Reviewing 2016 Pod Projections: Jeff Samardzija

The reviews are almost complete and now we jump on over to my actual starting pitcher Pod Projection recaps. Today, I’ll start with Jeff Samardzija, whose ERA ballooned by nearly two runs in 2015. With a move back to the National League and a pitcher friendly home venue, he was as in good of a situation as possible to drive a rebound. Let’s see how my Pod Projection turned out.

Projected IP: 210 | Actual IP: 203.1

Samardzija made his normal 32 starts this year, but his innings total fell to its lowest mark since 2012. It’s pretty crazy that he actually averaged more innings per start in 2015 when he posted an ugly 4.96 ERA than this year, when he posted a 3.81 mark.

Projected K%: 21.2% | Actual 20.1%

From 2014 to 2015, Samardzija’s strikeout rate tumbled from 23% to 17.9%. Part of that was due to pitching a full season in the American League, but mostly it was thanks to a splitter that lost its mojo, and also a slider that induced fewer whiffs. I speculated about the cause and blindly figured there should be some rebound, given his history, along with the return to the NL. A rebound did come, but the strikeout rate still finished a far cry from his pre-2015 levels. His splitter and slider SwStk% marks rebounded only marginally, so at his age, we have to start just assuming this is his new level.

Projected BB%: 6.2% | Actual 6.5%

Samardzija’s control had legimitately improved from 2014-2015, but I still remained a bit skeptical given his more mediocre days of past. So this projection was just a random guess in the ballpark of some regression from 2015. I ended up being pretty close, as Samardzija proved that maintaining elite control is hard, especially when that elite control appeared out of nowhere. While his overall strike percentage did finish below his 2014 and 2015 marks, it only barely did so, so his walk rate probably should have been a bit closer to those seasons than it ended up being. I think he should continue posting walk rates in the 5% to 6.5% range as long as he keeps throwing strikes at this rate.

Projected GB%/LD%/FB%: 44.5% / 20.5% / 35% | Actual 46.5% / 19.9% / 33.6%

Surprisingly, his batted ball distribution was one of the tougher forecasts to make. From 2011 through 2014, Samardzija’s ground ball rate had increased every single season, peaking at a 50.2% mark that last year. But then in 2015, it reversed course, as he failed to induce grounders even 40% of the time. So who the heck knew what he was going to do in 2016?! I figured some sort of rebound given his history and essentially projected his career averages. Sure enough, he almost hit them perfectly, except inducing a couple of more grounders instead of flies.

Projected HR/FB%: 10.0% | Actual 11.9%

Since 2011 as a full-time starter, Samardzija has never posted a HR/FB rate in the single digits. We lump HR/FB rate into the luck metrics, but there does seem to be guys that are the exception, Samardzija being one of them. I figured a move to homer suppressing AT&T Park would be exactly what he needed to finally get that HR/FB rate down, but it wasn’t to be. Obviously, the leaguewide HR/FB rate surge didn’t help, and he had problems keeping the ball in the park on the road. His home park did actually help a ton, as his home HR/FB rate was 8.8% (versus 14% in away parks).

Projected BABIP: .295 | Actual .285

There has been nothing to suggest that Samardzija has difficulty preventing hits on balls in play and his inflated 2015 mark was likely due to a weak White Sox defense. Put him in front of a strong group of defenders (the Giants ranked fourth in UZR/150) and watch that BABIP drop like a rock! This, despite posting a career high Hard%. Who needs softly hit balls when you have great fielders behind you gobbling up all those balls in play?!

Below was my final projected pitching line, along with the other systems for comparison and his actual results:

Jeff Samardzija 2016 Projections & Actual
System IP W ERA WHIP K K/9 BB/9 HR/9 K% BB% BABIP LOB%
Pod 210 13 3.50 1.21 185 7.9 2.3 0.93 21.2% 6.2% 0.295 73.8%
Steamer 195 12 3.42 1.17 163 7.5 2.1 0.88 20.1% 5.5% 0.285 72.8%
Fans (11) 219 12 3.61 1.21 198 8.1 2.4 0.95 0.304 73.6%
ZiPS 196 11 3.31 1.14 180 8.3 2.0 0.73 0.304 72.8%
Actual 2016 203.1 12 3.81 1.20 167 7.4 2.4 1.06 20.1% 6.5% 0.285 74.3%

Since when are the Fans ever the most pessimistic of the group?! They projected the highest ERA and were actually closest. Steamer and ZiPS looked at the history and the move back to the NL and a great park and were far too bullish. ZiPS, as the system often does, failed to regress BABIP to the mean enough, weighing 2015 way too heavily. On the whole, we were all a little too optimistic, and I wouldn’t expect that much better in 2017.

We hoped you liked reading Reviewing 2016 Pod Projections: Jeff Samardzija by Mike Podhorzer!

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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.

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Starting in August Samardzija started featuring a curveball that he hadn’t thrown in four years, and got some good results with it. September was by far his best month of the year. Presumably he’ll keep the curveball next year. Do you think that’s cause for optimism?