I can’t think of any reasons to dislike Jeff Samardzija.
Other than his great hair and style, he’s classy, effective on the mound and entertaining in the dugout. I remember one distinct occasion during the 2012 season where Jeff was being interviewed by Len and Bob and Matt Garza was throwing sunflower seeds at him. Jeff was then asked about the dynamic in the clubhouse among the pitchers. He replied:
It’s not hard to have fun when you work with a bunch of idiots all the time
Not too much more you can ask from a regular guy in the rotation. I’m sure Garza had a little something to say about his comments too… but I digress.
Samardzija had a career year with the Cubs not based on his numbers, but based on his performance. Pitchers in general take a significant amount of time to learn effective mixes and ways to work certain batters – Samardzija made leaps and bounds this season. He looks significantly more comfortable and especially confident when facing strong hitters.
While his .409 W-L%, 3.38 xFIP and 3.81 ERA don’t show any sort of Roy Halladay like dominance, there’s one stat that is worth taking note of: number of innings pitched.
As a basic rule for anyone new to statistical analysis, 200 innings pitched/season is fantastic and in a perfect world, all starters would be able to reach that milestone. Samardzija, in 28 starts in 2012 logged 174.1 total IP which is pretty damned close to logging a full 200. Considering in 2011 he only amassed 88.0 IP and his 2012 totals exceed his collective 08-11 numbers, there’s been significant improvement in his arm strength, control and confidence. We can all thank pitching coach Chris Bosio for that one.
Still not convinced? Have a look at this:
Samardzija posted a 1.295 WHIP in 2011 having faced 380 batters. In 2012, he threw 86.4 more innings, faced 343 more batters and managed to drop his WHIP to 1.219.
This is an improvement the Cubs will certainly bank on.
Samardzija’s 1 year/$2.64M contract has expired and he will now go to an arbitration process for the first time in his career. Considering the vast improvements in his game, you can expect the Cubs to ink him up for a 2-3 year deal at roughly $3.25M a season, if not more. Samardzija’s splitter is known as one of the best in baseball (opposing batters posting a .183 wOBA when facing it) and his physical strength is never a question. Samardzija is known for pounding the low part of the zone relentlessly and not changing the approach vs left handed batters. His splitter for example, finds its way to the low part of the zone which can often inflate his HR/9, but not to the point of concern.
The arbitration process should be one of ease for the Cubs, as they’ve expressed interest in making him a solid 2-3 starter at the very least. The Cubs are in serious need of solid pitching and Samardzija’s 3.3 WAR would be a welcome addition to the rotation. If he can achieve his maximum ceiling, he may be the Cubs’ ace one day but this would take much refinement and lots of time in majors working out the kinks.
I look forward to seeing Jeff pitch for Chicago in 2013, and hope he shows even more improvement on his otherwise already solid fundamentals.