Jul 6, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Jeff Samardzija (29) follows through on a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays in the fifth inning at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
5. Jeff Samardzija RHP
The Shark was a prized addition to the Southside when White Sox general manager, Rick Hahn, pulled the trigger on a trade this offseason that added a much-needed right-handed starter to the rotation.
Samardzija had a phenomenal season in 2014, posting a 2.99 ERA to go along with 202 strikeouts, but was rewarded with only 7 wins. His 3.20 FIP and 1.065 WHIP also suggest his ERA was not out of line.
A big contributor to his success was a more aggressive and surgical approach. Samardzija increased his first-strike percentage from 59.7 percent in 2013 to 65.5 percent in ’14. Pitching ahead in the count is always an advantage, and clearly one that had Shark smelling blood in the water. However, predictive models aren’t being so kind to Samardzija.
"According to Fantasy Pros, Zeile Consensus Projections predict a 13-10 record in 2015 for the newest member of the White Sox starting rotation. They predict his ERA will jump up to 3.56, while finishing with 198 strikeouts."
While I agree that Samardzija will see his ERA increase a bit at US Cellular Field, I’m comforted by his performance at Wrigley Field last year, where he posted a 2.24 ERA in nine starts.
More Runs, More Fun
He will also get a boost from an offense that boasts power and speed. In 2014 Samardzija benefited from two runs or less of support in 15 out of 33 games started, or 45.4% of his starts.
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By comparison, White Sox ace, Chris Sale, received two runs or less of run support in only 9 of his 26 starts, a 34.6 percent rate. Even if the White Sox offense doesn’t improve over last season, Samardzija can still expect to see more run support than he’s used to, and more wins as a result of it.
However, I do see his strikeout total decreasing as a result of spending a full season in the American League, where his K/9 rate dipped from 8.6 to 8.0 following his trade to the Athletic from the Cubs last season.
My line on Samardzija is a 15-8 record with a 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 192 K. Samardzija will be a solid fantasy starter to have in your mix. He’s a workhorse that will provide a plethora of quality starts, strikeouts and wins.