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  1. This was a good read. Thanks. Lohse probably hurt by being tied to losing a draft pick as much as anything else….

    Comment by Jon E — December 21, 2012 @ 12:19 pm

  2. “Not every pitching acquisition has followed this trend, of course. Jeremy Guthrie got paid for his history of run prevention, even though FIP and xFIP hate him.”

    Ah, Dayton Moore, you wily maverick!

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — December 21, 2012 @ 12:27 pm

  3. Perhaps the Pirates think Liriano will benefit from Russell Martin’s pitch framing ability…

    Comment by Disembodied catcher's mitt — December 21, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

  4. This is nice and all, but isn’t this still a terrible deal?

    How many teams truly valued Liriano at 2/14?
    They must think he can cut down on the walks or that their team defense is better than defenses he’s had playing behind him in the past.

    Even his peripherals aren’t that great. + he also has the durability concerns unlike a guy like Joe Blanton who was mentioned.

    This is the same team that let Jeff Karstens go for nothing like they had a surplus of SP earlier this offseason.

    Comment by marlins12 — December 21, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

  5. Liriano had a 10 start stretch last year where he pitched 63 innings with 2.84 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. Along with 77 Ks, 28 walks, and a 45% GB rate allowing only 3 home runs.

    During that 10 game stretch, he allowed the following line: .171/.270/.252. He surrounded that with absolute crap, and obviously we have to look at his entire season for value. But if he definitely still has the talent in him. Moving to the NL should help. A completley pressure free environment in Pittsburgh. Maybe he recaptures it.

    If he can put something remotely similar to that, he will have massive trade value at the deadline (especially since he’ll have another year @ $7MM on his contract).

    I think this is totally worth the money for the Pirates. The upside far outweighs the risk.

    Comment by Jeff Akston — December 21, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

  6. There are readily identifiable baseball skills that influence strand rates and ERA, which should make teams reluctant to favor FIP in contract negotiations (Pitching out of the stretch, pitching under pressure, speed and ambiguity of delivery, pickoff ability, etc). I’ll take a large sample size of ERA over all the FIPs and WHIPs in the world.

    Comment by JMan — December 21, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  7. I want to wait until more of the FIP over-performers sign before I’m willing to buy into this hypothesis. If you discount Feldman’s and Blanton’s underwhelming deals, this could boil down to something as simple as a few of the extreme FIP under-performers having the stuff to make GMs take a chance on them.

    Comment by Sparkles Peterson — December 21, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

  8. The NL central is arguably the worst division in baseball and the Twins weren’t playing for anything last year…

    Comment by Heather — December 21, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  9. I had a really great half season, too! Perhaps I can recapture that magic in Pittsburgh!

    Comment by Kent Bottenfield, All-Star — December 21, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  10. Scuze me, AL central.

    Comment by Heather — December 21, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  11. I agree that Liriano is a good bet.

    Keith Law suggests in his top free agents article that Liriano pitches worse with runners on base which is an interesting hypothesis.

    In 2012 he threw his fastball a few tenths of a mph faster with men on base so it he doesn’t seem to lose velocity when pitching from the stretch.

    He did strike out more batters with the bases empty (11.3 K/9 with compared to 7.6 with runners on). In 2011 it was less extreme (8.1 bases empty v. 6.7 with runners on).

    Comment by J. Cross — December 21, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

  12. AL Central / NL Central – Potato…

    That is the argument, so it’s kinda funny how you promoted arguing against your own point with a typo.

    Comment by SKob — December 21, 2012 @ 1:25 pm

  13. I could point you to a 6 game stretch where he failed to strikeout more men than he walked every start. Neither is completely indicative of what the Pirates are getting. But unless a bunch of teams were in on him, which could be very possible, this contract really isn’t what I expected, especially in length. I’d of thought Liriano would want a 1 year deal to rebuild his value, if he had a lot of confidence he could.

    Comment by larrybernandez — December 21, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

  14. I’m not sure I’m ready to buy into this, especially since almost article about FIP mentions how such and such pitcher over performs or underperforms their FIP. Maybe FIP just isn’t a great tool?

    Comment by J6takish — December 21, 2012 @ 1:57 pm

  15. As a Twins fan, watching Liriano pitch for years I’d have to agree with Keith Law. When Liriano puts a runner on first he suddenly starts to melt down. You can see it happening every time. Suddenly he can’t locate his pitches and he’ll throw ball after ball or he’ll throw a cookie.

    It happened so predictably almost every single time. If he could get past that, I think he’d greatly improve. It’s a huge issue right now though.

    Comment by A.S. — December 21, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  16. As I’ve said before, FIP is the Emperor’s New Clothes.

    Comment by NatKingCole — December 21, 2012 @ 2:08 pm

  17. Couldn’t it just be that salaries are inflating across baseball so that even guys like Blanton and Liriano are able to get 2/14 deals? Edwin Jackson is young and has SO stuff, but he and his 4.10 ERA/100 ERA+ in his last three seasons (~600 IP) just got 4/$52M. Not to say that Jackson is a mediocrity but these contracts should be evaluating in the context of the FA market.

    Comment by Sophist — December 21, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

  18. I suspect this says much more about scouting vs. ERA than it does about FIP vs. ERA. It’s not just that Liriano’s peripherals have exceeded his ERA on average, it is that he has a habit of flashing streaks of absolute brilliance in between long stretches as a sub-replacement pitcher.

    I imagine the Pirates (and other teams – I expect the Pirates didn’t come up with 2/14 out of the goodness of their hearts) were looking at his upside and thinking they can “fix” him, an idea that may well have merit but requires extensive consultation with scouts and coaches. I highly doubt the Pirates are valuing his peripherals in a vacuum.

    Comment by mcbrown — December 21, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

  19. You’ve read other articles about FIP/ERA discrepancies, therefore FIP isn’t a good tool.

    Comment by James Gentile — December 21, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  20. Maybe, though strikeouts have never been a problem for Liriano. It could help his BB/9 rate but by how much?

    Also he is pretty homer prone, which isn’t helped by his poor strand rate and control.

    Comment by Wil — December 21, 2012 @ 3:38 pm

  21. Sounds like he has some mechanical issues out of the stretch. Perhaps it would be smart simply to ignore the base runners and pitch out of the wind up all the time.

    Comment by Wil — December 21, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  22. i’m pretty surprised liriano got a 2-year major league contract while rich harden only got a minor league deal

    Comment by jim — December 21, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

  23. Yeah, the Pirates are making a calculated gamble here, and the funny thing is they may not need to fix him at all. The Twins reportedly tried to get Liriano to buy into their orgizational “pitch to contact” philosophy, when he is a guy with poor command and great strikeout stuff. I believe they messed him up, and eventually just gave up and let him be who he was, with better results. I don’t have any explanation for what happened in Chicago though – but I’m actually optimistic that he can turn it around with a fresh start.

    Comment by Dan Greer — December 21, 2012 @ 3:42 pm

  24. Harden is constantly in danger of his arm becoming detached at the shoulder. His stuff is greatly diminished, and he is always hurt. Liriano has been fairly healthy since his TJ surgery several years back.

    Comment by Dan Greer — December 21, 2012 @ 3:44 pm

  25. This is what I was thinking. If the guy has a statistically significant sample size of not stranding runners/under performing his FIP, wouldn’t the rational conclusion be that there is a fundamental problem, like he can’t pitch from the stretch? I agree with the conclusion that FIP should dominate ERA, but man, don’t get married to the model (also known as the Christie Brinkley rule).

    Comment by kevinthecomic — December 21, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

  26. @wil, you can’t use the windup with men on base because it is too easy to steal bags — slow to the plate

    Comment by brendan — December 21, 2012 @ 4:51 pm

  27. For my part, the low ERA had nothing to do with my dislike for Liriano. The simple fact is, he has little to no command of the strikezone. Early in his career this wasn’t a problem because his stuff was so good and his fastball was deadly. A few years ago however, the league started to figure out that if you don’t swing at his junk pitches, and since he can’t depend on his fastball as much anymore due to multiple injuries, that you can either wait for him to walk you or throw you a cookie when he tries to not walk you. He might see success his first go through the National league, but sooner than later they will figure him out as well.

    Comment by Matt — December 21, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

  28. A whole lotta this.

    The point of FIP is to predict ERA, since what we really want is for a pitcher to prevent runs. FIP is more reliable that ERA in small samples because LOB% and BABIP are very unstable, so if you have one season of data, you go with FIP because it uses data that is much more stable and therefore is more useful for the purpose of making predictions.

    However, we also know that pitchers have influence on stranding runners and on BABIP, we just don’t know how. So, assuming a pitcher has a true-talent strand rate and BABIP, then eventually we would have enough data that the rates themselves should be indicative of true talent. We have 840 innings or 5 whole seasons of data on Liriano. That is enough to draw some conclusions about BABIP and LOB ability.

    Comment by Bip — December 21, 2012 @ 6:45 pm

  29. I don’t think a pitcher is even allowed to pitch from the windup with runners on. With men on, a pitcher has to plant his foot on the rubber, bring his hands together and “come set”, which means freezing with his hands together, and then any motion from there has to be directly delivering a pitch or throwing to a base (both of which require the back foot to remain on the rubber) or he has to step off the rubber, at which point no pitch can be delivered.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I think that’s the rule.

    Comment by Bip — December 21, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

  30. Your observation that he throws faster with runners on could have a very different explanation. If his mechanics in the stretch are not good, then it’s possible his natural stretch delivery would result in lower velocity, so to maintain velocity, he has to overcompensate somehow, probably by overthrowing. Whatever it is, to maintain velocity he breaks his mechanics which results in poor location. Striking batters out has a lot to do with location, so constant velocity and a much lower K rate should be a good indicator of bad location.

    Comment by Bip — December 21, 2012 @ 6:54 pm

  31. FIP is a tool, just like ERA is a tool. They have different uses, and the fact that FIP is not reliable for some pitchers doesn’t negate its usefulness when used correctly. I explain in a previous post.

    Comment by Bip — December 21, 2012 @ 6:56 pm

  32. George W. Bush did WTC

    Comment by Tom — December 21, 2012 @ 7:15 pm

  33. You are wrong Bip, pitchers can pitch from the Wind-up with runners on but it is almost an automatic stolen base for runners due to the length of delivery. Some pitchers do pitch from the wind-up when there are runners on third or bases loaded.

    Comment by The Ronin — December 21, 2012 @ 7:21 pm

  34. To expand on that the pitcher does still have to come set when he is on the rubber. He can step off the rubber backwards but cannot attempt a pick off as both feet would have to come off the rubber before he can throw to first. Once he begins his delivery he must complete the pitch towards home just as in the stretch.

    Comment by The Ronin — December 21, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

  35. I didn’t mean to imply that he has an unusual difference. Pitchers typically throw a little bit harder with runners on base. It would be interesting to look at his locations split by runners on/bases empty.

    Comment by J. Cross — December 21, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

  36. I think this article makes too many assumptions which brings it down. Most notably, it assumes that the Pirates are choosing their pitcher by FIP, instead of what I am quite certain they are choosing it for: Opportunity. Even by FIP, Liriano has been at best worse than league average FIP-wise for the past two years. So if they’e paying him by FIP, they’re pying 6 mil for below average. That’s still not a good deal at 5 million a win. Similiarly, the bit about A.J. Burnett and the Pirates is pracitcally a straight-up lie: His FIP the two years before had been 4.77 and 4.83, when this website says a 4.00 FIP should be about average(And even if you bump that up to 4.20…). This website suggests a FIP between 4.50 and 5.00 would be between “Poor” and “Awful”. Only xFIP suggested Burnett was anything other than terrible.

    The fact is the Pirates are paying him for 2010 and because the Pirates don’t have the money to usually pay someone with 2010 performance. The Pirates also paid Burnett not for his two previous Yankee years, where he was horrible by any measurement save xFIP and only below “Below Average”/”Poor”(He was 0.07 away from Poor) one of those years. They were getting him in hopes he would rebound to 2007-2009, where he was average or better by ERA. This is because the Pirates are a small money team and cannot afford the aces. But when the Yankees pay half of Burnett or they can potentially get a 3.62 ERA for 6 mil, they have to take that risk/reward. So no, it doesn’t have anything to do with FIP, it has to do with taking the risk of a rebound because they are a low fund team.

    Kyle Lohse is presumably still on the market because teams are bidding on him and he is hoping to see how much he can get. McCarthy got his deal so low solely because of the injury history: He’s only played more than 100 IP twice in his career and one was only 111 IP, so he has not provided the value his stats, ERA or FIP, would say. And Saunders is 2 years older than E-Jax. Also, Edwin Jackson had an ERA of 4.03, Joe Saunders had an ERA of 4.07: So E-Jax had an insignificantly better ERA anyway. So I fail to see how organizational attention to FIP is that big of a deal in these.

    Comment by Ruki Motomiya — December 21, 2012 @ 8:56 pm

  37. Nor is his Strand rate aided by his control or propensity to allow dingers. He racks up K’s by getting guys to chase pitches so a good Framer might turn some walks into K’s. He gives up dingers when he really challenges hitters. The only way pitch framing helps that is to keep guys off base so he does not have to challenge hitters. Remember his no hitter a couple years ago with all those walksand sharply hit balls at fielders. Vintage Liriano.

    Comment by Spit Ball — December 21, 2012 @ 9:20 pm

  38. @theronin- Only one foot must be on the rubber whether you are in the stretch or windup. As a lefty pitcher you could theoretically pitch from the windup on the third base side of the rubber with only your left foot on the rubber. In that scenario you could step backward with your left foot off the rubber and make a snap throw to first base that would be legal. It would likely keep the runner’s lead shorter. Admitedlly this is still theoretical as runners would still run at will once you stepped back with the right foot to deliver the pitch.

    Comment by Spit Ball — December 21, 2012 @ 9:37 pm

  39. Also if his mechanics are different, it could change how pitchers pick up the ball – maybe he’s easier to see out of the stretch and h

    Comment by Tom — December 21, 2012 @ 9:40 pm

  40. Ugh… not meant to go here…sorry.

    Comment by Tom — December 21, 2012 @ 9:41 pm

  41. Even by FIP, Liriano has been at best worse than league average FIP-wise for the past two years. So if they’e paying him by FIP, they’re pying 6 mil for below average.

    Whether or not they are paying him by FIP isn’t the issue. What they are paying him, certainly, is the lowest they can pay while still having him come to their team. That is informed almost entirely by what other teams are willing to pay for him. If no other team was willing to give him even one year at one million, you can bet he’d go to the Pirates at one year and one million.

    So the question isn’t “what is Liriano worth according to FIP”, it’s “what sort of value does the league put on Liriano and why?” I don’t think the league is valuing Liriano as one with absolute faith in FIP would. The main thing we can probably conclude is that the league is valuing Liriano as someone better, or potentially better, than his ERA suggests.

    Comment by Bip — December 21, 2012 @ 10:05 pm

  42. PNC park is extremely tough on RHB HR, and 77 of his 83 career HR allowed have been to RHB.

    Something to think about.

    Comment by Feeding the Abscess — December 21, 2012 @ 10:40 pm

  43. It’s easy to rack up K’s and have a decent FIP when you just pitch for 4-5 innings a start and nibble all game, barely throwing any strikes. You will either get pounded or rack up a lot of K’s, and still probably get pounded.

    I would have rather the Pirates signed someone like Lohse or Marcum who doesn’t have the “tools” and wipeout stuff that Frakie has but they each have a better feel for pitching.

    Time will tell if this deal works or not but I tend to give up on guys reaching their FIP potential after countless seasons of disappointment.

    Comment by Pat — December 21, 2012 @ 10:43 pm

  44. He was probably getting some one year deals and maybe a cheaper two year deal. They’re not valuing Liriano as someone better than his ERA because of his FIP: They’re valuing him that because of his 2010. Odds are a bunch of low teams offered low end deals and the Pirates put the best low offer in. But plenty of teams other than the Pirates would pay, say, a cheap 1/6 to see if Liriano has a bounceback year, so the Pirates had to go up to 2/14, something nobody else wanted to give him.

    Comment by Ruki Motomiya — December 21, 2012 @ 11:56 pm

  45. Hells to the yeah.

    Comment by ElToroStrikesAgain — December 22, 2012 @ 2:18 am

  46. No mention of Luke Hochevar and his ERA sucktitude?

    Comment by That Guy — December 22, 2012 @ 8:11 am

  47. A bit of an exaggeration, but it doesn’t mean everything. Unquestionably accepting FIP in place of ERA is the kind of uncritical statistical analysis that leads to poor evaluations, see Matt Cain for instance.

    Comment by Yeah — December 22, 2012 @ 11:16 am

  48. RA without the FIP elements has a huge level of noise attributable to chance, to the defense, to the ballpark, and to the pitcher. While FIP captures the most predictability (or, alternatively, SIERA), neither one predict all that much–20 to 30% of the variability. It is not a very good predictor, and should not be overvalued, but the rest of the prediction range is too noisy even to have an opinion. Hence, FIP can be bad and yet better than the alternative of projecting ERA.

    Comment by JoeElPaso — December 22, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

  49. You’re right, and I don’t mean to say that ERA should be the only measure used either, what I really mean is that using either uncritically and as the one stat you look at is bad statistical analysis and basically lazy.

    Comment by Yeah — December 22, 2012 @ 2:06 pm

  50. I’ve noticed that Liriano has very sharp differences in his performance due to the size of the strike zone. I haven’t figured out whether it’s a pitching thing or a gameflow thing or a psychological thing or some of each, but it will be interesting to see how he does with Martin.

    Comment by Tim — December 22, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

  51. The Twins treated it more or less exclusively as a psychological problem. As a biased Twins fan I figure that makes it very likely to be mechanical, but their theory seems worth mentioning.

    Comment by Tim — December 22, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

  52. In a world where Kevin Correia can get 2/10, this doesn’t seem out of line at all.

    Comment by Tim — December 22, 2012 @ 2:24 pm

  53. So wait, why do people agree with this about Liriano but not Greinke?

    Comment by Greg — December 23, 2012 @ 2:17 pm

  54. whatever happened to Erik Bedard?

    Comment by Evan — December 23, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

  55. Really? Because according to actual research, BABIP takes about 8 years to be 50% predictive compared to league BABIP.

    I can’t find anything on strand rate, but a large part of Liriano’s high ERA’s is tied into his high BABIPs and even with his long career we still need to regress his BABIP halfway to the mean.

    I find the DIPS backlash recently to be rather insufferable. It’s true that pitchers have some control over non K and BB events, but most of what shows up in the statistics is noise.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — December 23, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

  56. If it wasn’t clear, I would take somewhere between Liriano’s FIP proection and his ERA projectiong going forward. Definitely not either/or.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — December 23, 2012 @ 11:58 pm

  57. Yes Lohse will probably sign for 2/14.

    Comment by vivaelpujols — December 24, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

  58. “The point of FIP is to predict ERA”

    Actually it isn’t. Its to show how good a pitcher is by himself sans the other 8 players’s defensive influence. Its a counting stat not a predictive one.

    Comment by PL — December 25, 2012 @ 11:05 am

  59. FIP shows the positive and negative effects of team defense behind a pitcher. If the pitcher has a 2.80 FIP and a 4.00 ERA, he’s way better than his ERA. This article is about how those pitchers with the above line are getting paid nowdays, and the ones who simply have a low ERA aren’t.

    I don’t like the examples of Loshe and the other guys who mean losing a draft pick, that’s literally the only reason why they aren’t signed yet. Rafael Soriano could close on almost every team, but he’s still available because of this reason alone. Is next years draft worth losing a pick? I heard it actually was, but that’s been the shift in recent years: drafting well over paying out guys for their decline years.

    Comment by PL — December 25, 2012 @ 11:11 am

  60. It shows if the pitcher is better/worse than his defense. That’s it.

    Comment by PL — December 25, 2012 @ 11:13 am

  61. How do claim to know why the Pirates signed him?

    Comment by evo34 — December 27, 2012 @ 12:03 am

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