More on FIP and my Crush on Cain
This is all new to me too and I wouldn't term it ignorance, as Lyle put it, just part of the learning process. Sorry, I probably should have put in more examples to explain it than just spitting it out, but time is compressed for me right now as I'm juggling things, getting ready for the holidays and vacation.
I would not use the term "projections for 2006" to describe FIP, though they will certainly be used in that way; I will be doing the same and see how they turn out. From my understanding, FIP basically standardizes a pitcher's stats so that you can see what the "average normal" pitcher would have accomplished, ERA-wise, based on the stats. I think it covers most of the main rate stats sabers follows for pitchers except for HR-rate.
(Sidenote: there is "x-FIP" which does account for HR-rate which I left out. We all know ATT/SBC/PBP, i.e. Mays Field, affects HR rate so there is no use adjusting the FIP as long as the pitcher continues to pitch at SBC because most of them will have their ERA nudged upward. This also means that there should be a reduction in FIP for any pitcher joining the team, so Kline, Worrell, and Morris could well get a spike down in ERA due to the park - particularly Morris who has a homer problem the past two years - so hopefully so! :^)
So, the FIP gives you an indicator how far off the mean average performance that each pitcher did in 2005. In that way, it is an indicator of what the pitcher's "true" pitching performance was in 2005 and what we can expect more of in 2006. And thus better than the ERA in assessing each pitcher's "true" abilities as a pitcher.
But just like the ERA, it is biased by the pitcher's performance of that year, which could include any sort of reasons why his performance went down, like Jerome dealing with his Dad's health, Worrell dealing with family problems, injuries, pitching through injuries, or just plain dead arms, plus many other reasons which would mark that particular year as different from his "true" abilities.
So while FIP is a good, overall general guide to a pitcher's "true" abilities (and from what I have read, the concept seems sound and I have no reason at the moment to doubt it), it must be tempered in the final analysis to account for factors that might have affected it negatively or positively. I should pull up the 2004 numbers and present them as well - over time FIP should be a good guide towards a player's true abilities, but any one year's performance can be colored by a number of factors.
I wouldn't suggest following just one inidicator (and not that anyone else would either) as a guide to anything. It's better to open your eyes to various possibilities and let your brain guide you. FIP is one piece of the puzzle, from the way it is intended to be used, just one tool used to understanding how our roster as constituted might do in 2006. Say, I should calculate the average of 2004 and 2005 to see what that yields, that would be probably a better guide/projection towards 2006.
I mainly brought it up because I've found myself to be wildly enthusiastic about how Matt Cain was going to do in 2006 - I normally laugh at those who think "boy wonder will win the Cy Young, pitch 30 complete games, strike out 300 batters, and win 30 games" - but for the first time in over 30 years of following the Giants, Cain is the first prospect I've ever been wildly excited about. I feel as giddly as any guy would after a great first few weeks of dates where everything is clicking and going great, I have high expectations for Cain's future and I cannot help myself.
I feel that Cain can be the new face of the Giants after Bonds retire. He seems to be that good! So once I found anything that suggests that perhaps he's not what he seems, I had to put it out there, as I'm sure there are others who are just as wildly enthusiastic about Cain's future. But still, the FIP is not that bad for Cain given he's just 21 now, I would take that in a heartbeat from any young prospect who just basically came up. And hopefully he can outperform FIP and do even better, he IS only 21 after all, he should still be developing and improving.