The following post was part of WGN’s Stats Sunday series in 2012. Thanks to Jon “Boog” Sciambi for his help.
Greetings Cub fans, good to be here on Stats Sunday!
I know a couple of weeks ago Len broke down BABIP and it’s value as a tool used to examine both pitcher and hitter performance. As he mentioned, it was Voros McCracken’s work in 1999 called DIPS that really accelerated the study of what pitchers actually control. Today, I’ll focus on Fielding Independent Pitching or FIP, a stat developed by the brilliant Tom Tango that attempts to isolate pitcher performance or, put more succinctly by the good folks at The Hardball Times: FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well the fielders fielded.
The main things a pitcher can control are walks, strikeouts and home runs allowed. With that in mind, sometimes a pitcher has a bad/or good ERA based on factors outside of his control–defense, luck, park factor, etc. and FIP filters those things out. Sometimes a pitcher’s ERA is high because of a very high BABIP and in most cases, that would be reflected in a lower FIP. As well, FIP is scaled to ERA so it is easy to digest.
FIP can have some predictive value–find players with a decent discrepancy between their FIP and actual ERA from the previous season and they’re usually a decent bet to break out or regress. Derek Lowe was 9-17 with an ERA of 5.05 last year with Atlanta and they basically gave him away to the Indians. But Lowe’s FIP was 3.70 because in part, it accounted for an unusually high BABIP of .327 and this year Lowe is off to a good start. Also, I’m curious to see how Lowe’s season plays out as a GB pitcher leaving a team that rarely shifts defensively(Atlanta) and moving to a team that shifts a ton defensively(Cleveland). My perception was that Cub fans were disappointed by Matt Garza’s first year but his FIP was actually 2.95, even better than his stellar ERA. This year will be interesting to watch because so far Garza’s BABIP is a seemingly unsustainable .222 with a high strand rate (not really considered within a pitcher’s control) and his ERA is 2.56 while his FIP is 3.26. That would point towards, though not guarantee, some type of regression for Garza, although it’s obviously still very early.
The idea that pitchers don’t control a ton after contact (not counting homers) is somewhat counterintuitive and a lot of players are skeptical
But who knows, maybe Hellickson is an outlier like Matt Cain, who has some ability to generate weak contact in the air. There’s no doubt the Rays great defense helps a Hellickson a good bit.
Check out the fangraphs leader boards and check out who is really pitching well and compare it to the ERA board.
Thanks to Len and Bob and all the Cubs fans for having me!