2009 Player Previews - Jeff Samardzija
Editor's note: This article was originally going to be written by Byron, who chose instead to go MIA. I'm calling him out for shirking his duties as a part of our new cruelty policy.
Meet the next generation's Kerry Wood -- conditional upon a whole bunch of statements that start with the word "hopefully." Like, Hopefully, Jeff Samardzija will be able to dominate NL hitters the same way that Kerry Wood used to before his arm tried to make a runner. Hey, speaking of that, Hopefully, Jeff Samardzija won't suffer from all the debilitating arm injuries that Kerry Wood had. Hopefully, he's ready sooner rather than later. Hopefully.
One of the things I really appreciate about the Shark is that he really wants to be a Cub. He's like us, but with an arm that can throw lightning and luxurious hair. When he decided to be a baseball player for the Cubs, he demanded a no-trade clause. And he has so much potential that the Cubs gave him what he wanted.
In his first major league season, the Shark was a late-season call-up and he immediately joined Carlos Marmol in the ranks of awesome setup man. In 27.2 innings, he went 1-0 with an ERA of 2.28 and 25 strikeouts. The only point of concern is his control, or lack thereof. There were times - especially toward the end of the year - where his control evaporated and he wasn't at all effective. In September alone, Samardzija threw 8.1 innings, and he walked 8 while only striking out 6. Ugly.
This year, it looks as if he's going to start the season in Iowa. That's fine with us. His 5 strikeouts and 2 walks in 8 innings of work are respectable; his ERA of 6.75 isn't. He has options, though, and it won't be a bad thing for the Shark to get at least a few starts under his belt against Triple A hitting before he either steps in for Rich Harden or replaces an ineffective Sean Marshall/Aaron Heilman/whomever.
Either way, Samardzija will probably - or at least hopefully, anyway - play a big role on the Cubs for the next long while. But for the sakes of our stomach ulcers, it's probably not a bad thing that the Cubs are so deep in pitching that they're not relying on him. Carlos Zambrano aside - and really, he sort of snuck up on us - the last few Great Pitching Hopes have either somersaulted into failure (Harkey) or just plain never lived up to the hype (Gonzalez, Wood, Prior, Cruz, etc. etc. etc. etc.). Samardzija definitely has his own share of hype to deal with, but for once the Cubs are already strong without their future prospective ace. For once, this guy is not the cake but instead may be the icing.