Boom. Shut out’d.

Today the Cubs took down the Indians behind some brilliant pitching, and just enough offense. Here’s hoping we hear that a lot this year when the season rolls around. The bits…

  • Look. Say what you will about Spring Training stats and their relative meaninglessness, but here’s what we know: Jeff Samardzija came into today’s start believing that he had to perform in order to lock up a rotation spot. He performed, and then some. Facing a lineup almost exclusively of left-handed batters, Samardzija allowed just three hits and a walk over six innings. He struck out five, and gave up no runs (obviously). He also tripled. The walk was his first all Spring. There are reasons to keep Samardzija in the bullpen, but none are compelling enough for me to say he shouldn’t be given a spot in the rotation at this point. The Cubs have very little to lose, and a whole lot to gain. I’m on board, Jeff.
  • The other three scoreless innings came from Carlos Marmol, James Russell and Rafael Dolis. Marmol’s was the quietest inning, with just one walk and a K. Russell gave up a couple hits, and Dolis gave up a couple walks. All three are going to end up with jobs in the bullpen out of Spring Training (unless the Cubs want to use today’s wildness as an excuse to send Dolis to AAA (he’s got an option), and keep an optionless reliever in his place to start the year).
  • Ian Stewart, like Bryan LaHair, started out a little meh this Spring, but has turned it on of late. He had another couple hits today. LaHair had another hit, too.
  • Joe Mather had a hit and a walk in three plate appearances. Once again, we can gnash our teeth about Spring stats all we want, but the guy is a virtual certainty to break camp with a job on the bench. We might as well buy into the story, and start cheering. I’m into it.
  • Steve Clevenger was Geovany Soto’s sub late today, and, what do you know, he had another hit. That’s all he and Welington Castillo have done all Spring. My nod still goes to Clevenger as the back-up, but it’s so close that no decision is going to be a bad one.
  • Tony Campana probably got a taste of what he’ll be doing when the season starts: leading off and playing in the outfield. It’s just that he’ll be doing it for the Iowa Cubs.
  • Jay Anderson Jr

    Smarj deserves a shot. He’s a true Cub and has paid his dues. I wish this team had more Cub loyalty.

    • Brett

      Not that it should be about loyalty … but Samardzija is going to get a shot.

      • Andrewmoore4isu

        Loyalty? No, but rewarding someone coming up in your system sets the tone for others in the system.

      • Jay Anderson Jr

        Honestly, I wouldn’t be against ending free agency and trading. I think a team draft and play those players. Call me old school, and I know it would never happen, but it would make pro sports so much better.

        • DocWimsey

          Not for the players! They have every right to take jobs where they want to take them if they get an offer (and if their contract has expired), just like everyone else.

          As for ending trading, that is not old-school: that’s radical new school. Trades have been around since baseball, I think. The DH was less radically new in 1972. Things like deadline trades have been a huge part of baseball since, well, forever.

        • TWC

          So what would that mean?  You can only work for the team that drafts you?  Jeeeezus, Jay, that’s really pretty dumb.  Are you still working at your first job?  No?  Then why the hell would you make the ballplayers do that?

          • Jay Anderson Jr

            I said it wouldnt happen, but I just like to see guys play their whole career with one team. I love Lebron James, but him winning one ring in Cleveland would do more for his legacy, then 4 in Miami will do. I don’t wanna be the Yankees. If we turn into the Yanks or the Red Sox, I’ll stop watching baseball, even though its my favorite sport. And I won’t pick a new team, because I only root for the Cubs.

            • DocWimsey

              The Yanks and (now) Sox do what is necessary to win. To this end, they have shown zero loyalty to their players. There is a reason why Jeter is the first guy to get 3000 hits in a Yankee uniform: the Yankees don’t keep guys at that stage of their career. They have heartlessly cut a lot of their most famous players over the years.

              Under your model, would the cut veterans be barred from the game?

              (Jeter is one of the few guys to whom they’ve shown any loyalty, and that probably has more to do with the lack on any internal options than anything else.)

            • Frank

              It’s not only that it won’t happen–it can’t happen. That’s what the Curt Flood case was all about.

    • hansman1982

      What has Samardjiza done to earn such loyalty? Do you really think that Kerry Wood would have a job with the Cubs if it weren’t for some loyalty? No, he has gone out and taken the job by the balls and say “These are mine”

      I would greatly PREFER if Cubs management cared more about flying the Azul Inverted M on a field of sparkling brilliance (that’s a really complicated way of saying the white flag with the blue W on it) than who was on the field and where they came from to cause it to go up.

    • Tonycampanathebasethief

      Hey brett as of right now what does the lineup and rotation look like leave a ??? If ur not sure for that spot…..

      • Brett



        • MichiganGoat

          You and your logic

  • Katie

    Nice all around game. Now let’s get this party started!

  • Jay Anderson Jr

    Also, I think Castillo is the better player between him and Clevenger. That’s why I pick Clevenger to make the roster. Castillo should be in Iowa getting used to starting, so if Soto is traded, he can slide into the starter spot.

    • MaxM1908

      That’s a really great point, Jay. I think it makes the best all around sense. I hate to part with Soto, but if we do, it probably makes a lot more sense for Castillo to be the starter and Clevenger the back-up. Why not get them used to those roles from the beginning of the season.

  • dabynsky

    Campana is going to be playing center in Iowa? I am pretty sure there is a top 50 prospect that the Cubs are going to be playing in center to start the year in Iowa.

    • Brett

      Ha, yes: that should very much just read “outfield.”

  • MaxM1908

    I continue to cheer on Mather. I think he has the potential to surprise people, and I love the idea of him being Exhibit A that Epstein and Co. know how to find value in otherwise discarded players. In the past, the Cubs have paid a lot to players on the downward curve. Why not set the tone early in this season of change with signing a player on the upswing. If he has a performing season, imagine what a great trade piece he’ll be: a bench player who can play all positions AND hit. And, aren’t we paying him close to nothing?

    • dabynsky

      I agree that Mather is a nice feel good story, but I doubt we will be able to net much for him in a trade even if he does have a nice couple of months.

    • Jay Anderson Jr

      Once again, I would choose Campana over Mather. But if Mather turns out to be good, why would we trade him. You develop players to help your club, not to trade for other players to develop. I’m tired of all this roster turnover. I don’t wanna cheer for guys who have played for 10 other teams before the cubs. I want to cheer for guys who bleeds cubbie blue like I do.

      • MaxM1908

        I’m not saying trade him for a Major League player, I’m saying trade him for prospects. The Cubs are trying to rebuild a farm system that has even more obstacles with the new CBA. One way we can rebuild is to accumulate high upside prospects through trade. If we find a diamond in the rough in a guy like Mather, and other teams are willing to part with prospects for him, I’d rather trade him away to stock the system for the future rather than keep him for sentimental reasons. Buy low, sell high. That’s how we’ll turn the system around create a sustainable program producing perennial winners.

    • JustSwain

      I’m pretty high on Mather too Max after actually watching him play. He’s got a nice swing, seems to see the ball really well, and can drive it to all fields. He’s tall and lanky and coordinated which is a pretty rare thing to see even in the majors, he reminds me a bit of Corey Hart (Though he’d have to prove it for a few years to be in Hart’s category), haven’t seen enough of him on D to really be sold in that department yet, but his ABs have been pretty good this spring. If we got something for him, I’d trade him, but I’m with dabynsky that we probably wouldn’t get anything for him, so I’m more stoked to see if he can produce some runs.

      • ty

        Swain –agree with you and I can tell you know ball. I did not know anything about him but he just might stick for awhile. VERY ATHLETIC–gosh knows we need a break.

  • Arnie

    A couple things not having to do with the game today. First, every time I come to this site, I love reading all of the posts. I spend the majority of my days reading up on baseball and watching/listening to games and I’d like to think I have vast knowledge on the game of baseball. But with all of the knowledgable people that post on here (and you Brett, of course), I find myself learning new things everyday. I was embarrassed at first about how many holes I had in my baseball knowledge, but with baseball you learn new things everyday. So thanks to all of you for that.

    And secondly…I finally ordered a Bleacher Nation tshirt. Hopefully it arrives in time for Opening Day. I wanna get the name out there even more by doing some nice advertising. And it’d be nice to meet other BN’ers. Cheers.

    • Brett

      Dang, Arnie – thanks all around. Very kind, and I’m glad you enjoy. Hopefully you enjoy the shirt as well.

      • Katie

        Good stuff Arnie!
        Brett, are you still thinking of adding some new tee shirts?

        • Brett

          Definitely. I have two ideas in mind, and it’s just a matter of finding the time to put the designs together, and then create the shirts in the shop. Hopefully in the next month, but I don’t want to overpromise/underdeliver. I think you will like them, though.

          • MichiganGoat

            You better not be “kidding around”

    • Cheryl

      I agree Arnie. I learn new things every day. There are many knowledgable comments on this cite. And I like the way Brett handles it.

  • Cerambam

    So if samardijza sticks as a starter and is at least average are we satisfied with the money we gave him? Not stiring the pot, just actually interested in what y’all think

    • dabynsky

      Given the cost of league average pitching on the open market, I think the Cubs still come out ahead in that scenario.

    • Pat

      If he sticks as a starter, he will be worth more than he is getting paid. The downside is he will cost more when it comes time for arb next year, but not enough to really worry about. The only thing I don’t like if he makes the rotation is that Thoyer went out of their way this offseason to mention that jobs should not be won in spring training, (right idea) and now it looks like at least 20% of the roster is going to be based on spring training results. The good thing is that other than F7, it’s mostly end of the bench and end of the pen decisions.

  • cubsin

    Samardzija earned his opportunity to audition for a starting role over the second half of last season. He passed with flying colors, and earned the job. He deserves to keep the job at least until he starts walking people left and right.

    Two-sport athletes usually take a bit longer to develop than other prospects, particularly when their primary sport was football. I’m not at all surprised it took Samardzija this long to get a good handle on his control. Likewise, I scoff at those who say 2012 is a make-or-break year for Szczur. He still has at least two option years left,so he’ll have plenty of time to get his minor league at-bats.

    • Steve

      I’m sorry, i cant help but ask, who might have said that this was a make or break year for Matt?
      That’s just silly talk.

  • die hard

    so as we approach opening day, who is going to leadoff, bat clean-up, and play 2B?…also, who is going to be 5th starter and who is going to set up Marmol?..will be interesting to see how these issues are resolved…otherwise, team will play hard under Sveum which is all that can be expected…Play Ball!!!

    • Cubbie Blues

      DeJesus will lead off and Barney is at 2B. Sveum met with FO to discuss the rest last night.

  • Eric

    I would be more for keeping Shark in the pen if we were very competitive this year, but this is a year for trying things out. Shark will be worth way more to the team if he proves to be an adequate starter. He has shown signs that he can handle it. At this point, it would make no sense to me to leave him in the pen, and after the Spring he had there is no way they’ll do that.

  • Edwin

    I don’t really see how Samardzija has “earned it” any more than any other player has “earned it”. Samardzija had an ok season as a reliever last season. Advanced pitching metrics indicate that he wasn’t really as good as his ERA suggested. He got very favorable results on balls in play, and a likely unsustainable HR/FB rate. While he did pitch better in his last 40 innings of the season, it’s still just 40 innings. 40 innings tells us absolutely nothing of what to expect from a pitcher, especially when they’re relief innings and the pitcher is going to be tried as a starter. The spring training innings Jeff has thrown matter even less. He pitched a great 6 innings yesterday, but they’re still just 6 innings. They are even less important than 6 regualr season innings.

    No offense Brett, but I don’t see the upside to this move. Even if Samardzija pitches as well as he did last year, he’s still probably a 4.50-5.00 ERA starter at best. Which is about the same as what you could expect from Wells, Wood, or Volstad. Wells, Wood, and Volstad all have higher ceilings than Jeff, and could easily surpass that projection. To me, they’ve done just as much to “earn it” by being better pitchers than Jeff Samardzija throughout their entire minor league and major league careers. If Samardzija fails as a starter, then the Cubs have lost value on Samardzija, and diminished the value of whoever loses their rotation spot to Samardzija. Plus it makes the team look bad. The only way I see the Cubs winning with this move is if Samardija can produce around 3 fWAR, which is very unlikely. Samardzjia is like playing playing a nickle slot machine with bad odds. It may not cost much, but the odds are terrible, and even if you win the payout isn’t really worth it.

    • King Jeff

      As you said, he pitched in the bullpen last year and there is no way to tell if that success will carry over into a starting role. The only way to find out is to let him go out there and start. There are some very smart baseball people in Chicago who think that he is going to be a good starter, I’d say that’s enough of a reason to see if he’s capable. Worst case scenario, he is a 4.50 era guy(I know you said that’s his ceiling as a starter, but I disagree), and he moves back to the bullpen allowing someone else a shot at the rotation. I don’t see what Randy Wells, Travis Wood, or Chris Volstad have done that justifies not giving the guy with the highest upside(Samardzija) first crack at the rotation.

  • rbreeze

    I think Samardzija earned his shot.  He got the big bonus from Hendry and was rushed into his relief role when the Cubs had no one else to try and did a good job for Piniela when Lou needed someone.  Samardzija has been jerked around in his short time here.  From starter to releiver and back and forth again.

     Let him get a half dozen or so starts under his belt.  Like Cubsin says two sport stars take longer to develop.   This is his time.  If it doesn’t work out then back to the bullpen he goes and maybe his role becomes the next closer.  I still like the idea of him as a closer and the theme from Jaws is played as he runs out to the mound to finish off a Cubs victory.  Go get ’em Shark!!!!!!!!!!!