While it's impossible to accurately predict how well every single player is going to perform in a given season, we always know that at least some valuable players are going to experience an off-year. There are always those that run into the regression monster, or have down years due to injury. Below are four players that had a subpar 2015 season, but who are likely headed for better results in 2016.
In 2015, no pitcher allowed more earned runs than Jeff Samardzija, yet the Giants rewarded him with a five-year contract worth $90 million. From 2010-2014, Samardzija posted an FIP below 3.77, and had seemingly emerged as a valuable, and durable starting pitcher. However in 2015, in 214 innings, Samardzija finished the year with a 4.96 ERA, and a 4.23 FIP, both of which were career worsts since he became a full-time starter.
Chicago's pitching coach, Don Cooper placed the blame for Samardzija's off season squarely on himself.
"I know my successes ... and I know ones I consider failures, and that's one that I look at, 'Man, I failed.' It didn't work out the way any of us would have wanted. That's not to say anything negative about Jeff. He's a quality pitcher and has many great assets, and I wish him the best."
While with the White Sox, Samardzija's pitch selection varied greatly from when he was with the Cubs and A's, which may have had something to do with his subpar season. However with two new pitching coaches in Dave Righetti and Mark Gardner, as well as the best defensive infield in baseball, Samardzija is a prime candidate for a bounce back season.
Like Samardzija, Ian Kennedy had a horrible season before reaching free agency, yet the Royals signed him to a five-year deal worth $70 million. In 168.1 innings, Kennedy had an above average K/9 and BB/9 (9.30 and 2.78, respectively), but his HR/9 was a league worst (for qualified pitchers) 1.66.
While that may seem odd, as Kennedy pitched in Petco Park during 2015, a stadium which has the reputation of suppressing home runs, that's simply not the case anymore. According to ESPN's park factors, San Diego's stadium had a HR value of 1.085, the 10th best figure in baseball. Petco is often referred to as a pitcher's park, and while that still seems to be true, as their runs factor was 20th in the league, that statement doesn't apply to home runs anymore.
Fortunately for Kennedy, Kaufmann stadium had the 25th worst HR park factor in 2015, which should help his HR/9 come back down to his career average of 1.12.
At the outset of spring training last season, Joe Kelly painted a huge target on his back by proclaiming he was going to take home the Cy Young award.
"Kelly, unannounced, [strolled] over to our WEEI broadcast setup during the Red Sox' Winter Weekend at Foxwoods, [grabbed] one of the headsets and then [let] out the words, 'I want your listeners to know, I'm going to win the Cy Young this year. Just letting everyone know so when I win it you heard it here first.'
After the radio interview, Kelly went upstairs to the media room and reiterated his stance to the assembled group of writers.
'Yeah, I'm going to win this year,' the pitcher said when asked about his Cy Young prediction. 'That's what I told the radio guys. They didn't believe me -- [stinks] to be them.'"
As we all know, Kelly did not win the Cy Young award. He finished the year with 134.1 innings pitched, a K/9 of 7.37, a BB/9 of 3.28, a HR/9 of 1.00, and an ERA and FIP of 4.82 and 4.18, respectively. If the BBWAA voters were required to rank every pitcher in baseball on a ballot for the Cy Young, Kelly would have been near the bottom. While he probably won't win the 2016 Cy Young award, there is hope for a better result next season.
From August 1st to his final game, Kelly made nine starts, and compiled an ERA of 3.00, and an FIP of 3.68. He wound up being shutdown after a September 15th start, but barring a nagging injury, Kelly should have a much better 2016 season.
In 2015, Pablo Sandoval was one of the worst players in baseball. Offensively, he was abysmal, as he posted a slash line of .245/.292/.366 along with a wOBA of .288 and a wRC+ of 75. Defensively, he was atrocious, as he cost the Red Sox 11 runs because of his poor play at third base.
He's reportedly lost 20 pounds this offseason, and is "eager to redeem" himself. One of the reasons that Sandoval didn't return to the Giants was because he knew he'd "be under a (weight) regimen for five years, and I'm not going to be happy someplace where I'm under that kind of regimen, where I can't be myself."
Unfortunately for Sandoval, he doesn't seem to have the ability to keep his weight in check so that he can play the game at the elite level he's flashed before. While pushing Sandoval to stay within a certain weight-range might sour the relationship between him and the front office, the Red Sox have to make changes.