Sunday, August 19, 2007

FIP in the NL

A little over a month ago, I put a diary on Brew Crew Ball comparing the Brewers' starters to the rest of the NL using ERA. My method in determining those numbers were inspired by two articles at The Hardball Times (THT) written by Brew Crew Ball author and general sabermetric maven Jeff Sackmann. You can find the first article here and the follow-up article here. I found that, through July 11, using ERA as a benchmark, the Brewers' staff had a #1 starter (Ben Sheets) and 4 #3/#4 guys.

Today, for a fun exercise, I want to do the same type of examination using FIP as the measuring stick. For those unfamiliar with FIP, it stands for Fielding Independent Pitching. I am taking the definition for FIP from The Hardball Times Stats Glossary:

Fielding Independent Pitching, a measure of all those things for which a pitcher is specifically responsible. The formula is (HR*13+(BB+HBP)*3-K*2)/IP, plus a league-specific factor (usually around 3.2) to round out the number to an equivalent ERA number. FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded. FIP was invented by Tangotiger.

For the league-specific factor, I used a flat 3.2 to make things simple (and because I don't know how THT determines it). Let's look at the numbers for all the NL teams:

NL Rotation Spots by FIP
San Diego Padres2.502.923.634.595.633.70
Los Angeles Dodgers2.993.493.934.325.173.91
San Francisco Giants3.653.914.334.595.004.28
Cincinnati Reds3.714.344.434.565.064.36
Milwaukee Brewers3.944.234.414.475.174.43
Pittsburgh Pirates3.914.004.444.625.814.46
Arizona Diamondbacks3.064.024.745.346.114.54
Atlanta Braves3.083.134.975.357.414.55
New York Mets4.254.294.444.755.524.60
Colorado Rockies4.044.354.604.965.544.66
Chicago Cubs4.104.534.654.755.534.68
Houston Astros3.723.895.225.395.764.74
Philadelphia Phillies3.884.404.835.305.974.80
St. Louis Cardinals3.914.464.775.036.164.81
Florida Marlins3.774.774.825.135.964.83
Washington Nationals4.274.975.635.886.235.34
NL Averages3.674.114.624.945.754.54*
*Using sum of all IP, HR, BB, K, and HBP

So what does this mean? Well, in short, the average NL pitcher has a FIP of 4.54. The pitchers closest to that individually are Paul Maholm of the Pirates and Aaron Cook of the Rockies. Here's who matches up closely to the average rotation spots:
  1. 3.67 FIP ~ Tim Lincecum, Aaron Harang, Sergio Mitre (interesting), Roy Oswalt
  2. 4.11 FIP ~ Cole Hamels, Jeff Francis, Ted Lilly
  3. 4.62 FIP ~ Brett Tomko, Russ Ortiz, Carlos Zambrano
  4. 4.94 FIP ~ David Wells, Kyle Kendrick, Barry Zito
  5. 5.75 FIP ~ Livan Hernandez, Matt Chico
When you think of top 5 starting rotations this season, you probably don't think of the Giants, Reds and Brewers. Nevertheless, when looking solely at those teams' pitchers in terms of HR, K, HBP and BB (taking defense out of it), they are better than ERA gives them credit for.

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