Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Pitching by the Numbers: Getting a grip on FIP

Michael Salfino
Yahoo Sports

View photo

.

There's nothing flukey about Gio Gonzalez's hot start. (Getty)

Small sample sizes still abound. But we have decisions to make and the season for some of us just cannot wait.

Perhaps we can isolate some randomness out of the numbers by looking at who has the best and worst fielding independent ERAs while also comparing them to their actual ERA's. We've noted some limits to FIP here in the past. It has a bias against extreme fly-ball pitchers. It's doesn't factor in pop-ups as 100 percent outs, or near it, as they are. But we can't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and FIP is a good stat.

Thanks to Fangraphs for the data, which is through April 25th. Let's start with the pitchers with the best FIP ERAs.

    Player        Team        K/9        BABIP        LOB%        ERA        FIP        ERA-FIP   
Gio Gonzalez Was 10.27 .228 80.0% 1.52 1.51 0.01
Johan Santana NYM 12.0 .311 63.6% 3.00 1.57 1.43
Zack Greinke Mil 10.65 .381 62.9% 4.56 1.72 2.84
Clayton Kershaw LAD     8.87    .288 78.3%     1.61        1.74        -0.13   
Stephen Strasburg Was     9.00    .262 87.5%     1.08        1.74        -0.66   
Justin Verlander Det     8.9    .215 73.1%     1.72        1.79        -0.06   
Jake Peavy ChW     8.16    .219 77.7%     1.88        2.07        -0.18   
Cole Hamels Phi     10.25    .333 75.4%     2.73        2.07        0.67   
Jered Weaver LAA     8.49    .244 74.3%     2.43        2.09        0.33   
Edwin Jackson Was     9.47    .250 51.3%     4.26        2.11        2.15   
Kyle Lohse StL     5.27    .200 85.0%     0.99        2.17        -1.18   
Mike Pelfrey NYM     5.95    .353 82.1%     2.29        2.19        0.10   
Cory Luebke SD     7.20    .280 72.4%     2.52        2.26        0.26   
Josh Johnson Mia     6.56    .408 68.4%     4.63        2.35        2.28   
Wandy Rodriguez Hou     5.68    .241 69.2%     1.42        2.35        -0.93   
Jeff Samardzija ChC     9.38    .352 64.4%     4.13        2.36        1.76   
Jason Hammel Bal     8.65    .254 85.4%     1.73        2.40        -0.67   
Ryan Dempster ChC     10.18    .213 79.6%     1.33        2.46        -1.13   
Mike Minor Atl     7.18    .278 58.6%     3.42        2.48    0.93
Jordan Zimmermann Was     5.33    .200 80.7%     1.33    2.53 -1.20

I do really like Gonzalez, as I've said in this space before. Santana is interesting but is among the leaders in pitches per inning. He's not a guy you want expending a lot of effort and, of course, this also hurts him with wins. What do we make of Peavy? He's frequently disappointed so I would look to cash him in right now. Jackson is over the magic number of a K/IP in Yahoo! formats so hold him, for sure. He was cut in our Yahoo! Friends and Family league by Scott Pianowski, a savvy owner. So that concerns me enough not to be a buyer on the trade market, for now. Lohse doesn't K enough for many formats but keeps popping up on these lists in good ways, if you can handle that sub 6 K/9 that isn't likely to get better. Pelfrey looks like he's out for a while with an elbow injury. Hammel is worth grabbing if he's a free agent in shallow leagues. Zimmermann is interesting in so many ways but are we overvaluing him given his K-rate? It spiked to very useful levels in his last 50 innings last year. His velocity is exactly what it was then, but he's generating misses on swings 7.5% of the time, slightly lower than in 2011 when his K-rate for the season was barely acceptable for most mixers. Of course, it's hard to put a value on his other averages, which are top shelf. Zimmermann is one of the trickier pitchers out there, but if someone was giving me a sixth-round type of hitter, I'd move him.

Now let's take a look at the other end of the FIP ERA spectrum:

    Player        Team        K/9        BABIP        LOB%        ERA        FIP        ERA-FIP   
Ervin Santana LAA     6.08        0.257        73.90%        7.23        8.18        -0.96   
Clay Buchholz Bos     4.43        .329        59.0%        8.87        6.89        1.98   
Tommy Hunter Bal     5.84        .239        76.3%        4.74        6.75        -2.01   
Brandon Morrow Tor     4.05        .190        84.2%        3.71        6.32        -2.60   
Jeremy Guthrie Col     1.85        .239        65.8%        5.92        5.98        -0.07   
Henderson Alvarez Tor     2.73        .188        78.3%        4.10        5.79        -1.69   
Randy Wolf Mil     5.48        .329        66.9%        7.17        5.67        1.50   
Matt Moore TB     5.12        .288        75.5%        5.12        5.64        -0.52   
Jhoulys Chacin Col     8.55        .291        73.0%        5.85        5.55        0.30   
Anthony Swarzak Min     5.03        .277        79.0%        5.03        5.55        -0.51   
Josh Beckett Bos     5.61        .228        78.7%        4.56        5.40        -0.84   
R.A. Dickey NYM     8.14        .288        85.4%        4.44        5.29        -0.85   
Jeremy Hellickson TB     4.97        .218        87.6%        2.84        5.27        -2.43   
Kyle Drabek Tor     6.75        .226        94.5%        2.25        5.19        -2.94   
Ubaldo Jimenez Cle     4.88        .253        75.5%        4.50        5.19        -0.69   
Clayton Richard SD     5.47        .221        45.5%        5.11        5.13        -0.02   
Justin Masterson Cle     6.23        .286        56.6%        6.65        5.12        1.53   
Homer Bailey Cin     4.82        .250        67.3%        3.86        5.05        -1.19   
Bud Norris Hou     8.03        .320        68.8%        5.84        4.97        0.87   
Gavin Floyd ChW     7.92        .200        77.9%        3.6        4.90        -1.30   

Some big names on this list. Santana throws too many sliders so I'd always pass on him because even if he's pitching well, I half expect an injury. Buchholz has been horrible and I can't think of a reason to own him now even in AL-only leagues. Morrow is another big name who chronically fails to pitch up to his "stuff." Moore is turning into the poor man's Hellickson. Maybe the Rays are teaching their younger guys to pitch to contact because they have such good defenders and position them so well. Hellickson don't need no stinkin' strikeouts.  Remember, Hellickson is extreme fly-ball pitcher and is on a FIP-defying team. However, his swinging strike rate is way down and he throws too many pitches per inning, too. Whenever you have a chance to get anything reasonable for Beckett, who rarely pitches to his talent level, do it. Drabek is a ground-ball pitcher, so trade/waive him (depending on your format) because I doubt his good luck lasts.  Bottom line, you have to really work hard to come up with reasons to hold any guy on this list with a K/9 below 7.00.

View Comments (23)