Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Jeff Samardzija

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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.

The Great Shark Debate

Perhaps the biggest wild card you can find anywhere on the entire Cubs' team roster going into 2009 is Jeff Smardzija.  Some feel he should start in AAA as a starter and be called up later to be used when/as needed.  Still some hold the belief that he should begin the season in MLB as a strong foundation in the set-up bridge that gets the ball to Carlos Marmol.  Its a tough decision for any organization to face.  Samardzija certainly can provide a valuable arm in the bullpen immediately, but many feel his long-term career path will take shape as a starter.  So its quite a toss-up.  Does the team leave him in AAA at the detriment of the bullpen and valuable outs late in games?  Or do you work with what's currently in the bullpen and let Samardzija develop as a starter in AAA?

Samardzija just turned 24 years old, and he's a big kid at 6'5" 220 lbs.  He possesses an above average fastball at this point, which he featured at 94.7mph on average, in nearly 70% of the pitches he threw in relief on the big league team in 08.  He also has a few secondary pitches that need to be further developed, but its a clear possibility that both his slider and split-finger pitches could soon be plus pitches.  Also his 56.5% first pitch strike rate is good with room for improvement in the future as well.  The strikeouts will always be there for this kid, but if he can cut down on the walks he will be tough in any role.

As a a reliever -MLB-   27.7IP, 25K, 15BB, 1W, 1S, 2.28ERA

As a starter in the minors his numbers were a little less than stellar until he arrived in AAA in 2008.  For the most part his ERA was in the high four's for the brunt of his innings in A and AA from 06-08. There is little argument that he was able to turn things around from the time he arrived in AAA going (4-1) which then launched him into the Cubs' bullpen in late July.  There is little doubt that Samardzija's arm can be utilitzed by the cubs major league team in the very near future, however, its still unclear what level the Shark lands at or what role he can play in the teams' success in 2009.

2008 Season Recap: Jeff Samardzija

Samardz

It’s currently 4 a.m. and I’m surfing Jeff Samardzisoiajsdkj’s (that was actually easier than trying to type his real name) personal website, so cut me a little slack if my grammar is lacking.

Wait what’s that I just said about a Samardzija website? Did you hear that correctly? Yes friends, young Jeff does indeed have his own website and here it is. Enjoy it and all its Modest Mouse glory. Seems a bit much for someone who has only pitched 27.2 innings of big league baseball, but so does a no-trade clause in your first professional contract.

Anyway, Samardzija made his first and somewhat highly anticipated MLB appearance of the season on July 25 against the Marlins and Cubs fans instantly fell in love despite the fact that he blew a save in said game. Maybe it was his flowing locks or his high 90’s fastball, but the collective boner Cubs nation got lasted for much longer than any male enhancement pill could ever provide. Maybe we should see a doctor?

Lou seemed to find a nice spot for the hard-throwing righty somewhere around the seventh inning(depending on the situation) and he would often use Jeff as a lead in to fellow flamethrower Carlos Marmol. While command was an issue at times, Samardzija provided some fire and timely strikeouts from the ‘pen. He wasn’t as dominating or intimidating as the aforementioned Marmol, but he was a nice appetizer for the bigger meal to come.

Despite struggling in the Cubs minor league system, Samardzija was called up from Iowa to replace a shelved Kerry Wood who was suffering from a blister on his throwing hand. Many thought Jeff would return to the land of corn soon after Wood’s return, but the move proved to be a permanent one and a good one at that.

While Jeff’s success might have come as surprised based on his minor league performances, maybe we all underestimated his ability to play in front of a large crowd. Unlike so many young players, Samardzija already had a wealth of experiences in playing before huge stadiums from his days as a member of Touchdown Jesus. In a way, maybe the Wrigley crowd helped him. Maybe he felt more at home on a mound in front of 40,000 people.

In the brief time that the Cubs have been in the postseason, Samardzija’s name has already come up several times as a possible piece of a trade that would bring San Diego’s ace Jake Peavy to the North Side, but now those rumors seem to be dead as Jeff was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause. Supposedly the Cubs are now exploring the idea of letting Samardzija compete for a spot in the rotation.

While I find this idea intriguing, I feel there are many factors that could affect Jeff’s role next season – namely the status of Peavy and Ryan Dempster. With Kerry Wood now out as a member of the Cubs, it also becomes more important for Samardzija to stay in the bullpen and perhaps take on the role of set-up guy if the Cubs are to use Marmol as their closer.
Either way, 2009 is sure to be a much more important year for Samardzija than 2008. Based on what we’ve seen (which is not much) that might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your point of view.

Don’t worry though. If he sucks then the Cubs can just trade him away…oh wait.

The Big 25 for 2009, as I see it

Note: this is NOT my Dream 25.  Oh no.  I wish Colorado would trade us Brad Hawpe and Brian Fuentes for Micah Hofpauir and Ronny Cedeno, San Diego trade us Jake Peavy for Rich Hill, and we snatch CC Sabathia out of the jaws of the Yankees.  This is my Realism 25. 

Be sure to check out the first of our upcoming series/report card of the 2008 Cubs, recapping the performance of one Ryan Dempster, who naturally looms quite large in our 2009 plans.

For, in fact, I will start with him.  The latest 'legitimate' media feedback indicates that Demp is not interested in hometown discounts.  Someone WILL overpay for Ryan Dempster.  The legit media also seems pretty unanimous in their feeling that that Someone is Jim Hendry.  Any deal over three years is overpaying for Dempster.  The Cubs will eventually make that deal, which takes us out of the Jake Peavy Relays.

Feel free to take the last paragraph, replace "Ryan" with "Kerry", and "Dempster" with "Wood".

Ryan Dempster is not a Staff Ace by definition, but he did set a good example for the rest of the staff with his brutal off-season conditioning regimen.  He is a great teammate by all accounts, and he is worth keeping at the right price.  Kerry Wood is not a Dominating Closer by definition, but he did set a good example for the rest of the staff with his endless persistence.  He is also a great teammate by all accounts, and he is also worth keeping at the right price.  Keeping both will preserve our decently-performing 8th-9th inning tandem, and I will step out here and predict that Dempster will be good for 45 wins the next three years.

It is the Cubs' bad fortune that this is also the winter of CC Sabathia and K-Rod.  Sure, Dempster and Wood will get less money than either, but they WILL get as much money as Your Typical Staff Ace and Dominating Closer of years past.  From us.

Which pretty much blows us out of the water for any other big-name free agents, if you believe what you hear from the brain trust.

I only have one trade on my page, and a couple of relatively minor free agent signings.

We are going to end up with Brian Roberts.  It makes too much sense, now.  We wanted him last winter, to help the offense that ground to a halt in the playoffs.  We went to the playoffs again, and the offense ground to a halt again.  He is going to play second and bat leadoff, and Mark DeRosa is going to become the (principal) right fielder.  No, DeRo is not my "plus" fielder I have been chanting about, but we had one this year (Fukudome) and as it turned out, his sparkling RF defense was an unnecessary luxury in the playoffs.  DeRo will play it well enough, and as he gains reps throughout the year, I am confident he will grow more comfortable in the role.

Roberts is going to cost us, way more than the spare parts we all talk about slipping McFail.  Marshall/Pie/Cedeno ain't gonna do it.  It didn't get it done last year, and the price has only gone up.  Now, Pie can come or go, I don't really give a rip.  If they want him, give him.  I'm thinking they won't take another chance on our CF rejects.  They don't want a fundamentally flawed player like Cedeno, either.  Maybe they do, but they will probably ask for Theriot first; we will have to counter with Fontenot.  Yes, they gave US Fontenot, but they probably also didn't figure on him ever hitting 9 dingers in 150 ABs like he did this year.  His trade value is at an all-time high.  Move him, now.

Finally, the pitching portion of the deal.  They ain't gonna take Marshall; his upside is pretty limited.  They are going to want Marmol, we will refuse; then they will want Jeff Samardjia, and that's the deal.  Samardjia, Fontenot, and Pie and/or other "prospects".

We resign Hank White, and make a couple of smaller FA signings, Juan Cruz and Eric Hinske.  Cruz gives us what Howry was supposed to give us; Hinske fills in every so often at one of the corner OF spots. 

Other fill-ins on the staff include Gaudin, Wuertz, and Cotts, along with the $8MM Long Island native, Jason Marquis du Suc.  Marquis will probably be your fifth starter, again.  He's being paid 2nd starter money, but as a 5th starter, we could do much worse.  In my world, Hofpauir never goes back to Iowa, again.  It would be lovely if he could be part of the Roberts deal, but that just makes too much sense.  It would be far better for us if McFail would accept Marshall/Hofpauir/Fontenot, but once again, I am sure that was probably already on the table last year.

My guy Fukudome - they ain't gonna trade him, and they ain't gonna come north with him.  He will either accept a nice trip to Des Moines, or a plane ticket home.

Some folks will have to adjust to new places in the batting order.  Soto will have to step up to the cleanup role.  He should see better pitches there.  Lee will go back to batting sixth, where he was the last time he won a title.  Soriano is going to have to deal with batting fifth.  We're all sick of the strikeouts to start games, which happens far more often (23, .302 OBP) than when he goes yard to start games (5).

So here's the Grand All-Majestic 25 Man Roster (realistic version) to start 2009:

P (12) - Z, Harden, Lilly, Marquis, Dempster, Wood, Marmol, Marshall, Cruz, Gaudin, Wuertz, Cotts.

C (2) - Soto, Blanco

IF (6) - Theriot, Cedeno, Ramirez, Lee, Roberts, Hofpauir

OF (5) - Soriano, Johnson, DeRosa, Pie, Hinske

Order: Roberts, Theriot, Ramirez, Soto, Soriano, Lee, DeRo, Johnson, P

Hopefully Fukudome can adjust himself to American Baseball by the time that Felix Pie's batting average dips below .100. 

Friday Morning Odds And Ends, Few Odds And No Ends

The Cubs, apparently looking to fill Chicago’s hole at wide receiver, are calling up Jeff Samardzija. Kerry Wood is on the DL with – yeah – a blister. Apparently he could start Saturday. Which is… odd.

(By the way, impress your friends: it's pronounced suh-MARR-zhuh.)

Jim Edmonds, however, will stay off the DL – an MRI on his knee was negative.

Also, the Cubs don’t think they deserved their recent half-million fine from MLB regarding their conduct in the recent draft:

The Cubs plan to argue against an expected $500,000 fine from Major League Baseball for a pair of what MLB says are violations regarding the amateur draft. The decision is still under review, but the Cubs consider it nothing more than a couple of "clerical errors" in the filing of paperwork on two signees.

"There's no dollars that we've spent, or hidden, or things like that," general manager Jim Hendry said. "Two of our entire draft choices were signed to above-the-slot figures, which is perfectly legal."

Meanwhile, the Cubs A-ball affiliate the Peoria Chiefs have an absolute battle royal.

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Thursday Morning Odds and Ends, Long Time No See Edition

Some quick notes.

Ted Lilly got a quality start tonight, which probably would have warmed the heart of Jerome Holtzman, who invented the stat. Holtzman, a long-time fixture in the Chicago baseball press, died over the weekend. Bruce Miles has a touching tribute.

Wood could go onto the DL soon, and his replacement might bee Jeff Samardzija. Shark’s on a very odd developmental path right now:

Year   Team G W L IP TBF H 2B 3B HR R ER BB K ERA
2006 A- Boise 5 1 1 19.0 84 18 1 1 1 5 5 6 13 2.37
2006 A Peoria 2 0 1 11.0 43 6 2 0 1 5 4 6 4 3.27
2007 A+ Daytona 24 3 8 107.1 479 142 22 4 8 69 59 35 45 4.95
2007 AA Tennessee 6 3 3 34.1 145 33 7 0 8 15 13 9 20 3.41
2008 AA Tennessee 16 3 5 76.0 332 71 14 1 6 43 41 42 44 4.86
2008 AAA Iowa 6 4 1 37.1 152 32 6 0 5 13 13 16 40 3.13

Yeah, a lot of guys raise their strikeout rate and cut their walk rate when they get promoted to AAA. Happens ALL the time.

An interesting thing happened on the way to buying the Cubs:

A group led by John Canning, chairman of Chicago private-equity firm Madison Dearborn, valued the Cubs, Wrigley and the team's stake in Comcast SportsNet at far less than the $1 billion or more that the four or five groups team owner Tribune Co. deemed satisfactory to continue, a source with knowledge of the process said.

But Tribune Co., which also owns the Chicago Tribune, appeared to be serving notice in shooting down the lowball offer. The source indicated that the most important figures connected with any offer will be the ones with dollar signs, in order to maintain the integrity of the process and the media concern's fiduciary responsibilities.

Of the five to 10 offers fielded for just Wrigley Field, the source said three were deemed promising enough to be asked to continue in the process.

Expect to hear more on this in the coming days. Meanwhile, MLB doesn’t seem to be happy with the Cubs’ draft:

The Cubs' fine for violations related to the June draft of first-year players was a whopping $500,000, SI.com has learned. Major League Baseball ruled that the Cubs violated a couple of baseball rules, including failing to report a signing to MLB's New York offices and putting the player on the field before receiving approval for the signing from MLB offices. The Cubs were said by people familiar with the case to have exacerbated the situation by how they responded to MLB's concerns.

This is the sort of thing that just wouldn’t have happened under the watch of Andy MacPhail, who came from a long line of distinguished baseball statesmen and who played ball with the commissioner. I personally am comforted by the thought of a front office who cares more about what’s best for the team and less about what’s best for the league.

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