View From The Bleachers

Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003

Tuesday

13

March 2012

37

COMMENTS

The Taming of the Shark

Written by , Posted in General

Jeff Samardzija has relatively low big league mileage for how loathed he is among Cubs fans.  Or should I say was loathed–his surprising second half last season seems to have wiped away the memories of inherited runners jogging the basepaths and leads vanishing in an instant.  There was a time not so long ago that Samardzija couldn’t be trusted in a close game, and only saw the mound when the team needed to eat up some garbage time.

Fast forward to his start last Wednesday, when Samardzija looked dominant–or whatever the early Spring Training equivalent of dominant is–against the Royals, striking out three batters over three scoreless innings of work.  Twitter quickly flooded with excited Cubs fans ready to name the Shark as a semi-lock for the third slot as a starting pirate pitcher.  No less than seasoned beat reporters and professional skeptics paused to bask in the glow of Samardzija’s hot start.

That’s high praise, even if you factor in Sullivan’s constant ironic detachment.  From the moment he stepped off the mound that day, Samardzija has been the Hansel of the Cubs’ camp.

But it seems not everyone was buying the instantaneous hype.  No less than HRH Keith Law was not looking for space on the Samardzija bandwagon.

And who can blame him?  Even after five years of limited duty–and even more limited production–it’s hard to know what we can reasonably expect from Samardzija.  The simple fact is he pitched more last season than he has in all his previous big league stints combined.  And seeing as his first half wasn’t stellar, there’s not a lot of positive work on the field to draw confidence from.

Yes, he was effective in his setup role last year.  But he’s also fallen on his face plenty in that same role, and never done enough to earn a consistent spot in the rotation.  So which segment of his body of work should I look at and which ones should I ignore to make up my mind about a guy who has spent most of his career falling short of expectations?  Should I really believe that he’s finally committed to the hard work, that he’s determined to earn a starting spot?  Or should I remind myself that he’s usually good for only 20-30 pitches, that anyone can look dominant in the first week of Spring Training, and that his performance yesterday was more in line with the Samardzija we know?

My gut says that Samardzija might pitch well enough in Mesa to earn a starting spot, but that he won’t hold onto it all season.  With all the hype surrounding him and the lack of viable arms in camp, I think the Cubs might be inclined to give him one last good shot to show what he can do with the opportunity.  But I don’t see him having the success or the health to stick it out for the season. I’m not confident that his skills or his arm are up to the increase in workload, so one way or another, I think he’s heading back to the bullpen before the season’s over.  Which is fine, since he proved last year that’s a role he can be successful in.

But what do I know?  My gut is far from prescient–I wrote this about Alfonso Soriano last week and he’s currently hitting in the .570’s.  If it means a more reliable pitching staff and more wins for the Cubs, I’m happy to be proven wrong.

  • Buddy

    If Paul Sullivan makes a prediction, I’d bet the opposite.

  • Eddie Von White

    My gut tells me the Shark will emerge this year as a very respectable pitcher – starter or otherwise.

  • BLPCB

    I still hate him, but for the sake of Cubbie Blue laundry I hope he does good. I think he won’t last as a starter. It’s one week of spring training people. Same with Soriano hitting .570.

  • AC0000000

    I still hate him, but for the sake of Cubbie Blue laundry I hope he does good. I think he won’t last as a starter. It’s one week of spring training people. Same with Soriano hitting .570.

  • Brad Bradley

    If we can get anything out of him in the starting rotation, its a bonus. I liked him as a middle reliever towards the end of last year, but an SP is always more valuable than an RP, any day of the week. Cut that hair, and Go Shark!

  • Norm Bothwell

    He still walked too many people last season. I have no problem with trying him as a starter, but I don’t expect it to work. If it does work in the first two months of the season, sell high.

    • Dusty Baylor

      Thank you Norm!  5.1BB/9innings is waaay too high a rate to expect Spellcheck to succeed as a starter.  I’m still waiting for that 3rd pitch to develop enough as well.  Half a good season in the bullpen, and suddenly he’s good enough to start?
      Ugh.

    • Dusty Baylor

      Thank you Norm!  5.1BB/9innings is waaay too high a rate to expect Spellcheck to succeed as a starter.  I’m still waiting for that 3rd pitch to develop enough as well.  Half a good season in the bullpen, and suddenly he’s good enough to start?
      Ugh.

  • Lizzie

    You said Hansel and I read Hanson. Then I realized I wasn’t too far off. http://www.listal.com/viewimage/1681447

  • You said Hansel and I read Hanson. Then I realized I wasn’t too far off. http://www.listal.com/viewimage/1681447

  • Lizzie

    If you’re playing in VFTB’s March Madness tournament don’t forget to
    pick your bracket. You have until mid-day Thursday. If you haven’t
    signed up yet and still want to play, instructions are near the end of
    this post: http://viewfromthebleachers.com/blog/2012/03/08/girlieview-03082012/
    (P.S. Yes, I do realize I’m a pain in the ass. You only have to listen to me say this for two more days.)

    • Doug S.

      Thanks for the reminder.
      Wichita State….
      Go Shockers!!

  • If you’re playing in VFTB’s March Madness tournament don’t forget to
    pick your bracket. You have until mid-day Thursday. If you haven’t
    signed up yet and still want to play, instructions are near the end of
    this post: http://viewfromthebleachers.com/blog/2012/03/08/girlieview-03082012/
    (P.S. Yes, I do realize I’m a pain in the ass. You only have to listen to me say this for two more days.)

    • Doug S.

      Thanks for the reminder.
      Wichita State….
      Go Shockers!!

  • Doc Raker

    Smarja impressed me the second half of last year but it is a big difference between set up man and starter. He needs an additional pitch and more stamina to start vs setting up. How many pitches does he have? Smarja will also be starring in the Cinemax flick “Golden Dome of Love” this month just in case his baseball career goes limp.

    • Buddy

      To your point, the Shark really only has one pitch he can throw for strikes. (sometimes) He’s a reliever in my world, and a wild one at that. 

  • Doc Raker

    Smarja impressed me the second half of last year but it is a big difference between set up man and starter. He needs an additional pitch and more stamina to start vs setting up. How many pitches does he have? Smarja will also be starring in the Cinemax flick “Golden Dome of Love” this month just in case his baseball career goes limp.

    • Buddy

      To your point, the Shark really only has one pitch he can throw for strikes. (sometimes) He’s a reliever in my world, and a wild one at that. 

  • Sting. Sting would be another person who’s a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.~ Hansel

  • Sting. Sting would be another person who’s a hero. The music he’s created over the years, I don’t really listen to it, but the fact that he’s making it, I respect that.~ Hansel

  • RichBeckman

    Three innings doth not a starter make.

  • Seymour Butts

    Samardzija will get the Cubs 3rd start in the playoffs this year, having earned it with a 3.40 ERA over 188 innings. He will also have a bunch of other numbers and acronyms that validate the “looks good” philosophy. He will continue to sport stellar hair. 

  • Seymour Butts

    Samardzija will get the Cubs 3rd start in the playoffs this year, having earned it with a 3.40 ERA over 188 innings. He will also have a bunch of other numbers and acronyms that validate the “looks good” philosophy. He will continue to sport stellar hair. 

  • flyslinger2

    I think he will start and fall flat on his hair. He should stay as RP and let someone with more experience, conditioner-I mean conditioning- and pitch selection start.

  • flyslinger2

    I think he will start and fall flat on his hair. He should stay as RP and let someone with more experience, conditioner-I mean conditioning- and pitch selection start.

  • Doc Raker

    XM Home plate did a segment on the Miami Marlins. Zambrano is being penciled in as the 5th starter in Miami. Zambrano, Soriano, Milton Bradley, Carlos Pena, Demp, Juan Pierre, Nomar, Fukudome- the Jim Hendry Legacy- over paid and under perform.

    • Mark P.

       Like a list of old girlfriends, it makes you simultaneously smile and throw up in your mouth.

  • Doc Raker

    XM Home plate did a segment on the Miami Marlins. Zambrano is being penciled in as the 5th starter in Miami. Zambrano, Soriano, Milton Bradley, Carlos Pena, Demp, Juan Pierre, Nomar, Fukudome- the Jim Hendry Legacy- over paid and under perform.

    • Mark P.

       Like a list of old girlfriends, it makes you simultaneously smile and throw up in your mouth.

  • Phil McKrackin

    We paid the guy like a starting pitcher as a draft pick, and then bounced him around like Joba the Hut Chamberlin.  In this year of opportunity, at least give him a chance to start from the beginning. Then we won’t feel like idiots when we don’t bring him back and he becomes the next Jon Garland.

    • Doc Raker

      I played softball with a Phil McKrackin.

  • Phil McKrackin

    We paid the guy like a starting pitcher as a draft pick, and then bounced him around like Joba the Hut Chamberlin.  In this year of opportunity, at least give him a chance to start from the beginning. Then we won’t feel like idiots when we don’t bring him back and he becomes the next Jon Garland.

    • Doc Raker

      I played softball with a Phil McKrackin.

  • Brad Bradley

    The more I think on this, does Shark evolve into a Mike Morgan long reliever / spot starter?

    • Buddy

      Mike Morgan made 411 career regular season starts. I’ll take the under for the Shark.

  • mrbaseball2usa

    The more I think on this, does Shark evolve into a Mike Morgan long reliever / spot starter?

    • Buddy

      Mike Morgan made 411 career regular season starts. I’ll take the under for the Shark.