Theo Epstein Hints at a Jeff Samardzija Shut-Down Plan

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Theo Epstein Hints at a Jeff Samardzija Shut-Down Plan

Chicago Cubs

Yesterday morning, I discussed in the Bullets the possibility that the Chicago Cubs will soon have to consider implementing a strategy to throttle Jeff Samardzija’s innings in these latter weeks of the season. Although he’s a big, strong guy, who doesn’t have a lot of pitching tread on his 27-year-old tires, he’s already right at his previous career high in innings pitched in a given season (between the minors and the bigs), and the Cubs would be wise to let up on the gas, and let him cruise into a comfortable end of the season, with an eye toward 2013.

Later in the day, President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein suggested that’s exactly what will happen.

“We’re monitoring things and talking about it, but it is not something we have engaged him on,” Epstein told the media, according to Bruce Levine. “We have just let him go, but we have [the whole staff] talking about it. We will do what is best for him long term.”

A fair reading of that last quote – and it was Levine’s reading, as well – is that the Cubs aren’t going to push Samardzija up toward 200 innings in an otherwise lost season. If gets in a few more starts, and then is shut down in mid-September, everyone wins. Samardzija gets in an essentially full season, and shows that he can be a full-year starter. The Cubs get to preserve Samardzija’s arm for the future.

Speaking of that arm, FanGraphs continues to love on Jeff Samardzija’s 2012 season. In a great piece that highlights how effective his splitter has been this year, the author, Ben Duronio, concludes that the future continues to look bright for Samardzija:

He has battled struggles with tiredness at times, which is understandable given the increased workload, but if he is able to sustain a mid-90′s fastball as a starter over the next few seasons and utilize his splitter with this type of consistency, he could elevate himself to become a top tier starter. He already sits on the first page on FanGraphs (which encompasses 30 players) in both FIP and SIERA, so he is not too far from reaching top of the rotation status as is. Moving from the bullpen to the rotation has caused many pitchers to struggle, but Samardzija has seamlessly moved into the new role and succeeded well past expectations in his first season. With what is likely the top split-fingered fastball in baseball, it is reasonable to expect a similar level of performance or potentially even more success in the coming years.

And shutting Samardzija down in mid-September does nothing to hurt those reasonable expectations of future success. In fact, it probably helps them.

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.