Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Everything happens

Since nothing new was posted today, I thought I'd briefly mention a Tribune article which states that Jeff Samardzija will get a shot at starting in 2009.  According to Paul Sullivan of the Tribune, whose article is linked in the previous sentence, it's his gig to lose. 

Unfortunately for him, there's a lot of politicking involved in any decision.  If he wins the role, the Cubs probably won't have room for Angel Guzman, who's likely to be cut.  If he loses the role, he can be sent to Iowa where he'll get to hone his craft while other guys who want to be a starter will continue to get their chance.

I'd have to say that Shark would need to out pitch his rivals by a wide margin to actually start the season in the rotation.  But as I posted earlier this past week, he'd be my first choice unless he lost it by a wide margin.

Undoubtedly, Jeff Samardzija

Undoubtedly, Jeff Samardzija should be on the major league roster. He could potentially make significant contributions in either the rotation or the bullpen, but there are circumstances that extend far beyond his personal performance in this situation. Another pitcher must be traded, injured, optioned, or released for a roster spot to open up. That being said, assuming full health and no trades, I would prefer the team retain their pitching depth - even if it means that Samardzija starts the season in AAA. Even if Samardzija began the season in the rotation, it would be pretty unrealistic to assume that he could remain there for 162 games in his first season as a starter in the big leagues. And if Samardzija truly is the best option to round out the rotation the cubs would be best served to utilize him more towards the middle and end of the season, as opposed to rushing him into the rotation in April. The numbers-crunch on the roster, the unknown of Samardzija as a starter, and the depth of the cubs' pitching staff all point to Samardzija beginning the season in AAA. As a reliever, Samardzija doesn't need to spend any time in AAA, but as a starter a month or two and 5-10 starts in AAA wouldn't hurt his development at all.

No bullpen, thanks

I believe you pointed out yourself that moving a pitcher back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen can do damage to his arm. Generally speaking, starters condition themselves differently than relievers, and it begins in Spring Training. A starter can make a conversion to the bullpen if necessary, but a reliever going to the rotation would probably need a few weeks of work to be physically capable in terms of endurance.

Because Samardzija is a young prospect, he deserves his chance to start. If he fails as a starter, then he deserves a chance to setup/close. But if he started the year in the bullpen, he would be limiting his '09 options. More to the point, he would also be less likely to have the chance to work on some of his pitches, as relievers tend to rely on fewer pitches to get outs.

Therefore, letting Samardzija start the season in the bullpen could be detrimental toward his chances to start at all in 2009 and also toward the further development of the pitches he'll need to succeed with in the major leagues AS a starter down the road.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of rookie pitchers who start the year as starters and end it as starters. Samardzija could easily start 30+ times, but he needs to be left there even if he struggles from time to time.

There's no doubt that he'd be a good setup man, but it would be a waste of his potential and talent. Let him fail his way there, and let him start in Iowa if he won't start in Chicago.

Personally, I don't think

Personally, I don't think Shark's spot in the majors is a lock. Check out his control in 2008, and his line in September.

Personally, I think its

Personally, I think its completely unrealistic to think that Jeff Samardzija is ready to give a major league team 30 starts, from April through the end of the season. He's young, inexperienced as a starter, and a pitcher almost surely has to be sacrificed in some way for him to get his shot. Samardzija has made ZERO starts in the major leagues, and his innings and pitches thrown are sure to be closely monitored in his first full season as a starter. Samardzija has made a grand total of 6 career starts at AAA. What's the rush to get him into the rotation in April? As you stated, he needs a chance to stretch himself out as a starter and work on secondary pitches, and those are simply things that shouldn't happen at the major league level - since that is exactly what the minor leagues are for. There are few examples of a 24 year-old power pitcher that has made 0 major league starts and 6 above AA, that steps into the big league team's rotation and gives them 30+ starts. I personally can't think of any examples off the top of my head. I'm not saying that he couldn't be the best pitcher for that role, I simply don't understand the rush to put him there from the get go.

Actually, the pitchers who

Actually, the pitchers who tend to rise to success quickest and at a youngest age tend to be power pitchers. It's the finesse guys who need a little extra grooming. Off the top of my head, quickly, I can think of some examples of young success with little grooming, no problem.

1. Mark Prior - Made 3 starts in Iowa, and 19 in Chicago in 2002, his first year in the minor league system. In his first full season, made 30 starts, threw 211.1 innings, won 18. Arm injury unrelated to his quick rush to the majors, more likely due to freak collision in '03 with Giles.

2. Kerry Wood - Started 10 games in Iowa in '97 and one in '98 (done intentionally to give the Cubs his rights for an extra year). Started 26 games his rookie year, went 13-6 with a 3.40 ERA. Won ROY, had some horribly ugly games while he was still figuring out his stuff.

3. Dwight Gooden - Never pitched above A+ ball before being promoted to the majors. In his rookie year, started 31 games, won 17, ERA of 2.60.

4. James Shields, Tampa. Made 10 starts in AAA before being promoted and starting 21 in the Majors his rookie year. (That's 31 total.) The next season, started 31, went 12-8 with a 3.85 ERA.

5. Andy Sonnanstine, Tampa. Made 11 starts in Durham before being promoted and making 22 in Tampa (that's 33 on the season). The next season, he started 32, went 13-9 with a 4.38 ERA.

6. Scott Kazmir, Tampa. Never pitched at AAA level before being promoted to the majors. In his first full season, started 32 games, went 10-9 with a 3.79 ERA.

7. Tim Hudson, Oakland. Started 8 games in AAA before being promoted to the majors (he started 29 games in total that season). In his first full year, he started 32 games, going 20-6 with an ERA of 4.14.

I'm very confident that there are plenty of other examples. There are several things we can take from this.

1. As young pitchers, even if their first year in the majors wasn't a full one they still threw 30+ games that year plus a large number of innings.

2. As young pitchers, they had very little experience in AAA before being thrown into the fire and finding success.

3. Samardzija will be the 5th starter on a team stacked with offense carrying 7 relievers. The Cubs can monitor his pitches and, if he starts 30 times, he can get away with throwing only 160-180 innings without it hurting the team.

All of that said, I'm not opposed to him pitching in Iowa to start the year -- conditional that there are other players who outpitch him into the starting rotation. It should be a no-bones-about it situation of the best man winning. If the Shark has a great spring and still starts off in Iowa, it's politics and that's not how you put your best team on the field and win championships.

But IF - here's the kicker, and I want to make sure you're with me on this one - IF Samardzija does NOT start the year in the rotation with the Cubs, then he absolutely should be starting the year in the rotation with Iowa. I think you agree with me that moving him back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen will only a) put his arm's health at risk and b) hinder his development as a pitcher. Yes?

Absolutely. If the cubs are

Absolutely. If the cubs are committed to this kid being a starter he has to start the season in the rotation somewhere, and the team will have to fight the temptation of putting him in the bullpen instead of sending him to AAA. I think the combination of a crammed roster and the Shark needing some time to get comfortable as a starter each point to letting him start the season in AAA. Good examples with all of the young guys getting starts in their rookie campaigns, by the way. Samardzija's story is slightly different though, where he isn't as polished as most of the guys listed since he spent time as a 2 sport athlete, and as a result he isn't quite as developed as most on the list - but he's right on par in terms of potential. Gooden is a bit of an outlier in the group as he pitched in a different era and was a complete freak in his early days.

One repeating pattern though with the guys you listed, is that some made 5-10 starts in AAA before coming up. This is exactly what I'm proposing the cubs do with the Shark. Those 5-10 starts in AAA to kick off the season would allow the team to figure out what they've got, while it would allow Samardzija the chance to work on the things he needs to before he hits a major league mound. Also this is speculation on my part, but I would say that Larry Rothschild manages the pitching staff moreso than teaching fundamentals and developing pitchers on the fly, but again that's purely speculation on my part. I realize he will pitch a lot of games/innings whether he starts in AAA or on the MLB roster; but those games in AAA won't be as pressure-packed and he will be able to develop his secondary pitches much easier. In the best situation I can paint, Samardzija starts 7-8 games in AAA, then gets called up June 1st or before to make 20+ starts on the big league squad. The worst that can happen, outside of an injury, is that he fails as a starter and in that case the team can easily transplant him to the back-end of the bullpen.


One thing that he has going for him is that he doesn't have a lot of innings on his arm (I'm sure you'll correct me if I'm wrong). But it isn't so much the innings as it is when they are accumulated. Guys bodies are still developing into their early 20s. I really think that his path through college to the big leagues will help ensure a long and healthy career.
Regarding development, check out Buster Olney's blog on Lindstrom from yesterday. I really think that moving Shark back and forth between the rotation and the pen could be harmful. I don't think 180-200 or more innings per year from here on out will be a problem.

Samardzija has only pitched

Samardzija has only pitched around 300 innings in his time with the cubs from 2006-2008, which spans from low A ball all the way to the big leagues. He's made 54 starts as a pro, and had about half that many appearances out of the cubs' bullpen in 2008. His situation is certainly a delicate one, as pitchers of his caliber don't come along often. The cubs face a difficult decision that is quite comparable to what the Yankees have gone through with Joba and the Red Sox have gone through with Papelbon. I don't want to see him bounce back and forth from the rotation to the pen at all. But even if he does start for the entirety of 2009 I don't think I would throw him out there for any more than 130-160 innings, especially considering that this team is primed for a deep run into the Playoffs. I feel the team could easily get through April and May without the Shark, and by doing so you greatly improve his chances of contributing later in the season. I'm much more interested in seeing the Shark's name featured on the Playoff roster than I am the Opening Day roster.


If he goes to the postseason with the big club, you have to admit that he won't be in the rotation, but rather will be in the pen. So how does that jive with your thoughts?
By the way, I looked at his innings at Notre Dame too. He's had a pretty light load over the last 6 years, and I still think the key is that his body is fully developed and ready to take on starting for a full year.
And this team goes to the playoffs with or without him, don't you think?


I don't have to admit that he won't be in the rotation because neither of us have a clue what will happen 8 months from now, at least I don't. Harden could get hurt, Dempster could not be as effective this season, anything is possible. I can't control whether he is used as a reliever or starter, but its not really a point of contention that he could likely contribute to the pitching staff greatly in either role - at the end of the day its not up to me how he is used. My point is that putting the kid in the rotation in April is likely rushing things a bit and isn't necessary. The idea that he has had a light load for most of his career wouldn't lead me to believe that he is ready to take on anywhere near 200 innings either, it actually would lead me to believe the complete opposite. Your last sentence is exactly my point, "This team goes to the Playoffs with or without him," and I completely agree with that. So why rush him up before you know he is completely ready and comfortable as a starter, especially if you don't absolutely need him? This is a talented kid that's going to be around for awhile and developing him as a starter is a long-term proposition. I would simply leave him in AAA to start with because the team doesn't need him YET. The team should take a cautious approach with Samardzija; so that he will be available, effective, and strong when they actually need him. The cubs don't even have to use a 5th starter until the Cardinals series that begins April 24th, if they choose to go that route, so even if he earned the final spot in the rotation I wouldn't bring him up until then. Leaving him in AAA for as short a time as 3 weeks would allow the Shark the ability to get in 3-4 starts, while it gives the cubs time to see what they've got from the rest of the staff.


Show me some evidence that he can't handle 180 innings this year. The beauty of the whole thing is that there are legit counterpoints to yours and my points here, but you can't seem to see that.
And you ignore my point that his physiology is what makes him ready to pitch a full season as a starter, as opposed to his prior workload. What I tried to explain is that his lighter load while his body was still maturing is a good thing. I believe he's more likely to have a healthy career based on that fact alone.
Of course we don't know what will happen in 8 months, but given what we know right now, HE WON'T BE IN THE ROTATION IN THE PLAYOFFS. It's typical to debate based upon the facts we have at hand.
In fact, you seldom seem interested in debate, but would rather beat people over the head with your points. Find someone else to "talk to" or another topic to "debate."

Now slow down my friend

I'm not saying anybody's right or wrong here, I'm merely telling you what I think. We're debating personal opinion here not fact. Take it for what its worth, or don't take it all, its up to you. There are good points on each side, and I'm not ignoring anything you said. My only point is that a pitcher of his caliber and talent-level is going to be around for awhile, and whether its right or wrong, I simply wouldn't rush the kid if I didn't have to. I think his physical size/development are each incredible strengths for him, but that doesn't change the fact that he hasn't thrown more than around 140 innings in a season to this point or the fact that he spent the last 5 months of the 2008 season pitching out of the bullpen. I'm not saying that Samardzija can't throw 180 innings on the big league team this season, I just don't see the need for him to. Its an opinion, mine, that I backed up when questioned by you and others.

I'm not sure how you know what points I seem to see, what points I ignore, or what I'm interested in - but if you can see so clearly inside my head then what's the point in us talking anyway? I never said you were wrong in your opinions, I read every word you wrote in your responses, digested it, and responded with my own thoughts and opinions. You quickly got off subject in this last post and had more to say about me than the topic, which is far from debate. I never put a gun to your head to make you "talk" or "debate" with me, so if its something you don't want to take part in in the future then don't. We simply have different opinions on the subject, which is what a debate is all about. Sorry, but despite the fact that I usually do, I'm not taking the bait this time. I have no personal issues with you over 5 posts regarding our opinions of Jeff Samardzija, just as I would have no issues talking with you in the future about any other topic that might come up.

Just so I make this perfectly clear: I don't think that I know anything more than you about Samardzija, nor do I think that my opinion is any more right or valuable than yours. The simple truth is that no one knows where Samardzija is going to land, as today was the first day of spring training games. Those things combined, plus the depth on the pitching staff, and his remaining options all come together to create an easy debate. Also I respect your opinion and think that you had many excellent and valid points in what you said, otherwise I doubt that we would have talked on the subject for as long as we did. A debate isn't always going to end with one of the parties converting their opinion, as there is little wrong with two parties respectfully disagreeing about a particular topic. Cheers

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