Your voices have been heard. Tallying six big votes for the next pitcher to be Pod Projected was 2012 breakout starting pitcher, Jeff Samardzija. I owned him in all of my leagues last year after scooping him up post-draft during spring training and I know how to spell his name without looking it up! Impressive feat, I know. So what will the “Shark” do for an encore?
He threw 174.2 innings last year in his first full season as a starting pitcher and he will not be on any kind of innings limit this time. He is slotted in as either the ace of the staff or the number two starter behind Matt Garza, depending on which depth chart you consult. Only injury should prevent him from reaching around 195 innings.
This projection is similar to what he posted last year, but assumes he turns some line drives into fly balls. Since line drives have a tiny year-to-year correlation, I nearly always project a mark around the league average.
He posted a 12.8% mark last season and really struggled with the long ball at home, as his HR/FB rate there was 18.5%, versus 8.8% in away parks. Did he just happen to pitch all his home games when the wind was blowing out of Wrigley? His career average now stands at exactly 10.0%. No reason to project anything other than around league average.
Like HR/FB ratio, there has to be a compelling reason to project a young pitcher with a limited history for anything other than around a league average BABIP. Samardzija posted a .296 mark last year, barely above the .294 league average mark from starting pitchers. He also sports batted ball rates very close to the league average, so really, this is as obvious a league average BABIP projection as it gets!
Perhaps the most difficult projection in Samardzija’s case. He came into last season with a whopping 100 walks issued in just 169.2 innings, for an inflated 5.3 BB/9. But then something seemingly clicked, as his F-Strike% suddenly jumped to just above the league average, and his walk rate fell to just 2.9. While we cannot be sure he will continue to throw strikes as frequently again this season, we could say that his walk rate itself was no fluke given the rest of his advanced metrics. Of course, I have to project a bit of regression, but I am confident that his control has legitimately improved by dramatic proportions.
On what planet does a pitcher’s fastball not lose velocity when moving from relief to the rotation? Samardzija’s fastball averaged 95.0 miles per hour, good for second among all qualified starters, which barely budged from his previous season velocity of 95.1 miles per hour pitching in relief. And that 95.0 miles per hour was also above his 2008-2010 velocity averages, primarily coming in relief as well. His SwStk% ranked fifth among all qualified starters and fueled a strikeout rate of 9.3, higher than in any of his previous seasons with the Cubbies. Oh, and it’s a joy to watch his filthy stuff live on television from my mother’s basement. Again, have to project a slight regression, but seriously, I wouldn’t be shocked if his strikeout rate actually climbed from last year.
Below is my final projected pitching line, along with a smattering of other projection systems for comparison.