Shark attack

Jeffrey Alan Samardzija
Starting pitcher

Call him what you want, but Jeff Samardzija’s impressive spring training carried over into the regular season. In just his sixth big league start, and first since the end of 2010, the former Notre Dame wide receiver was one Starlin Castro throwing error away from a complete game. It was his first time past the sixth inning.

He’s been through many changes, but the raw athlete seems to have emerged fully formed. Dead set on starting in 2012, he forced his way into a crowded rotation situation and went from dark horse to middle of the rotation in a matter of weeks.

Going back to the start of 2011, Samardzija had lost some of the impressive velocity he had shown earlier in his career.


As his mechanics settled down and became more consistent, he gained about three mph and improved his numbers along the way.

2011 splits

         1st    2nd
Kp9      9.1    8.7
Bp9      5.9    3.9
K/B      1.5    2.2
ERA     3.48   2.23
babip   .255   .258

You may have noticed the jump in speed from Samardzija’s first PITCHf/x outing of the year and his most recent. That first outing came in spring training, and was after good reports were already coming out of Mesa. Now, the lack of speed was no concern, too early in the year for that. But there was something in the PITCHf/x that jumped out and lent credence to the “different pitcher” meme that was starting to percolate.

Let’s compare the last 119 pitches Samardzija threw last year (back to Sept. 9) to the 108 he threw against Washington on Easter Sunday.

  Sept. 2011 Easter 2012
Fastball 28 @ 97 mph 34 @ 96 mph
Sinker 52 @ 97 25 @ 96
Slider 26 @ 88 23 @ 86
Splitter 13 @ 89 20 @ 87
Cutter n/a 6 @ 92

While Samardzija was a notch slower over the course of his start relative to last September’s relief appearances, it was just a single mph and his fastest inning was the ninth, where he averaged over 97 mph with his four-seam.

There’s a little more separation between the hard stuff and the slider/splitter now and he’s added, or re-added, a solid 92 mph cutter. The presence of the clean cutter was the most noteworthy aspect of his Cactus League PITCHf/x data, and it was nice to see him to continue to mix it in. The fastball/sinker mix will vary for many pitchers, including Samardzija. Variation can come from the number of left- vs. right-handed batters (if the pitcher has a platoon preference) or the direction of the wind (if the pitcher plays in Wrigley Field). Sometimes it’s a matter of feel or even the catcher.

Who knows,but he threw quality 97 mph sinkers in his Easter start while not leaning as heavily on them as he has sometimes in the past.

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