Lynn and Samardzija: On the Decline?

Lance Lynn – Lance started out the season hot, but recently he has been on the decline. Here are his main fantasy stats by month:

Month W K WHIP ERA
April 4 24 0.81 1.33
May 4 36 1.25 3.44
June 2 38 1.59 5.67

After a great April and a decent May, he looked like he was falling apart in June. Look at his stats a little further. He has not changed as much as it seems:

Month K/9 BB/9 HR/9 xFIP
April 8.0 2.0 1.0 3.18
May 8.8 3.4 0.3 3.71
June 10.3 3.8 1.4 3.43

While Lance saw his walk rate increase, his strikeout rate has also went up. Basically, he has had the same K and BB rates since the beginning of the season. This consistency can be seen in his constant xFIP for the first three months of the season.

The biggest change for him is his BABIP:

Month BABIP LD% GB%
April 0.203 13% 52%
May 0.307 23% 46%
June 0.362 26% 43%

His BABIP is up, driven mainly by an increase in his line drive percentage. He was not going to maintain the near .200 BABIP he produced in April. I looked for various causes for the increase LD% such as more pitches in the heart of the plate, loss of speed, different pitch mix, etc. I found nothing that could explain the difference.

Putting all the numbers together, I really don’t see him degrading. His true ability is probably not as good as he pitched in April and not as bad as he produced in June. His talent is probably close to his season averages of 3.62 ERA (his ERA estimators are all just a bit below this figure), 9 K/9 and a 1.25 WHIP. He should be a decent pitcher as the season continues.

Jeff Samardzija – Jeff starts tonight for the Cubs against the Braves. He has been a nice surprise this season. One person even thinks so highly of Jeff that he would use him to build a franchise around. Recently, The Shark has had a few bad outings and his ownership rate is down (down 13% points at ESPN). Here are his numbers over the last three months:

Month W K WHIP ERA
April 2 25 1.42 4.13
May 3 40 1.05 2.48
June 20 2.06 10.41

Basically a good April, a great May and a horrible June. He did nothing better in June compared to the rest of the season:

Month K/9 BB/9 HR/9 BABIP
April 9.4 3.0 0.4 0.352
May 9.0 2.5 0.9 0.270
June 7.7 5.8 1.54 0.377

It is not a good sign when a pitcher strikes out fewer batters, walks more, allows more hits (including home runs) compared to previous months.

While looking at his PITCHf/x numbers, I noticed he began to throw a curve ball in the last two games. I looked even further and found that there was no new curve, his slider had changed speeds so much that it was being reclassified. Here are three images of the speed and break all his sliders and “curves” from the 2012 season (images from BaseballHeatMaps.com):

Change in Speed

Vertical Change

Horizontal Change

There was some change before the last three starts, but the change went to a new level over the last three games. I would just stay away from starting him right now. I would not be surprised to see him on the D.L. soon.

Jeff Samardzija had a great start to the season, but his production is declining rapidly. I would not start him again until he is able to pitch productively with his “new” slider or his old slider come back.




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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.


13 Responses to “Lynn and Samardzija: On the Decline?”

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  1. lester bangs says:

    Workload concerns with Lynn. I’m bearish here.

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    • Dan Out West says:

      Wouldn’t worry about that, so much. Lynn logged 130+ IP in 2009, and 160+ IP in 2010. Even with the switch to RP last year in the second half, he logged nearly 110 IP. Tiring, yes, but doubtful there will be long-term effects.

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  2. Dan S says:

    Chris Sale next?

    His innings pitched is almost at the last two years combined.

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  3. Corey says:

    Thanks for this! I had to decide last week whether to keep Lynn or not (I had him tied together with Bauer). Wish you’d posted this several days ago, it would have made me less nervous about deciding to keep him. At least I feel better about it after reading this though.

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  4. Dale says:

    Did you run Samardzjjajka’s four seam fastball? It’s had a slight decrease the last two games, but nothing major (and not his lowest speed fastball of the season, either; that happened when he was pitching well). Meanwhile his hook pitch dropped some 8MPH *three* games ago. I can’t conceive of an injury that only affects off-speed stuff (and that would make you more effective, if you could control it), so I’ll go with the Occam’s razor answer that he simply changed how he throws the slider/slurve/curve.

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  5. Nolan says:

    “It is not a good sign when a pitcher strikes out fewer batters, walks more, allows more hits (including home runs) compared to previous months.”

    Hold on the room is spinning.

    Good piece. I just found that line quite funny.

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  6. Jeff Zimmerman says:

    Maybe I pissed him off tonight. He is dealing so far.

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    • NLFantasyBB says:

      Wonder what Samardzija’s slider looked like today. Remember last game the wind was blowing out too in Wrigley. That really rattled his averages.

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    • Tom B says:

      Have the monthly declines of league wide pitching from april to june not have anything to do with this? Pitchers always seem to show up out of ST making batters look silly and the batters slowly catch up about… now… every year. I’d like to see if that follows suit on paper.

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  7. El Duderino says:

    Nice reverse jinx on Samardzija. 10 K in 6 innings tonight. 3 H and a run so far.

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