Working to understand FIP and the projections

* I started to post this as a comment in the pitching depth thread, but it doesn't directly have to do with the Ponson argument (about which I am indifferent), so I wanted to separate it out.

I've felt uneasy about the FIP projections and staff rankings, and the debates which followed, but was just a gut feel, and I couldn't (and still can't entirely) pinpoint exactly what it was.  Marbotty touched on it in his post in NYRoyal's pitching depth thread when talking about Ponson's ERA relative to his ERA every year, but that wasn't the main reason for the unease.

At first, I thought it was due to the players that were being looked at -- we (on this site at least) rarely seem to look at good pitchers' FIPs.  It doesn't seem to be used very often to justify why players are great.  Instead, it's seemingly been used more to explain why certain performances weren't garbage; i.e. most of Ponson's career or 2008 Bannister.

Then I read more about FIP on fangraphs, and though it had a problem because it didn't take into account things like GB%/FB%/LD% (like xFIP does).  I thought it would be giving an inherent advantage to pitchers who had a high LD% but an abnormally low HR/FB% relative to their LD%.  I compared the Royals pitchers over the last 8 years, but didn't seem to see any correlation to LD%.

After this analysis, I was still left wondering if FIP gives a somewhat inherent advantage to finesse pitchers -- namely the pitch-to-contact type pitchers who aren't going to walk many, but aren't going to strike many out either.

For example, look back at the Baird-era pitchers: in 2003 the Royals had 4 starters throw at least 80 innings.  All pitched at the level of #3 or better starters (Affeldt, Snyder, May, and Hernandez).  In 2001, nearly the same deal as there were 4 at the #4 or better level (Byrd, Suppan, Durban, and Reichert). 

As another example, look at the pitch-to-contact king, Chris George. 



                                            You just knew how to win Chris

Sure his 2003 was awful, but in 2004 he started 7 games for the Royals.  He struck out only 3.21/9 and walked an awful 5.36/9.  Yet due to only giving up 1 HR, he had the FIP of a #3 pitcher: 4.43.  Despite the good FIP and sabrmetrics taking a firmer footing in front offices, he has not pitched in the majors since. 

So, am I off on this point?  Am I missing something?


All of which brings me to another related topic: Are the FIP projections overly optimistic -- not just for the Royals, but for all of the AL Central?  In looking at D_F's Driveline post the projections don't seem to map up well with NYRoyals' "How good is a #1,#2..." post.  Granted, the post looked at the AL as a whole and not specifically the AL Central, but I can't imagine either the AL East or West divisions dragging the league down too much, if at all.

But based on that, there are only 4 pitchers total (out of over 40 starters for the AL Central) in the listings that are projected to have FIP sigificantly worse than the 5.11 FIP at the low end of a #5 pitcher.  Actually, all but 7 fall into the #4 or better pitchers.

With the majority of the innings in the AL Central likely to be logged by some combination of the 41 on that list, will the contributions of the Lance Broadway's, Philip Humber's, and Rick Porcello's of the league really drag down the #5 average all the way to 5.11?

To the resident stats guys -- sorry if this seems ridiculous, or if I'm overlooking some aspects, but I'm still trying to learn this stuff.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Royals Review community. It does not necessarily reflect the views of the editors and writers of this site.

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