You ask and you shall receive! I had numerous requests for a Jeff Samardzija Pitcher Profile, and since I’d only seen the fire-baller throw maybe once or twice against my Brewers, I thought it would be a great idea to break him down for Razzball Nation.
I know the big righty features a huge fastball that flirts with the upper 90′s, but off the top of my head I couldn’t remember any specific secondary pitches so I was excited to really analyze one of his starts. Remember when he was the top WR target for Brady Quinn? Seems like ages ago! Remember when he was an erratic fixture in that Cubs bullpen along with Carlos Marmol? I bet some of those innings made even Steve Bartman cringe. But it’s much further down the road with Samardzija a fixture in that rotation (along with your fantasy squad’s staff) and a piece of the Cubs’ rebuilding future. Let’s go through how he hurled against the Diamondbacks on Saturday:
First Inning: Samardzija’s first pitch is a 94 MPH fastball high and outside to Gerardo Parra, 0-1. If you’ve never seen Samardzija pitch, he’s a big dude, 6-5 230; what you’d expect a former college football player to be (unless it’s a punter – I kid Special Teamers!). Then on the second pitch, another 94 MPH fastball, is over the plate and a tad inside but Parra is able to get a hold of it and hits a leadoff home run. Catcher Welington Castillo was set up on the lower black and Samardzija missed high by about a foot. So it’s 1-0 D’backs, and the first pitch to Didi Gregorius is fouled back, that fastball at 96 MPH, then a 94 MPH heater is about at Gregorius’ chin, 1-1. Another fastball is high and outside, all fastballs so far, then the 2-1 is a 95 MPH fastball right down the middle and just above the knees that Gregorius hits hard but it’s caught by David DeJesus a step in front of the track for the first out. Samardzija starts Paul Goldschmidt with a 96 MPH fastball that tailed too far inside, 1-0, Goldschmidt fouls another fastball off, then Samardzija throws his first splitter that looks like a curveball at 83 MPH, but is actually a splitter that started high and dove into the zone, 1-2. Nice pitch there. Samardzija is back to the heat and Goldschmidt barely tips it foul, then a 97 MPH fastball at the eyes is cut on and missed for his first strikeout, two down. First pitch to Miguel Montero is a fastball inside, then another fastball with a good tail on it gets a swing-and-miss, 1-1. Then another heater shatted Montero’s bat, it’s fielded on a tough hop by Anthony Rizzo but Samardzija was slow to sprint to first, and despite looking like an out, Montero is called safe at first. Samardzija is very unhappy with the call, but it’s sort of his own fault for starting towards first late. Either way it’s a weakly hit infield single, and the replay shows it should’ve been an out. Samardzija starts Martin Prado with a fastball low, then one is fouled off, then another fastball is at a batter’s chin, this one making Prado fall down, 2-1. The next pitch is grounded weakly to short, and the first inning is over.
Second Inning: Samardzija gets three early runs of support and now protects a 3-1 lead and starts Jason Kubel with a 93 MPH fastball for a strike, then another one at 94 is foul tipped into the glove, then another fastball high, 1-2. All fastballs through 21 pitches minus that one splitter, and he goes to another splitter that Kubel fouls weakly, and again that splitter, starting on the lower half then diving almost into the dirt, gets Kubel swinging for his 2nd K. First pitch to A.J. Pollock is a 96 MPH fastball taken for a strike, then another one at 96 gets the outside black, 0-2. Samardzija can’t get him to chase high, 1-2, then a splitter that looked good to me painting at the knees is called a ball, tough break 2-2, then a fastball at 97 is chopped to Darwin Barney at second and a close play is called safe with the speedy Pollock beating out an infield single. Rizzo definitely felt that was on out, Samardzija throws his hands up and Dale Sveum comes out to argue. Replay again shows he was out, by about a quarter step, another tough call against the Cubs and two hits that shouldn’t be there against Samardzija. And head umpire Joe West comes to the defense of the first base umpire and gets it in his grill and tosses Sveum. Crazy start to this game. The Cubs fans love it though. So after that hooblah, Samardzija starts Willie Bloomquist with a fastball for a strike, that is the first pitch Bloomquist has seen this season in his first start of 2013. Another heater is hit off the fists foul, then another fouled, then a splitter is in the dirt, 1-2. Then Samardzija goes either with his first change-up or hangs a splitter, either way Bloomquist gets a handle of it and shoots it to center for a single. So runners now at 1st and 2nd, and opposing pitcher Ian Kennedy lines up to bunt and take the first pitch for a strike. The next fastball is yet another pitch Samardzija gets close to a Diamondbacks’ hitter’s face, 1-1. Kennedy then lays down a perfect bunt, and it’s another very close play at first with Kennedy hustling, but it’s a called out. So runners at 2nd and 3rd, 2 outs, and up is Parra already with the homer. The first pitch is a splitter way outside, 1-0, then another splitter gets a swing-and-miss, 1-1. A change-up for sure this time is outside, then a splitter way high and outside, 3-1. Samardzija has yet to throw Parra another fastball after that leadoff homer. A fastball is fouled back, 3-2, then a splitter is taken in the dirt for a walk. Bases loaded, two outs, and Samardzija starts Gregorius with a fastball cut on and missed, 0-1. Pivotal at-bat here, with Samardzija already at 43 pitches. Samardzija misses low, then one is fouled off, then a splitter perfectly placed low that drops into the dirt is swung on for his 3rd K and gets out of the inning.
Third Inning: Still up 3-1, Samardzija needs a quick inning here at 46 pitches and starts Goldschmidt with a splitter for a strike. Goldy swings and misses at a fastball, 0-2, then another splitter, that didn’t break much but had the effect of a change-up at 82 MPH, gets Goldy to swing-and-miss for a three pitch strikeout. Great start. Samardzija paints the outside corner to Montero, 0-1, then a fastball is cut on and missed, 0-2. A fastball at the eyes at 97 MPH that time is taken, 1-2, then another sick 2-seamer (he’s thrown them almost exclusively) at 96 MPH is cut on and missed, three straight Ks now and 5 on the day. Another splitter is taken for a strike by Prado, 0-1. That splitter for strike one he’s been able to get over is a great way to start at bats with that power fastball to compliment. A 97 MPH fastball is swung on and missed, then one fouled off, then another at 96 MPH is fouled off, then a change-up floats way too far inside, 1-2, followed by a splitter that gets Prado to swing-and-miss and Samardzija strikes out the side and is up to 6 Ks. Fantastic inning.
Fourth Inning: Samardzija misses outside with the fastball to Kubel, 1-0, then a nasty splitter gets Kubel unable to hold his swing, 1-1. Another splitter is fouled back, then a 2-seamer with great movement gets another foul, still 1-2. Another foul on the splitter, then his best movement of the night on a 95 MPH fastball tails about 8 inches too far inside and drives back to the plate and down a tad to paint the inside lower black, 7 Ks. Unreal. Samardzija starts Pollock with a strike with that splitter again, then Pollock waves at a fastball on the outside black, 0-2. Then another nasty splitter dives out of the zone and gets Pollock to miss, 6 straight Ks! The broadcast then shows an overlay of his pitches on top of each other, and the same arm angle gets some preposterous variant results on his pitches. Samardzija misses with a fastball too far outside to Bloomquist, you could tell he overthrew that a tad, but then gets that outside corner on the next pitch, 1-1. The next pitch is a fastball Bloomquist fouls out lazily to center, inning over 1-2-3 again.
Fifth Inning: Still up 3-1, Samardzija starts Kennedy with a fastball outside for a strike, then Kennedy fouls one off, then he hangs a splitter and Kennedy hits it hard past Starlin Castro for a single. All on Samardzija there, that was probably his worst splitter. But he goes back to it to get a strike on Parra, then misses outside with a fastball, 1-1. Then another splitter is grounded weakly to second, Barney gets Kennedy there, but with Parra’s speed there’s no throw to first for a fielder’s choice. First pitch to Gregorius is a splitter tapped foul, then a fastball, way down at 90 MPH, is swung on and missed, 0-2. Then an 0-2 splitter is hung again, staying on the lower half, and Gregorius laces it for a double with Parra moving to third. He’s held up there, but would’ve been a close play at the plate. So with only 1 out, runners at 2nd and 3rd, it’s a huge at bat facing Paul Goldschmidt. The first pitch is tapped foul, then this time a solid splitter is cut on and missed, 0-2. Samardzija misses outside and low, then another splitter in the dirt is cut on and missed, and it’s Samardzija’s 9th K. Goldschmidt has struck out all 3 times in this game, and now is a career 0-5 with 5 Ks against Samardzija. So two outs, and Samardzija misses low to Montero, then again low with the fastball, misses again, and the 3-0 dives a tad too low for a four-pitch walk. Now bases loaded, and out comes pitching coach Chris Bosio for a chat. So bases loaded, two outs, and the first pitch is a 93 MPH fastball nubbed softly, but Luis Valbuena lets it go foul, 0-1. Another splitter is hit foul, just out of the reach of right fielder Nate Schierholtz then the 0-2 is a fastball inside. The 1-2 is a fastball that sunk a good 6-7 inches at 94 MPH and gets Prado swinging for his 10th K!
Sixth Inning: At 92 pitches, Samardzija gets strike one on a foul back by Kubel, then misses high with the fastball, then a splitter that hung a tad gets Kubel to fly out deep to left to Alfonso Soriano on the warning track, one down. Samardzija gets the benefit of a call for strike one inside on Pollock, then another splitter hung a tad, but Pollock got too far under it and lazily flies out to center, two down. The first pitch to Bloomquist is a 95 MPH fastball Bloomy was sitting on and crushes it past Castro for a single. He was sitting on that one. Samardzija gets ahead of Kennedy on a big swing-and-miss, 0-1, then Samardzija misses way inside, 1-1. A fastball is fouled back out of play, then a fastball way outside, then gets Kennedy to offer and miss on a 94 MPH fastball that sunk a ton, 11 Ks.
Seventh Inning: At 103 pitches, they keep Samardzija out there, and he gets a fastball at 89 MPH in there for a strike. Definitely his slowest heater, maybe he’s out there a tad long. A change-up is low, then a rolling splitter is way outside, then a fastball too high, and he again misses 3-1 on a fastball outside for a leadoff walk. Samardzija gets Gregorius to swing awkwardly at a fastball, 0-1, then a fastball is grounded weakly and Barney gets Parra out at second, one down. So with Goldschmidt as mentioned a career 0-5 with 5 Ks against Samardzija, you’ve got to think this is his last hitter. At 110 pitches he misses low with the splitter, then again with the fastball at 90 MPH, 2-0 and losing velocity. Another fastball at 90 MPH at the knees is a strike, but then a fastball is low and another at 89 MPH is way low for another walk. And with that Samardzija’s day is over, a great outing, but of course both baserunners would score, giving Samardzija a no decision and two extra earned runs against him.
Final Line: 6.1 IP 115 Pitches (76 Strikes) 7 Hits 4 Walks 11 K Gamescore: 54 Gamescore+: 64.8
Final Analysis: A fantastic outing from the emerging ace, with two baserunners left on ending up scoring constituting two of his three earned runs. Very unlucky, and if you go from the leadoff homer to when he stepped off the mound, didn’t allow anyone to score. He also had two infield singles that should’ve been outs, so a lot of tough knocks against the big righty. If you click the link on Gamescore+, you will see this is by far the most variant my stat has been from the Gamescore, and with all the unlucky factors against Samardzija, I think my stat is coming along terrifically. Sure a lot is tied into the strikeouts, but two hits were very weak and he was absolutely dominant most of the game.
Featuring a huge fastball, usually the 2-seam version, that topped at 97 MPH, it gets tons of movement. It’s not a straight plane fastball that’s hittable, it dances all over the place. His second pitch is obviously the splitter which he went to a lot in this game, and when it was on, like through the 4th-5th inning, he’s unhittable. But he does hang it at times leading to some hits, so it’s not 100% consistent. When both the fastball and that splitter are working, he’s going to have some no-hitters go deep into games.
However, I do have some concerns with the durability late in games. He’s gone 100+ pitches in 10 of 12 starts now. So he is durable, don’t get me wrong, but his velocity dropped off a ton in that final inning. To be fair, the Cubs should’ve taken him out before the 7th already at 103 pitches, but he is their ace. I worry these huge games are going to cause him to lose some velocity in September. But to counter that, he did play football growing up and through college and doesn’t have the same mileage on that arm that other starters would at his age.
Samardzija is awesome and the Ks are obviously for real. The question is if he can hold up through the entire season. I’m not sure, especially with how heavy they’re leaning on him in Chicago, but he’s going to be on as many teams as possible next year. He’ll have another full season under his belt and I think those off-speed pitches can develop a tick more (remember the experience argument – he’s still getting a feel here and there) and he’ll be a top 15 pitcher next year. In keeper leagues, he’s a guy I’d target and pay for.