Jeff Samardzija finished the season for the Chicago Cubs on Sunday where he pitched six innings, gave up three earned runs and struck out four batters. He took the loss, as the Cubs fell to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0.
When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer arrived in Chicago before the 2012 season, they decided to give Samardzija a chance to prove himself as a starter. In past seasons, Samardzija would start in the minor leagues and then pitch out of the bullpen in the majors. While he did have some success out of the bullpen, including a 2011 season where he pitched 88 innings in relief, struck-out 87 batters and had an ERA of 2.97, Samardzija’s growth as a pitcher seemed to be stunted by the Cubs switching him back and forth.
The new front office gave Samardzija a chance to start, and he has never looked back. In 2012 he was 9-13 with a 3.81 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 174.2 innings pitched. This season Samardzija ended up with a record of 8-13, a 4.34 ERA and 214 strikeouts in 213.2 innings pitched. Samardzija is one of only 10 pitchers to have 200 or more strikeouts and innings pitched this season, joining the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright, Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee and more — not a bad list to be a part of.
Samardzija’s stuff is filthy, and at only 28-years-old he still has plenty of time to get better. That being said, his ERA does not exactly scream ace material. Obviously, the Cubs have been pretty bad the past couple of seasons, so the Win-Loss record is not too concerning, but his ERA does worry me a bit. That being said, advanced metrics like FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) are much kinder to Samardzija, and that makes me wonder whether he has gotten a bit unlucky this season.
Regardless, Samardzija is an incredibly talented pitcher who can completely shut down an offense on any given day. His strikeout totals give me hope that he can be a guy that leads a contending team’s rotation. I think Samardzija has the ability to be an ace pitcher, but he needs to stop giving up the big innings that lead to his escalated ERA. Only time will tell whether Samardzija can lead the Cubs rotation, but they potential is certainly there for him to do so.