Another Indication that Jeff Samardzija's Transformation is Legit and Other Bullets

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Another Indication that Jeff Samardzija’s Transformation is Legit and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I’m still thinking about the pancakes that Luke told me to think about

  • Last night’s rough start from Paul Maholm was probably at least a little bit thanks to the cold and wind, but Maholm doesn’t want to offer any excuses. “Obviously it’s cold and windy, but the first inning, it is what it is,” Maholm said. “To put it bluntly, I sucked. To put the team down 5-0, it’s not what you want to do.” Maholm added that some of the pitches that were hit the hardest were glorified batting practice fastballs, because the ball wasn’t doing what he wanted it to do.
  • Manager Dale Sveum offered some more specifics, which were obvious to folks watching the game. “He couldn’t put anybody away,” Sveum said. “I didn’t think he had a good feel for his curveball at all and keeping his changeup down. He couldn’t get the ball inside for strikes. It just snowballed a little bit in that first inning. He settled down and did OK after that, but the damage was done already.” And here’s the thing: Maholm isn’t a strikeout pitcher. So his inability to “put anybody away” is kind of a secondary issue. He should be keeping the ball down, and letting guys beat the ball into the ground, especially on a cold night with the wind blowing in.
  • From a rough first outing to a brilliant one, FanGraphs took a look at Jeff Samardzija’s first start this year. After the stats and Pitch F/x data from that start is taken together with scouting reports, improvement last year, and a solid Spring, FanGraphs is ready to declare that Samardzija really could be a good starting pitcher. No one is saying he’s a guy who’s going to throw 8+ innings and give up bupkis every start, but a quality middle of the rotation starter is very much within reach.
  • Dale Sveum fawns all over backup catcher Steve Clevenger.
  • AAA Iowa manager Dave Bialas says that third base prospect Josh Vitters has improved defensively at third base, and is really swinging the bat well right now. “He’s done a great job offensively, and he’s made improvements defensively,” Bialas said. “That’s what he’s got to work on — first-step quickness when he’s at third. He’s come a long ways.” A week in AAA doesn’t tell you much, but the Cubs are undoubtedly hoping that Vitters shows he’s ready for a shot in the big leagues. Having Ian Stewart at third base playing well, and then having Vitters ready to go, is a possible problem the Cubs would welcome.
  • The Cubs have handed out more than $1 million in grants to Chicago area non-profits this year. Good for them.
  • The Reds just gave soon-to-be 31-year-old Brandon Phillips a six-year, $72.5 million extension (discussed in today’s MLBullets at BCB). As I said there: On the heels of the 10 years and $225 million that Joey Votto received from the Reds – considered a middle or smaller market club – as well as some of the astonishingly large free agent contracts this Winter, it’s becoming clearer and clearer by the day that we are entering a “new normal” in terms of player salaries in MLB. The CBA limits money that teams can allocate to the amateur side of the game, and television contracts are growing. It was to be expected, then, that big league salaries would start to grow again, particularly after a period of relative stagnation. It’s time to start rethinking what a “typical” number two starter is worth, or a “typical” All-Star caliber second baseman.
  • Ozzie Guillen, who’s been suspended for five games by the Marlins after saying he “loves” and “respects” Fidel Castro, will return next week against the Cubs. Could be an interesting storyline.
  • Thanks to your votes, Bleacher Nation won Boys of Spring’s fan favorite award. Sweet. In case you forgot, Boys of Spring is Tim Sheridan’s excellent Cubs Spring Training blog, so I’m pretty pleased to get the hardware.
  • A reminder: I’ll be at tomorrow’s Cubs/Brewers game in the bleachers (probably in right field), so say hi if you see me. Also come say hi at The Sports Corner, across from Wrigley Field, where I’ll be hanging out before the game (I plan to be there by 11am, airplane and “L” willing). Cubs Den’s John Arguello will also be there, so it should be a good time. Or, it’ll just be me and John sitting in a corner talking about the vagaries of the blogging industry. How could you miss that?

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.