2013 Pod Projections: Kris Medlen

Over the past couple of weeks, I have published several of my hitter projections with a detailed explanation of each metric projected. Today, it’s finally time to switch over to the pitching side. Kris Medlen returned from Tommy John surgery with a bang last year, posting a microscopic 0.97 ERA and 0.81 WHIP as a starter. A performance like that will grab the attention of fantasy owners and it has vaulted him up the ADP charts, as he has been getting drafted 75th overall and 14th among starting pitchers on Mock Draft Central. With a limited history, projecting him is tough. Let’s go through the process, of which you can read more about here.

2013 Pod Projection Index
Carlos Gomez
Mark Trumbo
Brett Lawrie
Jason Heyward
Desmond Jennings

IP: 180
He threw a combined 151 innings last season, including his short stint at Triple-A and that was the most he has ever thrown in one year. So he’s not without risk if approaching a new career high. But, we can’t just assume he will be unable to pitch this many innings and it is unlikely to be due to poor performance that keeps his innings down.

GB%/LD%/FB%: 48%/19%/33%
Last season, Medlen suddenly became an extreme ground ball pitcher. In previous years, he posted a near league average batted ball distribution, though the ground balls were replaced with line drives. Since batted ball rates are quite stable, this is a big question mark. There doesn’t seem to be any changes in his pitch selection that would point to the sharp increase in worm burners. So, I decided to hedge and projected some regression from last season’s above 50% ground ball rate, but not so much that he would turn into a below average ground ball inducer.

HR/FB%: 10%
I generally stick to 10% for the majority of pitchers unless they call an extreme ball park home or have had three full seasons, at the very least, of better/worse than average HR/FB rates. There is so much luck involved here that it takes a while for a pitcher’s true talent level to shine through. With just 315.2 career innings to Medlen’s name, it’s simply not enough. A tiny 5.7% HR/FB rate was a big reason for his miniscule ERA last year.

BABIP: .300
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. As would be expected for a pitcher who posted a 1.57 ERA, Medlen benefited from an unsustainable .261 BABIP last year. He was a ground ball pitcher and his line drive and IFFB% didn’t dramatically differ from the league average. This suggests to me that he should revert right back toward league average this year.

However, it is worth noting that he generated a high O-Swing% last season, which fits the story line of allowing weak contact. That metric actually correlates pretty well year-to-year, so maybe he’ll be able to repeat and post another below league average BABIP. Since he hasn’t been this good in his previous two seasons, then I’m unwilling to give him the benefit of the doubt based on a strong two-thirds of a season.

BB/9: 2.0
In 83.2 innings as a starter last year, Medlen walked just 10 batters for a 1.1 walk rate. His F-Strike% was high and he has always displayed excellent control. But, unless we’re dealing with a pitcher who has consistently posted sub-2.0 walk rates, then I will automatically regress at 2.0 at the very least. Only 10 qualified starters in baseball posted a sub-2.0 walk rate (after rounding), so it is clearly difficult.

K/9: 7.6
Medlen also dazzled on the strikeout front last year, punching out 84 batters in those 83.2 innings. His SwStk% was very good and he also got an above average rate of called strikes. But, he’s armed with a below average fastball and relies on location and a great change-up. That’s fine if all we’re looking for is a potentially excellent starting pitcher. But it doesn’t usually lead to high strikeout rates.

Below is my final projected pitching line, along with a smattering of other projection systems for comparison.

Pod 180 12 3.41 1.16 152 7.6 2.0 48%/19%/33% 0.300 10%
Steamer 180 12 3.78 1.26 137 6.9 2.5 ?? 0.291 ??
Bill James 190 14 2.94 1.08 173 8.2 1.7 ?? 0.299 ??
Oliver 90 7 2.90 1.10 81 8.1 1.9 ?? 0.288 ??
Fans (40) 177 14 3.19 1.11 151 7.7 2.0 ?? 0.291 ??

This is some of the biggest variance between projections I have seen. A low ERA of 2.90 and high of 3.78 is a rather large range. It just drives home the point that Medlen is extremely hard to project. As he should be, his level of complete awesomeness last year doesn’t happen very often.

Decide who I should publish a Pod Projection for! Tell me in the comments which pitcher you want to see and whoever gets named most will become the subject of the next post.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: 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. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

42 Responses to “2013 Pod Projections: Kris Medlen”

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  1. eric says:

    Do Chris Sale next!

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    • Bill McKinley says:

      I agree on Sale. Lots of thought that he will get injured. Other indications are he may have just scrathed the surface of his talent….bill

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    • Stan Gable says:

      Sale is almost a ‘buy low’ at this point to me with all of the nebulous injury concerns & the pre & post ASB splits in 2012. The talent is not in doubt with him & I’d gamble on that above a relatively safer option in the perception of others.

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      • snarf says:

        No way is Sale a buy low this year. Last year is probably the only time you would have gotten him at below market value. Steamer has him at $20 for 5×5 leagues.

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  2. Bob says:

    Great work, thanks. Beckett, rutledge, s. castro and frazier please.

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  3. dockmarm says:

    Jeff Samardzija. Throw out his June stats, and he’s a top 25 pitcher.

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  4. thurm12 says:

    I’d love to see one on Mike Minor or Andrelton Simmons.

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  5. Molitor says:

    Lets see A.Reed from CHW

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  6. Ender says:

    I’d really be interested in Ruggiano since you seem to be higher on him than most ‘experts’.

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  7. Kubrick says:

    Yu Darvish

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  8. NL ONLY says:

    Nathan Eovaldi

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  9. Eric Goodman says:

    Jeff Samardzija is another young pitcher with big potential.

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  10. Shawnuel says:

    Max Scherzer!

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  11. CFG-250 says:

    I suppose this wasn’t a great projection to do because of the lack of history with Medlen and the variance between his previous seasons and last years. I am keeping him in my fantasy league mainly because he’s only costing my $7, so for me he’s worth the risk.

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    • Jimbo says:

      respectfully disagree. it is the high-variance guys i most want this sort of analysis done on. gives me a sense of a player’s floor/ceiling, which helps diversify my staff’s risk profile in the end.

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  12. sfagerstrom says:

    Adam Wainwright and Chris Sale

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  13. JJ says:


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  14. Dingbat says:

    Hyung-Jin Ryu!

    Also, wouldn’t it be reasonable to predict a sub-.300 BABIP, given Atlanta’s above-average defense? True, the Upton brothers will be a downgrade from Bourn & Prado, but since the Braves led MLB in UZR last year, they could regress a lot and still be strong defensively.

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  15. Ray says:

    Seconding the votes for Chris Sale, Yu Darvish and Andrelton Simmons. Thanks for these projections, they’re awesome!

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  16. Big Jgke says:

    Brandon Morrow

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  17. Bill McKinley says:

    Craig Kimbrel has rapidly developed into an elite reliever the likes of which we really haven’t seen before. Other than elite talents like Rivera, Wagner and others, most closers have relatively short shelf lives. How about projecting Kimbrel.

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  18. Larry says:

    Lets see some more relevant pitchers before we jump into samardzija. I think Cueto’s position approaching elite status warrants a POD.

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  19. GilaMonster says:

    A lot of guys are asking for Samardzija or Sale, but I disagree. They both have the stuff that barring injuries or no control guarantees some level of success. Medlen doesn’t have the stuff or pedigree, but we can’t ignored his success or his ranking in Yahoo leagues. I am pretty sure he is ranked above Shields, Moore, Darvish, and Lester in Yahoo rankings…

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  20. Flips says:

    Andrelton Simmons would be interesting, given that he’s now been named the leadoff hitter in Atlanta.

    Samardzija is another one I’m highly interested in.

    Thanks for your work on these. Keeps me coming back to Fangraphs every day!

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  21. dacure says:

    Mad-Max Scherzer!

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  22. mikec says:

    I know nothing about Oliver or that projection system. But it must suck because it’s obviously keeping Medlen (at 90 IP) in a swing role as if this were last season. Anyway you slice it or try to rationalize it, that’s baaaad.

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  23. mike says:

    Michael Saunders, Chris Carter, Josh Beckett, Trevor Cahill

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  24. Nick says:

    Jon Lester

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  25. spick5a says:

    Trevor Rosenthal.

    Also, not related, but it appears that Adam Wainwright won’t be signing with StL. What could the Cardinals realistically get from him in a trade either
    before the trade deadline or earlier?

    I could see them trading Wainwright now and resigning Lohse.

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  26. Spud says:

    It would seem pointless to predict Trevor rosenthal due to unknown playing time. Johnny Cueto would be a great one.

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  27. Spud says:

    It would seem pointless to predict Trevor rosenthal due to unknown playing time. Johnny Cueto would be a great one!

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  28. Dave says:

    Max Scherzer, Andrelton Simmons

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  29. Steve says:


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  30. Lenard says:

    Brandon Morrow, Jarrod Parker, and/or Mat Latos please!

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  31. Jon says:

    Max Scherzer

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  32. grassyjones says:

    Jeff Samardzija

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  33. The Dweez says:

    I like the Shark too, maybe one of the new Royals or Brett Myers.

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