Giants Pitching Not As It Good as Seems - According to FIP

I was reading on The Hardball Times this article on FIP and it says that pitchers with positive FIP-ERA should fall back to the "mean", as defined by the FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching; read article for explanation of the concept or this glossary). Many of our pitchers we are relying on qualified there as pitchers who are not as good as they would seem from their data.

Here is the Giants pitchers from THT database of stats who should fall back to the mean (i.e. should do worse) in 2006 based on their skill stats in 2005 (ERA, FIP, xFIP, which is expected FIP adjusting for normal HR rate):

Cain : 2.33 - 4.06
Taschner: 1.59 - 3.05
Correia: 4.63 - 5.97
Munter: 2.56 - 3.78
Benitez: 4.50 - 5.24
Walker: 4.23 - 4.61
Eyre: 2.63 - 2.99
Hennessey: 4.64 - 4.99
Lowry: 3.78 - 3.87

So basically our whole pitching staff, according to this stat, had better ERA than their stats would indicate. I wonder if SBC skews this but I could not figure out a way to get the numbers for 2004 season. But no one important got horribly bad except for Benitez and I wouldn't trust his numbers, he came back faster than expected and pitched when he wasn't 100% so I have to give him his due for trying when we needed it. Correia is pretty bad so it would make sense, given this stat, to try someone else than him as starter. If he is out of options, though, we might have to trade him or trade someone (probably Walker) to open a position for him. Lastly, Cain doesn't look so impressive anymore, statistically so I guess I was hasty to think that he would do great going into his first season (however, BA thinks that Cain is a ROY candidate so that can't be all bad; plus a 4-ish ERA is better than anything Tomko ever did for us).

Here are the ones expected to get better:

Accardo: 3.94 - 3.81
Hawkins: 4.10 - 3.81
Tomko: 4.48 - 4.18
Fassero: 4.05 - 3.71
Schmidt: 4.40 - 3.86

Well Accardo came off well from this. And Hawkins looked like the pitcher I liked in the trade for Williams and Aardsma (can you imagine if we had Aardsma and Accardo in the pen?). Tomko came off better but still not worth $7M per season to me. And Schmidt was particularly heartening, it looks like a bit of bad luck finally hit him last season.

Here's how our acquisitions so far has for their FIP:

Worrell (PHI): 7.41 - 4.77
Worrell (ARI): 2.27 - 4.20
Kline: 4.28 - 5.70
Morris: 4.11 - 3.97

Boy, this makes the trade for Kline look particularly bad. Hawkins may have had his faults but he was still good last season, whereas Kline and Worrell look even worse. This makes it look like Sabean just imploded the bullpen.

Our best hope is that the psychology of the move really affected Kline - and one can reasonably assume so because how rare is it for a ballplayer to openly state that he made a mistake signing with a team? And Kline looked particularly good the previous few seasons with, who else, Matheny behind the plate. So hopefully that (especially since it looks like Javy Lopez isn't that great a catcher, he's being moved to either 1B or DH or traded) plus the return to the NL where he was comfortable plus his now pitching at a neutral ballpark like SBC (last three seasons, look in baseball-reference).

A similar hope for Worrell too, that whatever personal problems that caused him to leave the team upset his whole season and now he can return to how he did before, which was pretty good. Again, factors like familiarity and SBC (Phillies and D-Backs have huge hitter's ballparks) should help him out.

Looks like Morris was a bit better than his overall stats, so that's good. And perhaps a return to Matheny, who is a good friend of his, will help him out as well. Matheny probably knows Morris' stuff better than anyone and would be better pitch selector for him in 2006.

FIP Says....

Here is our current staff's FIP and the overall average:

Schmidt - 3.86
Morris - 3.97
Lowry - 3.87
Cain - 4.06
Hennessey - 4.99
Correia (backup in AAA) - 5.97

Benitez - 5.24
Worrell - 4.40-4.50
Kline - 5.70
Walker - 4.61
Fassero - 3.71
Munter - 3.78
Taschner - 3.05
Accardo (backup in AAA) - 3.81

Overall, this makes our starting staff look good but our bullpen look pretty bad. There were mitigating factors for our three main relievers - Benitez, Worrell, and Kline - so hopefully there will be improvements there. After them, the rest of the bullpen look decent though not as awesome as their actual ERAs would suggest.

Ideas for 2006 Given FIP

Assuming FIP works as advertised (and the examples given in the article obviously support that, though I wish I could examine past data for Giants pitchers to see how FIP did in predicting them), then perhaps the Giants might consider starting Fassero as the #5 to begin the season and give Hennessey time in the minors to learn to be consistent. This would allow the Giants to keep Accardo in the bullpen with us.

Then we go half a season like that (plus we could return to the old way of going with four starters to begin the season, then work in the #5 starter later in the season) and reassess then: maybe Fassero doing well, then continue, but if Hennessey is going good (or any other prospect that looks that good), bring him up to start and send down a reliever (or trade away for prospect; Walker should look attractive to any team looking for a closer after ineffectiveness or injury or whatever).


Anonymous Lyle said...

Martin, pardon my ignorance, but are the above FIP's the projections for 2006? If so, I plan to copy them down and see how they turn out at the end of the year.

Tue Dec 20, 07:23:00 AM PST  

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