Now that Jeff Samardzija's season is over, let's take a moment to look back and express amazement that for about half the season Samardzija was the guy you most wanted to see on the mound for the Cubs. Well, assuming you weren't rooting for the Cubs reverse standings position. Here's his final numbers on the season.
This sure was a nice surprise for the Cubs this year.
Here's another Cubs pitcher we recently enjoyed who seemed to suddenly turn things around.
|Rich Hill (2007)||32||195||170||183||63||27||.271||3.92||4.32||4.00||3.1||3.2|
I had remembered that Hill had a big problem with walks, but he was actually quite stingy with them across all levels as he shot up the minors. He walked 17 batters in 23 innings or so during his cup of coffee in 05, and posted a solid 3.53 BB/9 in 100 innings in 2007 but was most famous for shooting his mouth off after the Barret-Pierzynski fight. He followed that up with a 3.1 fWAR, 2.91 BB/9 season in 2007 after which the Cubs declared him to be one of The Untouchables. We all know what happened after that. He hurt his back, couldn't find the plate, and the rest was history (see also: 2011-2012 Randy Wells). Even if you believe in TRANSFORMATION, there's always the lurking fact that evolution did not select the throw 98 mph fastballs trait.
Samardzija has done a lot to improve his stock, but the projection systems have mixed opinions. Here is The Hardball Times's updated forecast ($) for the next five years for F7, as well as their final estimate of his current true talent level.
ZiPS is a much bigger believer in Samardzija, pegging his current true talent level at a 3.83 FIP. However, it has been suggested that ZiPS weights current season projections too heavily. I don't have a BP subscription so I don't know what Samardzija's updated PECOTA is, but it's certainly better than the ~5.5 FIP as a reliever that it had projected going into the season.
Not surprisingly, Samardzija is a weird guy to project. I'd be interested to see what player comps PECOTA spits out. It's pretty unusual to see a guy be a shitty reliever for several seasons, then suddenly turn into a credible starter. Another Cubs pitcher that was being thrown around as a comparison earlier in the year was Ryan Dempster, but that's only a cursory comparison. Dempster had past history of being a solid starter, was injured, and then had some success as a closer before being turned into a starter. Samardzija, on the other hand had been so terrible that he probably would have been non-tendered in the offseason if the Cubs actually had a rotation with a shot at pitching the Cubs into respectability.
One of the worries that has been expressed by some around here is that the Cubs will sign Samardzija to an extension. I'm one of the Samardzija Transformation believers, so I'm not too worried that the Cubs would get burned by the deal. At least, relative to signing a contract with any player. But I think that Thoyer will wait. What's the hurry? Samardzija is only reaching his first year of arbitration. He'll be a little more expensive than most first time arb elgibles due to the deal the Cubs had to give him to sign him away from football, but he won't be that expensive. They can take a wait and see approach, and if he's still kicking ass and taking names next year, then they can drop some money on him to keep him around. Given the Cubs current payroll constraints over the next few years, it's not like this is a situation where they really need to take on some risk to save enough money to sign the next Xavier Nady.