I’m in a bit of a fog this morning after having stayed up late to watch the Jered Weaver no-hitter. MLB Network host (and occasional groper) Harold Reynolds showed quite a bit of prescience when he commented on a 5th inning slicing ball off the bat of Chris Parmelee that went foul by less than a foot, “that’s when you know it might be your night.”
But this is a blog focused on the NL Central, and that’s where we’ll turn back now.
I entered the season with a huge dose of doubt about Jeff Samardzija’s future as a Chicago Cub.
In fact, I’ve pretty much assumed that by the time the team returns to respectability (2014, maybe), that the only player on their current roster that will still be with them is shortstop Starlin Castro. And even that I’d consider a maybe. For the record, I suspect he may have a future as a second baseman instead. But that’s a topic for another day.
However, having watched a bit of Samardzija’s start last night, what I was most amazed by was how well he still commanded his stuff late in the game.
To close out the 7th, he struck out Scott Rolen on a 91 mph slider. (He picked up all three strikes on sliders during the at bat.)
His last batter faced, on pitches 92-95, he threw four straight 96 mph four-seamers.
I’m not saying I’m completely convinced that he might be for real, but I have to tip my cap to a guy who is still dialing it up in the mid-to-upper 90s when he’s closing in on 100 pitches. That’s the kind of stuff you see guys like Justin Verlander pull off.
I’m not saying Samardzija has a Cy Young in his future. All I’m saying is that right now he’s throwing like a guy who can be a really solid #2. Will he continue to develop and be the kind of arm that the Cubs should keep around for when they’re finally decent? That’s the question.
There are a few things I’m concerned about with the 27-year old. Of course there is! I’m always concerned!
For one, the increased workload as a starting pitcher. Thus far, Samardzija has faced 132 batters (31.2 innings pitched) and is on pace for 764 BF (183 IP). Last season he had 380 BF (88 IP) and was usually hovering around the 600 BF (~140 IP) mark between 2007 and 2010. It’s a bit of a jump up and it will be interesting to see how the Cubs handle him as their lost season continues. Do you shut him down in August or September just for the sake of saving him up a bit? Make sure you give him plenty of time between starts? (This most recent start came on 8 days of rest, for example.)
Second, as evidenced by the pitch selection in that 7th inning showdown against Rolen, is his pitch selection. Samardzija is throwing sliders on 21.4% of all pitches, according to PITCHf/x. That number has been rising since 2009.
Sliders make me a little nervous. I took a look at all pitchers who played “full” seasons (i.e. 162 IP or more) and who PITCHf/x identified as having thrown 20% sliders or greater during the 2010 season. Fangraphs identified 17 such players.
Out of those 17, how many repeated being healthy enough in 2011 to throw 162 IP or more?
Okay, actually 10 of them. And a couple of them didn’t achieve that mark only because, frankly, they’re not very good pitchers.
I’m going to retract this concern and temper my anti-slider theories.
PIRATES (10-14) @ CARDINALS (16-8)
12:45 PM CT
Why You Might Watch This: Jake Westbrook is one of those Cardinal arms that’s helped them get over Wainwright’s tough April. Whatever changes he made have been working.
- Carlos Beltran busted out of a little slump in a large way last night. It was the kind of night expected from the guy whom many (myself included) felt was probably the best off-season free agent signing in the MLB.
CUBS (9-15) @ REDS (11-12)
11:35 AM CT
Why You Might Watch This: Ryan Dempster returns to the rotation after a quad injury pushed him to the DL.
- Tony Campana is dreaming of being the next Rickey Henderson. Given his size, maybe a Vince Coleman comparison is more apt.
- Speaking of fast guys, here’s more love for Billy Hamilton.
- FanGraphs’ Prospect Watch includes a snippet on Brett Jackson.
- As expected, Mat Gamel has an ACL injury and is out for the season. Either Travis Ishikawa (who I know Strat-o-Matic has given a 1 rating to in the past…) or Corey Hart is expected to fill in there.
- Chris Cwik on replacing Gamel.
- It’s yet another injury for the Brew Crew, who are seriously hurting right now.
- You know how I know I’m old? I remember when Nate McLouth was good.
@ Nationals 3, REDS 2
I know this is an NL Central-centric blog, but I watched this game front-to-back and have to apologize for ripping Gio Gonzalez. I know he has control problems, but they weren’t there yesterday. He was spotting his fastballs on the black on both sides of the plate and placing his curve perfectly. Early on I thought “Well, this guy has no-hit stuff today…” That didn’t happen, but he only allowed a pair of them over 7 innings of work. Maybe more impressively considering his major short-coming – zero walks to go with seven punchouts.
In the end, the Reds tied it up on closer Brad Lidge in the top of the 9th, but lost in the bottom of the 10th on an Alfredo Simon wild pitch.
@ CUBS 8, BREWERS 0
Matt Garza came one out shy of a shutout and could have had it if he hadn’t air-mailed a grounder back to the mound with 2 outs in the 9th. With 119 pitches, Garza was pulled. He struck out 9, allowing 3 hits and a pair of walks. The Cubs nickled and dimed Zack Greinke and the Brewers to death, with only Steve Clevenger (2 doubles) picking up extra-base hits to go with 11 singles.
@ Dodgers 3, PIRATES 2
The Dodgers put 3 on the board in the 1st inning and cruised the rest of the way. Andrew McCutchen was 3-for-3 to up his batting average to .409 on the season, while Casey McGehee went 2-for-4 to improve to .385.
A quick look back at what happened yesterday…
@ REDS 4, CARDINALS 3
The Cincinnati Reds did something they really needed to do, avoiding a sweep at home against the St. Louis Cardinals. Cincy came back from a 3-1 hole heading into the bottom of the 5th. Joey Votto doubled to start the Cincinnati 9th and later scored on a walk-off single by Chris Heisey. Aroldis Chapman went 2 innings, striking out 5 to earn his 2nd win out of the bullpen. How long until he becomes a starter might depend on how much longer Reds’ starters struggle. The 97 mph high strikeout of Freese at 0:39 in this video is particularly awesome.
- On the downside, the Cards decided they weren’t going to be trying today.
- Heisey discusses coming through in a pinch.
- I have a personal interest in The Cuban Missile becoming a starter, so let’s make this happen, people.
- Fangraphs on the Brandon Phillips extension.
BREWERS 2 @ CUBS 1
Yovani Gallardo puts together a nice start after getting shelled in his opening effort, while Ryan Dempster pitches well again for the Cubs, only to get the L hung on him. George Kottaras (seriously) connects for a 2-run homer in the 7th to put Milwaukee up for good.
- Bruce Miles, maybe the only Chicago sportswriter who isn’t a total hack, on the team’s lack of OBP skills the past few seasons.
- On the other hand, their radio man – Pat Hughes – is one of the best out there. Fred Mitchell profiled Hughes.
- More from Miles on how things will get worse before they get better for Chicago.
- The fine folks at Baseball Prospectus on Jeff Samardzija.
- Marlon Byrd going “linear” to break funk.
@ Dodgers 4, PIRATES 1
3 hits each for Matt Kemp and Juan Rivera as the Dodgers (5-1) keep rolling early on. The Bucs’ Neil Walker is now 1-for-17 in 2012.
- The Post-Gazette on Casey McGehee’s fast start.
Braves 6, @ ASTROS 3
4 more errors for the ‘stros and the Braves batted around in a 3-run 4th inning. With 8 errors this season, Houston is 3rd-worst in fielding percentage in the National League.
- Odd thing is, all 8 errors have come in Wandy Rodriguez’s 2 starts this season.
- FanGraphs.com on Jeff Samardzija
- Reds’ fan chatter on Homer Bailey vs Aroldis Chapman
- Cards’ prospect Matt Adams (current slash line of .316/.350/.842 at AAA)
- St. Louis columnist (not NASCAR driver) Jeff Gordon wonders how the hell the Reds could afford to pony up all those Benjamins for Joey Votto.