Jeff Samardzija Should Return To Chicago Cubs’ Bullpen


Jeff Samardzija

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs have watched Jeff Samardzija develop as a pitcher over the last six seasons in a variety of pitching roles. I believe it is truly time for the Cubs management to put Samardzija where he belongs: back in the bullpen.

Samardzija has spent the last two seasons as a full-time starter in the Cubs’ rotation. In 2012, he posted a respectable 3.81 ERA with a 9-13 record that would have been better had he not played for the Cubs. Alas, Samardzija has regressed in 2013 with a similar 8-12 record but his ERA rose to 4.42 including a seven inning, three earned run no decision Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers. Samardzija has only managed to allow one or less earned runs in eight of his 31 starts which is clear proof that he is not dominating games on a consistent basis.

If you believe in patterns – and I do – Samardzija is on pace to have an ERA in the low 5.00s in 2014. The Cubs really need to send the 6-5 righty to the bullpen where he has been most effective in his major league career.

Back in 2011 before Samardzija became a reliever, he had his best year while pitching out of the pen and making 75 appearances. During that time, he recorded an ERA of 2.97 and a decent WHIP of 1.295. As a reliever that year, Samardzija recorded 87 strikeouts in 88 innings pitched, holding batters at bay efficiently.

In his entire MLB career, Samardzija’s ERA as a starter is 4.37 and is only 3.84 as a reliever. While Samardzija does manage to strikeout more batters per every nine innings as a starter than as a reliever (8.9 versus 7.9), the difference is not all that much different.

Samardzija has truly been a more effective pitching coming out of the pen and needs to return there to be the most productive pitcher possible for the Cubs. Unfortunately for both Samardzija and the Cubs, the team needs him most in the starting rotation and he likely will continue to remain in that role. Here’s to mediocrity!

Please leave a comment below letting me know what you think about Samardzija and whether or not you think he would be a better reliever than starter. Thanks for reading!

Isaac Comelli is a Los Angeles Dodgers writer for Follow him on Twitter @IsaacComelli, “Like” him on Facebook or follow him on Google.


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  • Chad Whitney

    You didn’t acknowledge number of innings. you ignored the fact that we would be moving a player that has just reach 200 innings and 200 strike outs, and consistently goes deep in ball games, to a situation where he would pitch 2-3 innings. You’re also ignoring that a few of our prospects squired this year are relievers. Why would we take a starter that is hitting his prime and pitching 6-9 innings effectively and move him to the bullpen on a team that already has a scoring problem. 3.84 as a reliever is acceptable, but that’s nearly 4 earned runs from somebody that you want in critical late game situations. A 4.37 era after only two full seasons starting isn’t Cliff Lee numbers, but it’s a fantastic start for a young up and coming starter.

    • Isaac Comelli

      @chadwhitney:disqus thanks for reading and commenting!
      You raise a good point about his innings. He has indeed provided many good starts in which he has gone deep into games that a less talented starter would have gotten roughed up in. However, as I mentioned in my article, his very respectable 3.81 from last year has bloated to 4.42 this year and that is not the kind of pattern you want to see. He’s going in the wrong direction and I think it is because he is being used in the wrong way. I understand that the Cubs have some good relief prospects and that’s why, at the end of my article, I said the Cubs need him in the rotation more than they need to put him where be belongs, which is unfortunate.
      Do you think there are any starting prospects who might be able to take over for him in the foreseeable future?

      • Farva55

        You don’t know anything about baseball, pitching, or the Cubs. A terrible article for a pretty darn good site.

        • Isaac Comelli

          @farva55:disqus I’m sorry you feel that way. Could you tell me why you think I’m wrong about Samardzija?

          • Farva55

            Most feel that way.

            Mid 90s fastball and the ability to put guys away on the strike out. Ability to go late into games. He’s only 27-28 with this being only his 2nd year as a starter. Reading into ERA is a travesty and a joke when you don’t look at what you need to look for- stuff and poise. You aren’t correct. At all.

          • Isaac Comelli

            @farva55:disqus There are hundreds of pitchers who had a hot fastball that didn’t make it in the league. Big hitters love to crush fastballs. Case in point: Samardzija has allowed the 5th most HRs among all NL starting pitchers and ranks in the top 20 for doubles allowed. He’s getting hit and getting hit hard.

            I’m sorry you disagree with me that ERA is important. I won’t say that “stuff and poise” aren’t important, but those are much more subjective intangibles. Samardzija relies heavily on his fourseam and sinker and mixes in a slider and a splitter on occasion. He relies too heavily on the hard stuff, going with that on 64% of pitches in 2013. He only mixes in the breaking balls 20.1% of the time and his offspeed pitches are so infrequent (a little less than 16% thrown), they are almost an after thought. There is not enough movement on his fastball to fool batters as his whiff rate is less than 10% of the time and he is getting hurt because of it.

            These are the reasons his ERA is not great and, although he has been decent as a starter, he would be better coming out of the pen. If he did that, he could pitch 1-2 innings and batters would not have enough time to figure out his “stuff,” which is limited.

          • Farva55

            You don’t take guys with good stuff out of the rotation. Following your logic, Max Scherzer should have been sent to the bullpen. There’s a reason why subjective thinking mixed in with SOME statistics is the way to go. It’s simply clear you don’t know the game of baseball. You know the stats of baseball.

          • Isaac Comelli

            Farva55, Scherzer is an entirely different discussion. You can’t compare Scherzer’s situation to Samardzija’s because Scherzer doesn’t play for the Cubs. He plays for the Tigers who don’t need a pitcher to be amazing in order to get a win. Back when I believe you’re refering to whether or not Scherzer should have been sent to the bullpen, the Tigers won 95 games and made it to the ALCS. Not comparable situations at all.
            I feel like you’re blowing my comments out of proportion. I clearly stated in my article what I thought about Samardzija and I truly stand behind the idea that he would be better in the bullpen. However, I also said “…the team needs him most in the starting rotation and he likely will continue to remain in that role.”

          • Farva55

            Oh really? You can’t compare Scherzer to Samardzija? Really? Scherzer has been as “bad” as Samardzija before and if the Tigers only paid attention to the numbers maybe the Tigers wouldn’t be where they are.

            You can stand behind the idea all you want, but it just continuously shows you have no clue.

    • Farva55

      Samardzija is a starter. Still young. Still growing. Outstanding stuff. With a better team, he might not need to think he has to make the perfect pitch everytime. Don’t let an author who doesn’t know baseball get in your head.