Jeff Samardzija Not A No.2 – Yet


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:


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.


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.


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.



Filed under Cubs Blog

2 responses to “Jeff Samardzija Not A No.2 – Yet

  1. Spoda17

    Good post Brian. I do like Samardzija, but like a lot of other things, some people may have put him on a pedestal too soon. I’m all about patience, and I am all about giving people a chance, but it goes both ways. When Samardzija got off to a hot start; everyone from Theo to Sveum, to the blog media, and even the mainstream media said he was the “Ace” already – Jeff had arrived…

    Well, I think he needs a lot more time, as much as we crucify people for a slow start (aka Soriano), we need to be patient and allow “rookies” work into their true talent over some time. My biggest concern is when we bring up Rizzo. It can go either one of two ways, either he will get off to a hot start and he will be the next Albert Pujols in a few weeks (aka LaHair), or he will struggle and be the next Brant Brown and Theo and Jed will again to be said to be stupid morons and a bust.

    Let’s give Shark a chance to settle in, like a year as a starter, and let’s be cautious on how we treat Anthony when he gets to the Cubs.

    That is all… Chewy~

  2. Absolutely, Chewy.

    The instant gratification of young talent that comes more readily in the NFL, NBA & NHL does not apply as similarly in baseball. Baseball is a craft that takes years to develop. Samardzija and Rizzo, of course, are no exception.

    We’re just beginning to see a good sample size of Shark’s work. Rizzo will need the rest of the of the season, at the very least.

    LaHair is another prime example, as you mentioned. We have questions…it’s only fair to let the players answer the bell. That doesn’t happen in 2 weeks or 2 months.

    Eventually, players rise or fall to their true level (which has fed my doubts about Campana’s hot start). There’s no hiding in baseball.

    Practicing patience, as you’re doing, IS the way to go.

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