Category Archives: Jeff Samardzija

Cubs-Cardinals weekend preview

Game 1 (Friday, 1:20 p.m.): Lance Lynn (12-4, 3.10) v. Travis Wood (4-5, 4.33)

Game 2 (Saturday, 12:05 p.m.): Joe Kelly (1-3, 2.78) v. Jeff Samardzija (7-8, 4.25)

Game 3 (Sunday, 1:05 p.m.): Adam Wainwright (8-10, 4.31) v. Paul Maholm (9-6, 3.88)

Season series: Cardinals lead 7-4, outscoring the Cubs 63 to 33 in the process.

Overall: It’s odd to have two Cub-Cardinal weekend series in a row with no Sunday night game. But such is life when the Cubs aren’t holding up their end of the competitive bargain.

The Cubs recent string of good play at home has vaulted them above .500 at Wrigley (24-21). But should they repeat the 23-1 shellacking they took last weekend in St. Louis they’ll find themselves right back at .500.

It’s interesting that the Cardinals have outscored the Cubs by 30 this year, yet have “only” won 7 of the 11 games. With a run differential like that you’d figure they’d have won nearly all the games. But the 12-0 and 7-0 blowouts last weekend amount to a good chunk of that differential.

The Cardinals offense has been their strength this year, as they lead the majors in  team OBP (.342) and are second in BA (.274). The strength of their pitching staff has been the All-Star and former Ole Miss Rebel Lynn, who has rebounded from a rough stretch. From the middle to end of June he had three starts in which he gave up 5, 6, and 6 runs, and didn’t go more than 5 innings in any of those games.

Wood needs to rebound. Image courtesy zimbio.com.

But unfortunately for the Cubs he has bounced back nicely. In his past three games he has gone 19 innings giving up only one run (including 6 shutout innings against the Cubs last Sunday). In fact this season Lynn is 3-0 with a 0.94 ERA against the Cubs. He’ll be opposed by Wood, who is taking Matt Garza‘s spot in the rotation. Wood has had two bad outings in a row, and this will be a big start to see if he can stabilize and continue what otherwise has been a fine first year in Chicago.

Samardzija has been better at home this season (3-3, 3.68 ERA, 3.29 K/BB as opposed to 4-5, 4.71, 2.42 K/BB on the road), so it’ll be nice to see him back at Wrigley. He’ll be opposed by Kelly, who has been very effective in the first eight starts of his career. Of course the Cardinals have a call-up contributing immediately, right? No matter how much their system gets slammed they always pull productive players out of thin air. It’s infuriating.

Anthony Rizzo is my player to watch for the Cubs (but isn’t he always?). This will be the second team he’s seen for the second time (the Mets were the first), and he did okay in St. Louis last weekend, going 3-12 with a walk. He’d been in a power slump since the break, but broke out of that with a home run on Wednesday in Pittsburgh. I’ll be interested in this series, and the rest of the year, to see how he fares as teams see him more and more. Can he stay one step ahead of the league, so that he adjusts to it before it adjusts to him?

For the Cardinals my player to watch is Allen CraigMatt HollidayYadier Molina, and Carlos Beltran are big names, and so is David Freese after last October. All are having good seasons, but so is the semi-unheralded Craig. Mike Matheny has had trouble getting him in the lineup, because he’s basically a corner outfield/first base guy, and thus a challenge is presented with Holliday, Beltran and Lance Berkman on the roster.

But when Craig has gotten in games he has hit, and hit well (.299/.365/.570). He’s also hit it hard with 14 HR’s and 18 2B’s in 249 plate appearances. His .936 OPS is tied with Holliday for the team lead. Matheny will need to channel some of that maddening Tony La Russa creativity to get Craig more playing time.

Jeff Samardzija: Small steps

Any Cub fan looking at the state of the team without the aid of rose-colored glasses will admit that “build for the future, try and stay respectable in the present” will be the mission over the next few years. Or “rebuilding” if you prefer to be more concise.

The Shark will try to play stopper Sunday. Image courtesy baseballgms.blogspot.com.

In trying to embrace this realism, the important thing is to look past what Kerry Wood and Carlos Marmol have (or haven’t) done so far, and focus on the little things that could make a difference once the team is contending again. (I guess I’m probably being a sucker and assuming that this time will come).

But Jeff Samardzija and his spot in the starting rotation are some of those small steps that we Cub fans will need to milk as much satisfaction as we can out of until Theo and Co. get the ship righted.

Samardzija should have a high ceiling as a pitcher. Admittedly I think that in part because of the money Jim Hendry threw at him when he was drafted, but also because he clearly has talent with his four pitches and velocity. And he finally had some success at the major league level last year. It’s not likely Samardzija will carry over his 8.90 K/9 rate from 2011 as a starter, but that’s an encouraging number.

Despite a great spring, Samardzija could easily disappoint. But he’s young(ish) and has talent, and therefore I would much rather see him getting a chance in the rotation than Rodrigo Lopez (who will get his fair share of starts once the injures start piling up). There is still an unknown with Samardzija, and we’re at the point with the Cubs where that is something we need to embrace.

The only downer is that should Samardzija excel, he’s only under team control until 2013. But with the money that will come off the books by then (Zambrano’s ghost, Dempster) signing him shouldn’t be something out of the Cubs budget.

Please Jeff, give me something to be excited about.

3/7 quick hitters, Cubs even up ST record

Hey, a winning streak! The Cubs improved to 2-2 in Cactus League play on Wednesday, beating the Kansas City Royals 6-4. Here’s a quick look at what stood out:

  • You had the candidates for that last OF bench spot on full display today with Dave Sappelt, Joe Mather and Tony Campana all seeing action. None especially stood out at the plate, going a combined 1-7. As I didn’t see the game I can’t speak to how each looked defensively. The gut says the corner-oriented Mather has the worst chance because that would make Reed Johnson the backup center fielder. That just doesn’t seem wise at this point in his career as Johnson has only played in 31 games there over the last two years.
  • Jeff Samardzija gave Alfonso Soriano some competition at the top of the “best ST performance” board by throwing three innings, striking out three and allowing only one hit and no runs. Samardzija made some interesting comments which seem to suggest he feels a sense of urgency now that a return to football is becoming less and less probable (if it ever was). Or maybe he’s just joking around. Only the Shark knows for sure.
  • One of the more intriguing story lines will be whether Samardzija can grab one of those starting spots behind Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster and perhaps Paul Maholm. Randy Wells and Travis Wood would be my bets to end up in the rotation, but Samardzija likely has the highest ceiling of them all as a starter. And yes, you’d be taking another good reliever out of the bullpen after the loss of Sean Marshall, but isn’t the chance to develop a reliable starter worth it?
  • Royals’ catcher Salvador Perez is hitless in eight ST plate appearances after signing a creative, seemingly mutually-beneficial five year contract last week. Maybe he’s feeling the pressure already? That’s a joke, obviously he’s not. I just wanted an excuse to point out how interesting that contract is, and applaud the precedent it sets for teams locking up their budding stars in deals that work for both sides.