Yesterday, the Athletics continued their wheeling and dealing this offseason by trading the pitcher they just traded for over the summer. Jeff Samardzija will now be calling the South side of Chicago home and given the perception of each home park, this is seemingly a bad move for his fantasy value. Let’s check out the park factors.
Let’s begin with the various hit types. Both U.S. Cellular Field (The Cell) and The Coliseum play identically when it comes to both singles and doubles. But the big differences lies in the triples factors. The Coliseum ranked tied for ninth highest in baseball in triples factor, while The Cell was exactly the opposite, ranking ninth worst triples environment. Obviously, triples aren’t very common so Samardzija is unlikely to enjoy much benefit. But, it’s a slight positive for his BABIP, all else being equal. This does surprise me as my initial assumption was that The Coliseum would have been the more pitcher friendly park those three hit types.
The most glaring difference is exactly what we expected. The Cell is one of the premier home run parks in baseball, tied for third among all parks. Meanwhile, The Coliseum ranks as the fourth worst park for home runs. Samardzija has bumped his ground ball rate up the past two years so he’s not going to feel the effects as dramatically as he would have in prior years. But he also sports a career HR/FB rate mark above the league average, which is either sustained bad luck or a slight weakness in preventing home runs on fly balls. If it’s the latter, the problem is only going to be exacerbated in his new less forgiving environment.
Both strikeouts and walks are inflated at The Cell and the factors sit above those at The Coliseum. Samardzija is already a strikeout pitcher, so a home park boosting effect is a nice bonus. But that also comes with potentially more walks. He took a drastic step forward with his control this year, but that is now less likely to be maintained after this move. Again, this is assuming all else being equal. The effects on batted ball types are fairly similar in both parks and should have limited impact on his performance.
Overall, it’s no surprise that The Cell is one of the best hitting parks in baseball, ranking in a tie for third among all parks in the Basic park factor. The Coliseum is tied for seventh most pitcher friendly. So the move really hurts his ratio projections.
But what about the change in team? Well, the A’s have blown up their offense, whether by trades or allowing free agents to walk. So it would be silly to even both looking at how they performed in 2014 on both offense and defense. The White Sox have added the solid bat of Adam LaRoche and should enjoy a full season from Avisail Garcia. They finished middle of the pack in runs scored this season, so it’s not unreasonable to believe they could be a bit better next year. Unfortunately, they were rather poor defensively, ranking 12th in the AL in UZR.
Bottom line, this is a bad move for Samardzija’s fantasy value. It’s going to be even more difficult now to replicate his best season.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.