5 Signs Jeff Samardzija Can Be the Ace of the Future for the Chicago Cubs
Jeff Samardzija struggled with the command of his off-speed pitches throughout his career, while also having difficulties blowing his fastball straight past hitters.
To say Samardzija has surprised this season would be an understatement.
But is it just a mirage of what he really is? Or is this Samardzija the one the Cubs thought they were getting in the fifth round out of Notre Dame?
At 4-1 with 2.89 ERA and 45 strikeouts, Samardzija has potentially put his name in All-Star consideration.
Can he be an All-Star and anchor of a competing Cubs rotation? Here are five reasons to believe he might just have a chance.
All great pitchers have a go-to pitch, with an array of options to complement it depending on the situation.
For Samardzija, he boasts a plus fastball frequently in the upper-90s. It's always been his most consistent pitch. But in the major leagues, as Samardzija found out early in his career, it's easy to hit a straight fastball when the threat of another pitch ceases to exist.
This year, Samardzija has mastered control of his curveball and changeup, throwing each one effectively in and out of the strike zone.
Every pitch, especially the off-speed, needs work. But the options are there for Samardzija to develop them into ace-caliber pitches.
Room to Grow
Samardzija was a rare two-sport college athlete at the University of Notre Dame. A standout wide receiver, Samardzija nixed the NFL draft to chase his dreams on the diamond.
Drafted in 2006, it was the first time that Samardzija truly dedicated himself fully to one sport. Focusing on two sports may have saved some life in his arm, also giving him a chance to develop later into his career.
He's 27, but his arm is much younger. He's still learning to control his pitches and with growth and experience he should do just that.
Most 27-year-olds are in the midst of their potential, but Samardzija appears to just be knocking at the door.
If that's the case, expect him to build and improve on his solid start to the year.
Samardzija came into camp ready to prove to himself and the organization that he was prepared to take the next step.
At the time it seemed like campaigning for the final spot. That was before he took the field and pitched.
He's gone from campaigning for a starting spot to campaigning for an All-Star bid.
He wants the ball every fifth day and expects to win.
He struck out a career-high nine batters against the World Series champions and NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals in the first of four straight games allowing one run or fewer.
After two straight outings allowing five runs, he bounced back to produce, quashing fears that his fast start was an aberration.
The confidence he shows on the mound and in the results is enough to handle the top of the rotation.
Comfortable with the Big Stage
How many times has a player been drafted out of college, walked onto the Wrigley Field mound and thought to himself "No sweat?"
My guess is not too many.
But imagine where Samardzija was before his debut. He played football for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The bowl games and BCS matchups he participated in were more than twice the size of a sold-out Wrigley Field.
He is used to expectations, as they were high at Notre Dame prior to it becoming the home for underage drinking and abuse of police officers.
Sure, patience is shorter in Chicago than South Bend, but it's a similar playing field in each respective sport.
Samardzija is ahead of the curve thanks to his time in the spotlight at Notre Dame.