valparaiso High School in 2003.
Samardzija accepted an athletic scholarship to attend the University of Notre Dame, where he played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish football team from 2003 to 2006, and the Fighting Irish baseball team from 2004 to 2006. He made his first impact at Notre Dame as a right-handed pitcher for the baseball team, finishing second in the Big East Conference in both earned run average (ERA) (2.95) and opponents' batting average (.209), and being named a Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball Magazine. He continued to play baseball at Notre Dame until he was selected by the Chicago Cubs in the 5th round (149th overall) of the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft.
In football, he was a reserve for his first two seasons, catching a total of 24 passes. He first started at the 2005 Insight Bowl at the end of his sophomore season. He emerged as a star in the 2005 season, ending the regular season with 77 catches – 15 of them for touchdowns – for 1215 yards and making numerous All-America Teams.
He set single-season school records in both receiving yardage and touchdown receptions. Samardzija caught a touchdown pass in each of Notre Dame's first eight games in 2006, giving him the school record for consecutive games with a touchdown reception. Samardzija made 78 catches for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns in 13 games in the 2006 season to finish as the all-time Fighting Irish leader in reception yards with 2,593. He made the Football Writers Association of America All-America Team following the 2006 season.
Samardzija was selected as one of the three finalists for the Fred Biletnikoff Award, for the nation's top wide receiver in both 2005 and 2006. Although initially planning to play both in the NFL and MLB, Samardzija announced after being selected in the Major League Draft that he would take his name out of the NFL Draft and play baseball.
On January 19, 2007, Samardzija announced he would forgo the NFL Draft and commit to a baseball career. Samardzija signed a five-year deal to play baseball with the Chicago Cubs. The deal had a no-trade clause and a club option for a sixth and seventh year. If the club option were exercised, the total value of the deal would have been $16.5 million.
On June 23, 2008, Samardzija was promoted to Triple-A Iowa after posting a 3–5 record in Tennessee with a 4.86 ERA. In his career in Triple-A Iowa, he has posted a 4–1 record and a 3.13 ERA, with 40 strikeouts and 16 walks.
On July 25, 2008, Samardzija was called up to join the bullpen of the Chicago Cubs to replace Kerry Wood, who was placed on the DL. He made his MLB debut the same day against the Florida Marlins, striking out the first batter he faced in the 7th inning. Chicago Cubs Manager Lou Piniella was impressed with Samardzija's major league debut, saying he may never see the minors again. On July 27, 2008, Samardzija recorded his first career major league save against the Florida Marlins.
In 2009, Samardzija was optioned to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs after failing to make the team out of spring training. However, he was quickly called back up only a few games into the season. He quickly returned to Des Moines to pitch for the Iowa Cubs, after posting an 8.10 ERA in 5 appearances. He made his first major league start on August 12 against Pedro Martínez of the Philadelphia Phillies, a 12–5 loss.
In March 2010 Samardzija returned to the Cubs and pitched his first game in exhibition on March 13, 2010. He pitched in four regular season games in April and compiled an 18.90 ERA before being sent back down to the Triple-A Iowa Cubs in order to make space for Ted Lilly on the Cubs roster.
In 2011, Samardzija made the opening day roster as a reliever. During the 2011 season Samardzija, statistically had his best season posting an 8-4 record and an ERA of 2.97 In 2012 Jeff was named a pitcher in the Cubs rotation and was solid going 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA and 180 strikeouts.
He began 2014 as a hardluck pitcher. He set a major league record for lowest ERA (1.46) by a winless pitcher through his first 10 starts. The 1.46 ERA was the latest league-leading ERA by a winless pitcher since Bruce Sutter's 0.89 ERA on June 7, 1977. Samardzija won his eleventh start of the season by striking out a season-high 10 San Francisco Giants. On June 18, 2014, the Cubs offered Samardzija a five-year, $85 million deal which he rejected.
On July 6, 2014, he was revealed as a National League All-Star, but was not eligible to play because he was traded to an American League team.
On July 5, 2014, Samardzija, along with Jason Hammel, was traded to the Oakland Athletics in exchange for top shortstop Addison Russell, pitcher Dan Straily, outfielder Billy McKinney, and a player to be named later. In his debut on July 6, he went seven innings with five strikeouts, allowing one run and four hits.
Chicago White Sox
On December 9, 2014 the Athletics traded Samardzija along with Michael Ynoa to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Marcus Semien, Chris Bassitt, Rangel Ravelo and Josh Phegley. Samardzija and the White Sox on January 16, 2015 agreed to a one-year deal for $9.8 million avoiding arbitration.
Samardzija made his first start for the White Sox on April 6, 2015 during opening day against the Kansas City Royals. He allowed 5 runs including a home run by Alex Ríos in 6 innings as the White Sox lost to the Royals, 10–1. During another game against the Royals on April 23, Samardzija was one of five players to be ejected for his role in a bench-clearing brawl. On April 25, Samardzija was suspended 5 games. On July 9, 2015, he pitched a complete game shutout and allowed only four hits in a 2–0 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays at US Cellular Field. This was his first complete game shutout victory for the White Sox and the second of his major league career. On September 21, Samardzija pitched a complete-game one-hit shutout against the Detroit Tigers on only 88 pitches; the only baserunner was Victor Martinez, who singled to lead off the fifth inning, and no batter's count went to three balls. Despite the strong finish, Samardzija tied for the American League lead in home runs allowed (29) and led the league in earned runs allowed (118). Overall, Samardzija finished 11–13 with a 4.96 ERA. After the season, Samardzija revealed that had been inadvertently tipping his pitches, leading to his poor performance.
San Francisco Giants
On December 9, 2015, Samardzija signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the San Francisco Giants. He earned his first win as a Giant on April 13, 2016, yielding only two earned runs and six hits in 8 innings pitched at Coors Field. Samardzija earned his first home win as a Giant on April 22, pitching 72⁄3 innings while giving up only one earned run against the Miami Marlins. Samardzija also matched his career-high for a season of 3 RBIs in the game.
Samardzija has thrown as many as seven types of pitches in his career, but as of 2012, he uses five. They are as follows: a four-seam fastball (93–97 mph), two-seam fastball (92–96), cutter (91–93), slider (84–86), and splitter (85–87). He is comfortable throwing all of his pitches to right-handed hitters, but he tends not to throw the cutter to left-handed hitters. Against both right-handed and left-handed hitters, the splitter is by a wide margin his most commonly thrown pitch in 2-strike counts.
Samardzija is of Serbian heritage. His grandparents emigrated from Europe in the 1940s. Several of Samardzija's Notre Dame baseball teammates nicknamed him "Shark" during his career at Notre Dame.
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