Ever since the Chicago Cubs committed to him being in the starting rotation last season, Jeff Samardzija has become a great pitcher. Before 2012, the Cubs mostly used Samardzija as a relief pitcher at the big league level. He did show some potential in that role, but in Spring Training before the 2012 season, the Cubs gave Samardzija a chance to become a full-time starter. He has never looked back.
Last season, Samardzija went 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA. He had an impressive 180 strikeouts in only 174.2 innings pitched. Samardzija was probably even better than his numbers indicated. With the Cubs being out of contention early last season, Samardzija seemed to be working on new wrinkles to his game. He really started to come on at the end of last season before the Cubs shut him down a little early to keep his arm fresh. Last year, Samardzija put himself in the core group of players that the Cubs will use to build this team around.
Excluding a couple of rough starts, Samardzija has been fantastic this season. His record is only 5-7, but he has an impressive ERA of 3.34. His 120 strikeouts are second in the National League, he is only walking 2.9 batters per nine innings and he has a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 1.8, which is very good for this time of year. Samardzija is cementing himself as the ace pitcher of the Cubs.
With his success, will Samardzija be selected for the National League All-Star team? I think that he will. Each team has to have at least one player be selected for the All Star team and with the Cubs struggling at a 35-45 record, there are not many players who will be considered. I think Samardzija is the most obvious candidate to represent the Cubs in the All Star Game. Nate Schierholtz and Travis Wood are solid options as well, but I think that Samardzija is the guy.
When it comes down to it, Samardzija is the obvious leader of the Cubs’ pitching staff and has some very nice numbers. If he continues this, the 28-year-old right-hander may be making his first of many trips as an All Star this season.
Daniel is a Chicago Cubs writer for RantSports.com. He also contributes to the NBA and NFL sections of the site. Check out his work on TotalSportsBlog.com, follow him on Twitter @D_Schmelzer and add him to your network on Google.