Jeff Samardzija could be real (deal) bright spot for Cubs

Jeff Samardzija could be real (deal) bright spot for Cubs

The countdown to Brett Jackson and Anthony Rizzo has officially begun.

On a serious note, I still feel this team will be more fun to watch than the last two miserable editions. Looking forward to younger players like Jackson and Rizzo joining Starlin Castro could be the highlights however.

If you listen to Bradley Woodrum of Fangraphs, you may start to entertain the idea that Jeff Samardzija will be one of those to watch.

Woodrum thinks Samardzija gradually changed his approach last season, and really started mixing up his repertoire this spring. Woodrum shows you the difference in Shark’s career reliance on his pitches vs. this past Sunday’s start.

The numbers are intriguing.

If Samardzija keeps trending up, there maybe some credit due to new pitching coach Chris Bosio.

You could also look back and easily wonder if Larry Rothschild dropped the ball here. The Cubs scouts were high on the former football star, and thought he was top of the rotation material. I nevertheless was told a few seasons back (former Cubs coach) that he lacked the necessary third pitch to be an effective starter.

That is not the case according to Woodrum.

 Now we can clearly see why the Chicago Cubs scouts have loved Samardzija for so long — he throws really hard and has some obliterating pitches (two obliterators, to be precise, one good-enough-er, and one uh-that’s-enougher). But we need to see some actual positive signs before we crown him a capable starter. Well, look no further than the past year.

The key could be him relying less on his sometimes straight four-seam fastball, and using his slider. Woodrum thinks it could be his out pitch.

 • Slider (SL), used (Career)13.9%: On Sunday night, Samardzija twirled his slide-piece 20.9% of the time. Again, this appears to be tantamount to a new approach for Samardzija — less laser beam fastball, more wobbly stuff. His slider stays around the mid 80s speed-wise, and has historically, even when he was struggling, been his best pitch. Presumably, if he throws more of this and his two-seamers, his other pitches — the fastball and changeup — can become even better (a la Tim Wakefield‘s fastball). By forcing the good stuff on the hitters — and the FT and SL seem to be very good — his “eh” stuff becomes better.

I will posit that this last year suggests, above all, that Samardzija can be a capable starter. Maybe never a No. 1 or No. 2 starter, but he could perceivably maintain an ERA-/FIP- in the 85 to 95 range (think: Shaun Marcum or Mark Buehrle). For a Cubs organization desperate for pitching depth, that is huge.

Oh it’s still early, but it’s refreshing to think we may have found another building block. It’s also encouraging to see that this staff is trying to squeeze the best out of what they inherited, instead of making excuses that certain players couldn’t be developed.




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  • I've got to say I'm really glad Samardzija had a terrific start the other day, he needed it on a personal level...get his "mind right" so to speak, or maybe better yet... to reinforce what he's been thinking and saying this offseason and ST! Been in his corner since day 1 'cos I am a ND fan and surely do want him to be a solid rotation guy. But I'd be remiss if I don't say my optimism was waning early on as it seemed either Jeff just wasn't going to put it all together as early as alot of people "in the know" either assumed or thought he was going to or his success at the college level just wasn't going to translate. Big expectations all the way around, can't miss kid ya know. It's a tough league, lot's of good ballplayers, takes some longer than others to "get it" if you will and I do think you 've got to look at former management, coaching, handling...there is a track record there as we all know. I know 1 great start does not a career make, but what a cool scenario this could turn out to be, I'm hoping Bosio told / showed him what he needed to hear and work on pitch wise and that he can flippin' do it!! Go shark, Go Bosio and go Cubs.

  • I have a strong feeling that Samardzija is goingto be the pitching bright spot for the Cubs this year . He looks good, we might look back as this being the turnaround year for him

  • I think if Shark continues on this path and we can find one more SP, then we could have something soon.

  • I'm not a sabermetrics guru, but shouldn't the Shark get a few extra points for having the best mullet in baseball as well? :)

  • Think the new regime can fix Korey Patterson?

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I'm sure a good organization, coaching staff could have tried and fix that swing. Though he was off to a good start in 03/04.

  • I am a huge Shark fan. I think he's finally putting it together. If he pitches like a number 3, that is huge for this team moving forward.

    On another note, in the Zambrano/Volstad competition:

    Big Z: 6IP - 4 runs, all earned - 2 BB - 6 SO - 1.00 WHIP
    Volstad: 5IP - 3 runs, all earned - 2 BB - 6 SO - 1.4 WHIP

    I'm guessing by the end of the season, we'll have the upper hand.

  • So far we have invested a ton in the Shark, with little in return to justify the initial dollars. It is nice to see that perhaps the Shark will start performing at a level that may help justify some of those dollars.

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