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Entries in Jeff Samardzija (5)


Home Run Recap: Jason Heyward

Jeff Samardzija vs. Jason Heyward Pitch Sequence, May 7th, 2012 (2nd inning)

In last night's great start from Cubs' starter Jeff Samardzija, the lone blip came in the second inning when the tall righthander gave up a home run to Atlanta Braves' Jason Heyward

The former Notre Dame standout started Heyward out with a two-seamer and a splitter which were both low in the zone.  The third pitch ended up right in Heyward's hot spot, as you can see from the heat map above. It was a 95 MPH two-seamer that Heyward hit out over the wall in right field at Wrigley. 

Samardzija tried to keep the ball low on Heyward all day, which is odd considering Heyward generates most of his power on balls low in the zone. He was likely hoping to get Heyward to chase a few pitches down and out of the zone, and missed his spot on the HR pitch.  From the video link above, you can see that Soto was actually setting him up outside.

Given the kind of velocity Samardzija can get behind his fastball, he might do better trying to come up and in on Heyward in future meetings.


Samardzija's Marginal Fastball

New Cubs manager Dale Sveum recently named righty Jeff Samardzija his club's third starter, giving the former Notre Dame wide receiver whom Chicago coaxed into baseball with a $10 million contract back in 2006 his first chance to stick in the rotation.

The Cubs haven't gotten much return on that investment so far. Pitching almost exclusively out of the bullpen, Samardzija has a career 95 ERA+ in 169.2 innings pitched. His strikeout rate is okay but hardly special (7.5 K/9), he has walked far too many batters (5.3 BB/9) and he sports a ground ball rate barely above 40 percent. Samardzija gained prospect notoriety for his booming fastball, which has averaged 94.4 mph in the majors and topped out at 99 mph. But it has been a BP-quality offering since he debuted in 2008, especially against left-handed hitters.

Opponents have hit .285/.402/.459 against Samardzija's fastball since '08, compared to the .266/.352/.416 average for relief pitchers over that time frame. While righties are putting plenty of good swings on Samardzija's fastball and benefitting from his wildness (.274/.374/.423), lefties have teed off for a .303/.443/.513 line.

Samardzija has tossed a ton of fastballs away to lefty hitters, often missing to his arm side off the plate:

Samardzija's fastball location to lefty hitters, 2008-11

Just 42% of Samardzija's fastballs to lefties have been thrown in the strike zone, way below the 48% average for righty relievers versus opposite-handed hitters from 2008-11.

Compounding matters is that when Samardzija does locate his fastball in the zone to lefties, he leaves the pitch belt-high. About 40% of his in-zone fastballs to lefties have been thrown to the horizontal middle of the zone (36-37% average). That's where left-handers have made him pay:

Lefty hitters' in-play slugging percentage vs. Samardzija's fastball, 2008-11

ZiPS projected Samardzija for a 4.12 ERA out of the 'pen in 2012, a mark that would move closer to five if he follows the general pattern of other relievers-turned-starters. Considering that the Cubs aren't playing for much this year and that Samardzija is out of minor league options, you can understand the desire to find out if he can hack it in the rotation. Still, his control woes make this conversion look like a Hail Mary.  

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