When the season started, several fans and analysts were divided on how they felt about this rotation for the 2012 Chicago Cubs. Some saw it as a group with potential to be among the league’s best, while others felt that outside of the top two of Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, it had the potential to be a total mess.
Much of the verdict depended on the type of performance the Cubs got out of Jeff Samardzija, who opinions were also divided on. There were those who felt Samardzija should remain in the bullpen, where he was effective last season, and some felt with the low expectations for this team, he should be given a shot to start.
Regardless of where opinions on Shark fell, most assumed he’d be in the bullpen when the season started. But after a fantastic spring, probably better than any other Cubs pitcher, Samardzija earned a spot in the rotation and hasn’t looked back.
On the season, Samardzija is 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA, much better than anyone anticipated. His first start of the season was dominant. He tossed 8.2 innings of three hit ball, allowing just one earned run and getting the Cubs their first win of the year.
His next two starts weren’t all that great, in fact he lasted just 3.2 innings against the Miami Marlins back on April 19th, but his last two starts have showed that when he’s on his game, Samardzija has the stuff to be one of the more effective pitchers in the entire National League.
He continued to show how legitimate he is as a starter with a dominant performance against the Atlanta Braves on Monday. Shark tossed seven innings, allowing just one earned and surrendering just five hits, helping the Cubs to win their third game in their last four outings.
Jeff Samardzija has the stuff to be as good a starter as there is in this league. And it’s when he’s mixing pitches that he’s at his most effective. We saw how it could hurt him in spring training when he doesn’t, a problem that we have yet to see this year. His fastball carries as much power as there is in baseball. His average velocity, at 95, is the third best in the league. When he mixes in his slider and curve, he’s tough to hit. And we’ve seen it so far this year.
Just as many of us laughed or expressed our concerns when Samardzija announced his plans to be in the rotation this spring, it’s time to officially acknowledge the fact that he is a legitimate starter in Major League Baseball. As this season wears on, he’ll be a fun one to watch in what is a dynamite top three in this Cubs rotation.
Now if we could just get him to cut his hair…