On Wednesday evening, being a Drew Hutchison owner, I watched intently as the young Blue Jays’ rookie tried to get out of a two on two out jam in the bottom of the seventh. For a nanosecond, I felt relief, as a hard ground ball was smacked a mere three inches to the right of Brett Lawrie. My momentary relief quickly turned into grief when I realized that anvil-footed Juan Francisco, not number 13, was stationed at third base. Ok, so I’m exaggerating slightly, but not much. Fielding the ball cleanly wasn’t exactly a routine play, but it would have been far from difficult to at least stop it, keep it in the infield and prevent a run from scoring. Come on Juan, would it really hurt to get the knees of your uniform dirty once in a while? Can we start a collection to pay for Juan’s dry cleaning since he clearly doesn’t want to get his uniform soiled? Motor City flashbacks of Carlos Guillen, who wouldn’t dive for a ball to save his life, permeated my mind’s eye. I waited with baited breath to hear the after game interview and the explanation that to bend over just a little further would have been "false hustle."
In today’s official scoring world, it seems a ground ball is only deemed an error if it’s slow rolling and goes right through your legs. That means all of Hutchison’s runs were of the "earned" variety, even if it does stretch the semantic range of the word enough to make me chuckle. So what is the moral of the story? Starting a Blue Jays pitcher in daily leagues when Francisco is manning the "hot" corner is like playing with matches. I wouldn’t recommend it, but if you do, don’t watch the game unless you want stomach ulcers. Not surprisingly, Hutchison sports a 3.82 ERA along with a 3.08 FIP.
The following table lists some starters with the greatest disparity between their ERA and FIP in 2013:
|Player||2013 ERA||2013 FIP||2014 ERA|
Two-thirds improved their ERA and one-third did just the opposite. This comes as no surprise and should actually be expected. After all, no FIP or xFIP was created in a vacuum. Just ask CC, who found that it’s pretty difficult to regress your ERA toward your FIP while dropping 2.5 miles per hour on your fastball in the Bronx!
These are tools to guide our choices, not papal bulls from the sabermetric papacy. With that in mind, let’s look among the FIP/ERA differentials to see if there are some corrections on the way.
|Player||2014 ERA||2014 FIP||Fastball MPH 2013/2014|
Zach McAllister, Zack Wheeler and Drew Hutchison stand out due to their sustained or increased fastball velocity (*note that 91.4 mph represents Drew’s average fastball velocity in 2012, not 2013 since he did not appear in a major league game last year). For those showing decreased velocity thus far, I would monitor their starts to see if they regain some ticks on the radar gun as they build up arm strength. David Price is yielding home runs on 15.7% of his fly balls, the highest clip of his career, and his average fastball velocity has never been lower. Stephen Strasburg’s 13.3 clip is also his highest. Not surprisingly, his average fastball is at his career low. It should be noted that Zach McAllister’s 2.6% home run per fly ball rate is not sustainable, and that his xFIP (which normalizes home run per fly ball rates) has him at a more pedestrian 4.02.