Using FIP to find value backing or fading MLB pitchers
FIP sounds like the name of a new energy drink.
But it’s actually a statistic that stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, one of the new advanced metrics in baseball that does a better job of determining how well a pitcher is performing than such standard statistics as earned run average and winning percentage. Seamheads love it as we discussed at the start of the season.
FIP, as explained here by the folks at Baseball Prospectus, takes into account only home runs allowed, walks, hit batters and strikeouts. The theory behind FIP is that pitchers have no control over what happens to balls put into play other than home runs.
Why should we give a flip about FIP? Because it can help identify pitchers who are performer better or worse than their traditional statistics indicate, which can make for potential value plays.
Let's look at a look at two starting pitchers who are pitching better than it appears on the surface and two who aren't:
READY TO RISE
The initial reaction is to look at Miami Marlins right-hander Josh Joshson’s 0-3 record and 6.61 ERA in his first six starts and assume he is hurt. After all, Johnson made just nine starts last year before missing the rest of the season because of should tendinitis.
However, you don't need an MRI to see it's not a balky pitching arm that's bothering Johnson. Instead, a statistical examination shows Johnson has been more a victim of bad luck as his FIP is just 2.54. He has yet to allow a home run in 31 1/3 innings while striking out 26 and walking 12.
Johnson is scheduled to pitch Wednesday night at Houston. Perhaps he will begin turning around a season in which the Marlins are 2-4 and -$361(down 3.61 units) when he is on the mound.
Righty Chris Volstad was Johnson's teammate with the Marlins until he was traded to the Chicago Cubs for Carlos Zambrano during the offseason. Volstad is 0-4 with a 6.55 ERA in his first six starts for the Cubs and has gone 17 starts since his previous win last July 10. The Cubs have lost all six games and are -$600 in them.
Volstad's 3.38 FIP is an indicator that his dry spell should end soon. In 33 innings, he has given up 36 hits and one home run with 21 strikeouts and 10 walks.
Volstad's turn in the rotation next comes up Friday night when the Cubs play at Milwaukee.
READY TO FALL
The Tampa Bay Rays' Jeremy Hellickson continues to defy the FIP odds. The right-hander was the American League Rookie of the Year last season when he outpitched his 4.44 FIP by going 13-10 with a 2.95 ERA in 29 starts.
Hellickson's FIP is even higher this season through six starts yet his ERA is even lower. He is 3-0 with a 2.75 ERA and the Rays are 4-2, $175 in his starts. Hellickson has allowed just 32 hits in 36 innings, but six of them have been home runs and his strikeout/walk ratio is a pedestrian 23/15.
Hellickson's luck is seemingly due to run out at some point. Maybe it will begin Friday when he makes a road start against surprising Baltimore.
On the surface, San Francisco Giants left-hander Barry Zito seems to finally being living up to his seven-year, $126-million contract in the sixth year of the deal. Though he is just 1-1 through six starts, he has a fine 2.21 ERA and the Giants are 3-3 in those games and provided a $71profit.
Yet FIP indicates Zito is ready to turn back into the pitcher who has had losing records in each of his first five seasons with the Giants anytime now. He has a 4.62 mark. Though Zito has allowed just three home runs and 29 hits in 36 2/3 innings, he barely has more strikeouts (19) than walks (17).
Zito's next scheduled start is Sunday at Arizona.