Jeff Samardzija’s had an encouraging season thus far. But he’s not the No.2 starter-material many Cubs fans believe him to be.
That doesn’t mean Samardzija won’t get there. In fact, the signs are promising he’ll eventually attain such status–perhaps, possibly becoming a true ace.
But to do it, the Shark needs to improve in three areas:
1. LEARNING HOW TO PITCH
Samardzija’s always had the “stuff” to become a dominate starter; heavy fastball, sharp breaking pitches.
He finally found the confidence to throw those pitches for strikes this spring, which is largely responsible for his overall improvement.
The next step for Samardzija is developing into a true-pitcher vs. a mere thrower.
Instead of trying to overpower hitters all of the time, Jeff needs to refine his abilities to work the count, set-up batters he’ll face three, maybe four times in one game and limit his total pitch count. Think Greg Maddux.
2. PITCHING OUT OF TROUBLE
This is what separates the good pitchers from the great ones.
Samardzija has an unsightly 10.19 ERA with runners on base. It’s 13.71 with runners in scoring position.
Put this guy in the stretch, where opponents are hitting .331 against him, and the opposition almost always scores runs.
His knack for the strikeout (averaging 9 per 9-innings) is a wonderful weapon for pitching out of trouble. But not all big leaguers will be overpowered all the time at the plate—which has been proven unfavorably against Samardzija.
The first lesson, learning how to pitch, is a life-saver for escaping trouble with ducks on the pond.
3. PITCHING ON THE ROAD
One key for contending teams is a road-record around .500, or better. It’s also where legit No.1 & No.2 starters earn their money.
Samardzija’s been stellar at home this season: (3-2) 2.36 ERA in six starts. He’s arguably been the Cubs best hurler at Wrigley Field; better than Ryan Demspter and better than Matt Garza.
The Shark’s road record, however, is underwhelming: (2-4) 6.37 ERA. Put the win/loss record aside because the lack of run support has been appalling for the entire staff.
That said, Samardzija’s winless over his last five road outings. He’s averaging two fewer innings pitched on the road vs. his home starts, and nearly two more runs per start on the road than his 1.8 runs allowed at home. His 29 earned runs on the road is the most allowed on the Cubs staff.
It’s hard to put my finger on the ‘why’, but it likely has to do with the prior two lessons listed above—Learning How To Pitch & Pitching Out of Trouble.
This post isn’t about throwing mud on Jeff Samardzija. He’s done well in the big-picture outlook. But let’s not crown the Shark a true No.2 starter just yet.
The Cubs certainly need to see better results from Samardzija before they deal Garza away before the trade deadline, if that’s their intention in the first place.
If Jeff fails to improve during his upcoming outings, especially on the road, it’s going to make it that much harder for Epstein/Hoyer to part with Garza.
Samardzija’s had to earn our belief in him before, and I’ve got a good feeling he’ll do it again. But the sooner, the better for all involved.