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Masters of the NFBC
Written by Greg Morgan   
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 00:00

If you don’t wear a hairpiece, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) your ERA instead. Sabermetricians commonly preach regression to the mean, and to that end FIP is used as a common indicator of regression candidates. Just how valid is this? If your ERA is lower than FIP is it really the result of luck? When a pitcher has a high strand % is it really just a fluke? Don’t some pitchers just bear down and turn it up a notch in high leverage situations allowing them to be more effective when it counts? Is an extremely low BABIP a result of a pitcher being lucky or a result of his stuff inducing weak contact that leads to more outs? In short does FIP lead us astray or can it be used as a reliable indicator of overvalued and undervalued pitchers heading into 2012 NFBC drafts? Let’s look at some data:

 

Pitcher
2010 ERA 2010 FIP 2010 FIP-2010 ERA 2011 ERA 2011 ERA-2010 ERA
Clay Buchholz 2.33 3.61 1.28 3.48 1.15
Tim Hudson 2.83 4.09 1.26 3.22 0.39
Trevor Cahill 2.97 4.19 1.22 4.16 1.19
Jon Garland 3.47 4.41 0.94 4.33 0.86
Jonathan Sanchez 3.07 4.00 0.93 4.26 1.19
R.A. Dickey 2.84 3.65 0.81 3.28 0.44
Felix Hernandez 2.27 3.04 0.77 3.47 1.20
Bronson Arroyo 3.88 4.61 0.73 5.07 1.19
Wade Davis 4.07 4.79 0.72 4.45 0.38
Jaime Garcia 2.70 3.41 0.71 3.56 0.86
David Price 2.72 3.42 0.70 3.49 0.77
Randy Wolf 4.17 4.85 0.68 3.69 -0.48
Ted Lilly 3.62 4.27 0.65 3.97 0.35
Jeremy Guthrie 3.83 4.44 0.61 4.33 0.50
Cole Hamels 3.06 3.67 0.61 2.79 -0.27

 

Listed above are the 15 pitchers with the greatest differential between their 2010 FIP and their 2010 ERA, limited to pitchers with 150+ IP that year.  The average FIP-ERA differential among these pitchers in 2010 was 0.84, while the average differential between 2011 ERA and 2010 FIP was 0.65.  As you can see, owners that stayed away from these regression candidates were quite happy that they did, with only two exceptions (Wolf and Hamels). Now let us look at 2011 ERA-FIP differentials.

 

Pitcher 2011 ERA 2011 FIP 2011 FIP-ERA 2012 NFBC ADP
Jeremy Hellickson 2.95 4.44 1.49 151
Ricky Romero 2.92 4.20 1.28 108
Johnny Cueto 2.31 3.45 1.14 176
Joe Saunders 3.69 4.78 1.09 471
Jair Jurrjens 2.96 3.99 1.03 244
Ryan Vogelsong 2.71 3.67 0.96 267
Jeff Karstens 3.38 4.29 0.91 471
Jered Weaver 2.41 3.20 0.79 40
Hiroki Kuroda 3.07 3.78 0.71 215
Josh Beckett 2.89 3.57 0.68 121
Wandy Rodriguez 3.49 4.15 0.66 214
Bronson Arroyo 5.07 5.71 0.64 532
Ervin Santana 3.38 4.00 0.62 203
Bruce Chen 3.77 4.39 0.62 470
Jhoulys Chacin 3.62 4.23 0.61 227

 

Notice that Saunders, Karstens, Arroyo, and Chen don’t project to be drafted in 30 Round NFBC drafts, but the rest in the table are probably not going to return the value most owners are expecting this year. This list does not mean you shouldn’t draft these pitchers. It means that, all else being equal, you should expect something closer to 2011 FIP when projecting their 2012 ERA. Hiroki Kuroda moves from a pitcher’s park in Los Angeles to a hitter’s haven in New York and will have to face a DH each time through the lineup. Instead of facing teams such as San Diego in Petco and San Francisco in AT&T Park, he’ll face Boston in Fenway and Toronto in the Rogers Centre.   That won’t help him resist FIP gravity.  

Even with some modest regression Jered Weaver is still plenty valuable and he’ll once again have Vernon Wells (UZR/150 of 11.7) Peter Bourjos (UZR/150 of 8.1) tracking his fly balls (49% FB rate) in Left and in Center, respectively.

There is no doubt that Joe Saunders benefited from the Diamondbacks being the best defensive team in baseball last year according to UZR, but he also had a 77% strand rate that won’t happen again this year, not to mention a 27% hit rate that was very fortunate. Saunders’ 2011 FIP is a good forecast of what to expect this year.

Cincinnati had the 3rd best Team UZR rating last year and that may have played a role in Johnny Cueto outperforming his FIP by so much. Cueto should regress some, but his GB% increased from 42% in 2010 to 54% in 2011. An elite infield comprised of Scott Rolen, Brandon Phillips, Joey Votto and Paul Janish gobbled those ground balls up. This year Zach Cozart (UZR 4.1 in just 77.1 Innings last year) will take over SS for Janish. Draft Cueto expecting 140K’s and 3.20 ERA with upside IF he stays healthy. Just missing this list were Justin Verlander (2.40 ERA 2.99 FIP, ADP 20) and James Shields (2.82 ERA 3.42 FIP, ADP 72). They both should regress and are likely to be overpriced on draft day. Let’s turn things around and see which pitchers might be a value based on last year’s FIP.

 

Pitcher 2011 ERA 2011 FIP 2011 ERA-2011 FIP 2012 NFBC ADP
John Lackey 6.41 4.71 1.70 639
Derek Lowe 5.05 3.70 1.35 558
Ricky Nolasco 4.67 3.54 1.13 307
Brandon Morrow 4.72 3.64 1.08 154
Jonathon Niese 4.40 3.36 1.04 305
Ubaldo Jimenez 4.68 3.67 1.01 148
Brian Duensing 5.23 4.27 0.96 666
Ryan Dempster 4.80 3.91 0.89 253
Zack Greinke 3.83 2.98 0.85 53
Jeff Francis 4.82 4.10 0.72 676
Rick Porcello 4.75 4.06 0.69 377
Fausto Carmona 5.25 4.56 0.69 648
J.A. Happ 5.35 4.69 0.66 577
Zach Britton 4.61 4.00 0.61 438
Chris Volstad 4.89 4.32 0.57 492

 

All of these hurlers with an ADP of over 450 are obviously being drafted in NFBC Slow Drafts but the market isn’t projecting them to be draftable in NFBC Main Event 30 Round drafts. This is the third straight year that Nolasco’s ERA failed to live up to his FIP, so he may be the exception to the rule. In 2010 Morrow had a 4.49 ERA and a 3.16 FIP. This is the second straight year he’s posted a large ERA-FIP gap. With 203 K’s in just 179 IP Morrow’s dominance is no secret as reflected in his 11th Round ADP. If you want to buy some stock in Morrow’s upside you’ll have to pay for it.

Any FIP gains Ubaldo might have received this year will be wiped out with a downgrade to the Indian defense and of course facing DH stacked offenses. Niese however is an interesting case.  Along with his lower FIP Niese also had a 7.89 K/9, a 3.13 K/BB ratio, and a 51% GB rate. Unfortunately, the Mets had the worst defense in the entire Major Leagues last year according to UZR. The Andres Torres acquisition presents an upgrade in Center, but that is the lone bright spot in this severely challenged defensive unit, and Torres glove in CF can’t help with Niese’s ground balls. The fences getting moved in at Citi Field don’t help things either, even though his FB rate was only 28%. In the end the Mets’ defensive issues make Jonathon an ambivalent pick.  He should certainly improve but don’t chase the FIP here.

Dempster is a bounceback candidate even though he traded in some ground balls for line drives in 2011. His LD rate increased from 16% to 21%, but his other peripherals remained solid. Greinke is another poised to have an improved ERA in 2012. His K/9 jumped from 7.40 to 10.54 with the move to the NL. His Command improved from 3.3 to 4.5. The one chink in the armor was an increase in LD% from 18% to 22%. Porcello makes the list but I’m not buying due to Detroit’s defensive problems and Porcello’s low strikeout rate.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 28 February 2012 12:57
 

More Articles by Greg Morgan

Comments  

 
# deansdaddy 2012-02-28 13:48
Good stuff Greg - I've grabbed Ulbaldo in a couple leagues as well as Nolasco (again) in a couple spots.
 
 
# Todd Zola 2012-02-28 13:58
I'm still torn whether I like FIP or xFIP better. I don't like how xFIP goes 100% regression with HR/9, but FIP doesn't make any adjustment at all. Then there's tRA, SIERA, etc.
 

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