Results tagged ‘ Jeff Samardzija ’

2012 Player Profile: Jeff Samardzija

Jeff Samardzija showed promise in his first major league season as a starter. (Photo by Stephen Green)

2012 Innings Pitched: 174.2 (28 G-28 GS)
2012 Pitching (all per 9 IP): 4.07 RA, 8.1 H, 2.9 BB, 1.0 HR, 9.3 K
2012 Wins Above Replacement (Fangraphs): 3.4
2013 Contract Status: Signed (Arbitration, First Year)
Repertoire (Avg. MPH): Four-seam (96), Sinker (95), Cutter (92), Splitter (86), Slider (85)

Perhaps nobody had higher expectations for Jeff Samardzija’s return to the rotation than the pitcher himself.

Samardzija was the Cubs’ most durable, and frequently most effective, starting pitcher this season. And he showed dramatic improvement in several areas that portend continued success.

Chief among them was his improved control. He walked just 7.8 percent of the batters he faced, significantly lower than the 13 percent rate he had in 2011, when he had a successful year out of the bullpen. His strikeouts increased from 23 percent to 25 percent, and his ground ball rate went from 43 percent to 47 percent. Samardzija leveraged his stuff better than before, even while doubling his innings before the Cubs shut him down after his Sept. 9 start.

To take a closer look at his arsenal, we’ll leverage PITCHf/x data as tagged by the excellent folks at Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus (player card). Our graphs here present pitch usage as variants of fastballs (blue) and offspeed (green).

Both of Samardzija’s fastballs sit in the mid- to high-90s, and his sinker is made even more impressive by his ability to run a few extra inches of movement while matching the velocity of his four-seamer. Overall, he likes to move pitches away from batters—using more sinkers and splitters that fade away from lefties, while employing the cutter and slider against righties.

The splitter is Samardzija’s No. 1 weapon, and his improved command of his fastball has made the split even more devastating. Samardzija used the splitter, which averages 86 MPH, 20 percent of the time versus lefties and 12 percent against righties. He rarely threw it on the first pitch but employed it a third of the time when ahead in the count.

And there was specific improvement with the pitch too: Comparing 2011 to 2012, his splitter was called for a ball less often (46% to 37%), got more swings (49% to 59%) and got more whiffs when a batter did swing (43% to 46%). The last number has been part of a career improvement—in 2009 and 2010, Samardzija’s whiff/swing rate on the splitter was 24 percent and 30 percent, respectively.

All of which is to say that the right-hander’s improvement has been real and is likely sustainable. Samardzija, who turns 28 in January, is under team control through the 2015 season. He still stands to improve his consistency, but digging into the components of his 2012 campaign suggests he could be a workhorse atop the rotation for years to come.

Cast your vote for the best of 2012

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Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.

Seventh-Inning Stretch Lineup, 8/24-9/2

This afternoon, Jeff Samardzija helps the Cubs kick off a 10-game homestand with the Rockies, Brewers and Giants. If you’re on your way to Wrigley to cheer on the new-look North Siders, here’s your seventh-inning stretch lineup:

  • Friday, August 24 – Glenn Beckert, former Cubs great
    First Pitch:  Rowdy Gaines, three-time Olympic Gold Medalist in swimming, Pregame: Several other Olympic swimmers are on hand for a special recognition, including Peter Vanderkaay, Davis Tarwater and Cullen Jones
  • Saturday, August 25 – Fergie Jenkins, Cubs Hall of Fame pitcher
  • Sunday, August 26 – Tom Dreesen, comedian and Chicago native
  • Monday, August 27 – Buddy Guy, Grammy Award-winning blues legend
  • Tuesday, August 28 – Len Kasper and Bob Brenly from the Budweiser Patio
    First Pitch:  Elisabeth Moss, actress and star of Mad Men
  • Wednesday, August 29 – Umphrey’s McGee, popular rock jam band
  • Thursday, August 30 – Doug Bruno and Oliver Purnell, DePaul University’s women’s and men’s head basketball coaches
  • Friday, August 31 – Bobby Hansen, former Chicago Bulls guard and current Iowa basketball broadcaster
    First Pitch:  Fran McCaffery, University of Iowa men’s head basketball coach
  • Saturday, September 1 – Jon Lovitz, actor and comedian
  • Sunday, September 2 – TBD Chicago Blackhawks players
    First Pitch: Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks star

While you’re at the park, remember to pick up the latest issue of Vine Line and the collectible Vine Line Gameday Edition and scorecard.

Cubs catching fire

Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.

During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.

Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.

Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).

Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.

Samardzija the All-Star?

For most of Spring Training, Cubs fans went back and forth over whether Jeff Samardzija would claim a spot in the Cubs rotation. But as the season rolls on and the numbers continue to add up, Samardzija has quietly made a case to earn another spot—one on July’s NL All-Star team. Though the Cubs currently sit at just 18-32, the former Notre Dame two-sport standout has been the anchor of a relatively strong starting staff. In 2012, Samardzija has:

  • a 5-3 record (the Cubs are 7-3 in games he started)
  • lasted through seven innings in four of his last seven starts and yielded no more than three runs in any of those outings
  • 65 strikeouts, sixth in the NL
  • 9.14 K/9, seventh in the NL
  • a 1.6 WAR (wins above replacement), in the top 10 for NL pitchers
  • a .70 HR/9, one of the 20 best in the NL (an impressive number considering the unpredictable winds of Wrigley Field)
  • a respectable 3.09 ERA and 1.19 WHIP

Even considering Ryan Dempster’s solid start and Matt Garza’s high ceiling, the hard-throwing Samardzija has become the ace of the Cubs staff for now and likely the future.

Hot off the presses: Vine Line May issue featuring Jeff Samardzija

Baseball has always been about reinvention. Even at the major league level, players change positions all the time.

But few have done so with the regularity, and consistent success, of Cubs No. 3 starter Jeff Samardzija. After an outstanding career on the gridiron at Notre Dame—and the promise of an NFL career as a wide receiver—Samardzija changed course when he was drafted in the fifth round by the Chicago Cubs.

After a few up-and-down years, the 6’5″, 225-pound flamethrower arrived as a major league pitcher in 2011, posting a 2.97 ERA in 75 appearances out of the bullpen. But there was one problem—Samardzija saw himself as a starter. So when the 2012 offseason rolled around, he headed to Arizona and dedicated himself to securing a spot in the Cubs rotation.

Five months later, Samardzija joined Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster as stalwarts in the Cubs biggest area of strength—their starting rotation. In the May issue of Vine Line, we look at Samardzija’s long road to the Cubs rotation, his mile-long competitive streak and how be became a more complete pitcher.

We also have an exclusive Q&A with the man who is reinventing what it means to play baseball the “Cubs Way,” General Manager Jed Hoyer. We go in depth about why he wanted the Cubs job (which he calls “the best in sports”) and his expectations for 2012 and beyond.

“If you acquire players who play hard—and we have a manager who is going to stress that—if you do the little things well, you always have that chance to catch lightning in a bottle,” Hoyer said.

Finally, we go inside the numbers with four key players—and the advanced metrics that explain why they are so important to the Cubs success.

This season, reinvent the way you get news from your favorite team by subscribing to vineline.mlblogs.com. If you live in the Chicago area, pick up the May issue at select Barnes and Noble, Jewel, Walgreens and Meier locations. Or subscribe to Vine Line today.

Mesa Cubscast: The lighter side of the Cubs

MESA, Ariz.–The Cubs have been working hard every day since they arrived in Mesa–on Thursday, manager Dale Sveum called the team’s effort “tremendous”–but they’re also building team chemistry and having fun. When you put 64 competitive athletes together in tight quarters, things are likely to get interesting.

A pitch for philanthropy

Illustration by Jerry Neumann, and story by Jordan Ramos. Featured in the upcoming September 2011 edition of Vine Line.

Several Cubs players have new boots in their closets, but these kicks are much more than they appear to be at first glance.

Randy Wells, Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Baker, Jeff Samardzija and Mike Quade are all part of the Boot Campaign, an initiative created by five Texas women that supports injured American soldiers. The inspiration came from the book Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, in which author Marcus Luttrell recounts Operation Redwing, an ill-fated mission to kill a high-ranking Taliban official in 2005.

Wells was introduced to Luttrell in the offseason.

“When I went down to the charity event and saw how much this book touched so many people, I got it and read it,” said Wells, who wore the boots in spring training. (more…)

The Buzz: What’s your favorite water activity?

The weather’s been steamy in Chicago lately, so featured in the August issue of Vine Line, we asked a few Cubs players how they most like to spend their time on the water.

James Russell (pictured), LHP

“I’d say fishing. I’ll fish for anything, but mainly we bass fish. We have a pond near our house in Texas that’s stocked with fish.”

Lou Montanez, OF

“I boat and fish a lot in Miami. Shallow water fishing, flu fishing or saltwater fishing. I’m pretty addicted to it. I have a lot of equipment- but most of it was probably a waste of money. My wife tells me that at least.”

Jeff Samardzija, RHP

“Uh, I snowboard. It’s frozen water, I guess. I can ski and wakeboard, but I’m just really not that good at it. My water sport is more throwing an anchor out and floating around on the water.”

Music Issue extra: Cubs Countdown

Perhaps the next Wrigleyville Block Party, Aug. 19-21, could play this Cubs Countdown of top hits. (Photo by David Banks)

In honor of Vine Line‘s first-ever Music Issue this month, we thought it would be fun to see what the Billboard Top 100’s number 1 song was at the time of some of your favorite Cubs players’ births:

  • When Darwin Barney was born on Nov. 8, 1985, the country was jamming to “Part-Time Lover” by Stevie Wonder.
  • “Southern Nights” by Glen Campbell was the number 1 song when Ryan Dempster, whose birthday is May 3, 1977, made his first appearance in the world.
  • “Best of My Love” by The Emotions was the Billboard Top 100’s number 1 song on Aug. 30, 1977, when Marlon Byrd was born.
  • When Jeff Samardzija was born on Jan. 23, 1985, “Like a Virgin” by Madonna was the most popular song cruising through the airwaves.

Here are some more of the No. 1 songs on Cubs players’ birthdays:

  • Blake DeWitt, Aug. 20, 1985- “Shout” by Tears for Fears
  • Reed Johnson, Dec. 8, 1976- “Tonight’s the Night” by Rod Stewart
  • Casey Coleman, July 3, 1987- “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” by Whitney Houston
  • Mike Quade, March 12, 1957- “You Don’t Owe Me a Thing” by Johnnie Ray
  • Sean Marshall, Aug. 30, 1982- “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor
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