Breaking Down The Best Rotations Of All Time

The Detroit Tigers starters currently have a 2.54 FIP, which translates into a FIP- of 62, easily the best in baseball. In fact, it’s easily the best FIP- in baseball history, and as I wrote a month ago, Detroit’s starters have a chance to write themselves into the history books with their 2013 performance. But, instead of just writing a post updating their pace — they’d basically need to post a FIP- of 83 the rest of the way to break the record for best FIP relative to league average — I thought it might be interesting to look at how the best rotations in baseball history dominated.

For instance, the narrative around the Tigers current rotation mostly has to do with their strikeouts. They are on pace to shatter the all time record for strikeouts by a rotation, and the swing-and-miss stuff possessed by guys like Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer makes it easy to credit the strikeout rate as the primary driver of their success. However, once you compare the individual components to the league average, their strikeout rate becomes just a part of the story, and maybe not even the biggest part.

To help illustrate each staff’s strengths and weaknesses, I created three index stats; one each for strikeout rate, walk rate, and home run rate. For each number, I divided the rotation’s performance in that metric by the league average for that league season (so AL matched against AL, NL against NL), giving us BB-, K+, and HR- (minus for BB/HR since lower is better), with each team’s FIP component graded relative to that year’s baseline. Nine teams — including the Tigers and Cardinals this year, since it is easier to perform at an elite level for two months than six months — have gotten a FIP- below 80 from their starting pitchers. Here are how those nine teams stack up by their components relative to league average.

Season Team IP FIP- K+ HR- BB-
2013 Tigers 323 62 139 47 79
2013 Cardinals 338 75 115 47 85
2011 Phillies 1064.2 77 120 73 68
1971 White Sox 1194.1 77 114 73 85
1996 Braves 1026.2 78 121 69 87
1997 Braves 1096.2 78 110 66 73
2002 Diamondbacks 1059.1 79 137 103 69
1998 Braves 1074.2 79 120 67 83
1970 Cubs 1119 79 113 98 78

The Tigers strikeout rate is amazing, coming at 39 percent better than league average, and is clearly a big part of their dominance. However, the 2002 Diamondbacks posted an adjusted strikeout rate almost as high, and a bunch of deadball teams actually posted K+ rates even higher, so what the Tigers are doing with their strikeouts isn’t historically unprecedented. Instead, it’s the lack of home runs that is really driving their success.

Tigers starters have a combined 0.56 HR/9, less than half of the AL average 1.18 HR/9 for starting pitchers. Likewise, the Cardinals home run rate is even lower (0.45 HR/9), but there are far fewer balls flying out of NL parks right now, so their rate adjusted for league average is equal to Detroit’s so far. And both of these numbers are just absurd, relative to what teams have posted historically.

The last time a team’s starting rotation posted a home run rate that was less than half of the league average? 1937, when the Cincinnati Reds allowed 0.24 home runs per nine innings against a league average of 0.50. In fact, the three lowest HR- rates of all time all belong to the Reds: 1923 (36 HR-), 1925 (41 HR-), and 1937 (48 HR-), thanks to the joy of pitching in Crosley Field. If we went even further and park adjusted these numbers, those Reds performances would rise substantially, as Baseball-Statistics.com notes these fun facts about the Reds old home park:

Here’s a clue as to how difficult it was to hit a home run in old Redland Park: in 1920, the Reds pitchers gave up a grand total of one dinger to opposing hitters in their home park. Back then, the park was symmetrical – it was 360 feet down each line and 420 feet to center. The park was open almost a decade before Pat Duncan hit the first over-the-fence home run, on June 2, 1921. And in 1924, just 6 home runs were hit at Crosley, while the Reds and their opponents smacked 60 in the Reds’ road games.

So, basically, the 2013 Tigers and Cardinals are allowing home runs at a rate only seen from teams that played 75 years ago in perhaps the hardest park in baseball history in which to hit a home run. The strikeouts play a part in home run prevention — it is hard to hit the ball over the fence if you don’t first hit the ball — but other teams have struck out batters at similar rates and not been able to suppress home runs like the Tigers and Cardinals have. It’s the combination of lots of strikeouts and no home runs that explains the Tigers rotation dominance, though their walk rate has been plenty good as well.

But, besides just focusing on the Tigers, it’s interesting to look at how the other great staffs achieved their success. The 2011 Phillies didn’t walk anyone, and have the best BB- of the rotations listed above. The 2002 Diamondbacks just controlled the strike zone entirely, posting the second lowest walk rate and second highest strikeout rate, but they gave up some home runs as part of the trade-off.

Then there’s the 1996 to 1998 Braves rotations. It’s saying something that a team has only gotten a FIP- below 80 from their starters seven times over a full season, and three of those seven came in back-to-back-to-back years from basically the same group of pitchers. There’s a reason those mid-90s Braves staffs are considered the best of all time. Their remarkable dominance over 3,000+ innings is really incredible, and look at the consistency of their home run numbers; 69, 66, 67. The walks and strikeouts bounced around a little bit, but they just kept giving up about 2/3 as many home runs as other starting staffs, even though home run rate has the most noise of the three true outcome stats.

I think it’s probably fair to say that those teams established something like the lower bound of HR- over any sustained period of time for starting pitchers. You didn’t need this post to know that the Tigers and Cardinals home run rates are in for some regression, but I think it’s worth noting just how far removed from something considered normal both teams staffs have been.

The good news for the Tigers is that when the ball starts going over the fence again, they’re still going to have the strikeouts and walks, and barring injury, they’re still going to make a real run at the title of best single season rotation performance in baseball history.




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Dave is a co-founder of USSMariner.com and contributes to the Wall Street Journal.


72 Responses to “Breaking Down The Best Rotations Of All Time”

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  1. D says:

    Aren’t the Braves underrated by FIP- mainly because Maddux does not get credit for consistently having a lower ERA than FIP? I believe over a 4 year period, his FIP was 1 run higher than his ERA. Is 4 seasons luck or skill?

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    • Big Three says:

      I think you mean Glavine. In that three year period, Maddux had a negative E-F, but it was only ~0.2 runs or so. Glavine’s E-F for those three years was -0.5, -1, and -1 (approximately). Smoltz had a slightly positive E-F, of the same magnitude of Maddux’ negative E-F.

      Never hurts to check the data on the very site that has it at your fingertips.

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      • D says:

        Yup, was looking at the wrong years, my bad.

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      • harpago17 says:

        I think a partial answer to both of those, at least for that time period, was Andruw Jones. Guy was phenomenal defensively during the late 90’s

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        • Yeah says:

          I doubt a single player could have made such a large impact, even Andruw.

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        • Ivan Grushenko says:

          Well the defense did save 191 runs above average according to Fangraphs during those 3 years — about 60 runs/year, and the ERA- was 76 vs 79 for FIP-. Defense could have been the difference, and Andruw saved about 20 runs/year above average so he might have been about 1/3 of the difference.

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        • NRJyzr says:

          I’m surprised no one has mentioned the not infrequently generous strike zone afforded Atlanta pitching…

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        • David says:

          The things I would do to have Pitch F/X backdated…

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      • Joe says:

        Wouldn’t Smoltz’s FIP most likely be lower than his ERA relative to Glavine and Maddux since he relied on defense less (a good Atlanta defense, supposedly).

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    • Dave Cameron says:

      For his career, Maddux had an ERA- of 76 and a FIP- of 77. He had some seasons where it was higher, some where it was lower.

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    • DJG says:

      “Aren’t the Braves underrated by FIP-”

      Yes, probably. If you look at something like ERA+, the ’97 Braves starters blow away what the Tigers are doing this year. In fact, the ’13 Tigers haven’t been historically great by ERA+ (the Rangers starters have been better this year).

      I get all the reasons why Dave used FIP, but the title of this post should come with an asterisk (*By Fielding Independent Stats).

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      • Dave Cameron says:

        Using ERA to evaluate a pitching staff that is supported by Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder (among others) is not a good idea.

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        • DJG says:

          Yes, I get that. But assuming you can parse out the greatest rotations of all-time using only FIP is also probably not a good idea.

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        • Ivan Grushenko says:

          Well sure nothing is a perfect idea, but this doesn’t seem to be a bad idea.

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        • DJG says:

          Well, Dave’s results should at least be taken with a medium to medium-large sized grain of salt. Keeping with the ’97 Braves example, using B-R WAR which accounts for defense and park, the Braves rotation produced 4.50 WAR per 200 innings, the Tigers currently are at 4.06 WAR. So “a real run at the title of best single season rotation performance in baseball history”. Eh… I’m dubious.

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      • Ben Hall says:

        “I get all the reasons why Dave used FIP, but the title of this post should come with an asterisk (*By Fielding Independent Stats).”

        This is a good point. Though it would make for a less interesting title.

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    • Ivan Grushenko says:

      Even more underrated by this metric than the Braves were the 1871 White Stockings who had an ERA- of 57 and a FIP- of 83. George Zettlein knew how to pitch to the defense.

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  2. Dgood says:

    If anything this just makes me appreciate how good the Mid 90’s Braves were. Amazing.

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  3. NWein44 says:

    The Tigers starters, while generally fantastic, are also going to the changeup more often this year. http://newenglishd.com/2013/05/30/a-changeup-in-the-tigers-pitching-approach/

    It certainly appears to be working for them. Worth noting Porcello has a 19.4% HR/FB rate, so his HR rate will come down as the others go up. Excellent comparison piece, Dave.

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  4. awalnoha says:

    Actually it was the 2 years prior, 94/95, that Maddux ERA was “bannanas” low. It was much lower than his FIP. In the 96-98 years it was right in line. Smoltz was also close. Glavine would be the one that had the lower ERA than FIP and it was much lower for him through the 90’s and ealry 2000’s. So the arguemtn could be made for Glavine as his FIP did not become simlar to his ERA until later in his career.

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  5. Anon says:

    I like the adjustment for league and season.

    Any thought to adjust for park as well? Both the Cardinals and Tigers benefit to some extent from HR suppressing home stadiums.

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  6. Ron says:

    Thanks for finding and posting this info Dave. The rotation has been great. Unfortunately the bullpen and Leyland’s management of same is a partial reason for lack of success.
    Add in Lloyd McClendon’s inability to help many hitters this year and the previous seasons, is frustratiing to Tigers fans. Among other things that aren’t a bright sport for the team.

    I was wondering just where the 2 Championship teams of 1968 and 1984 did with the numbers?

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  7. Voxx says:

    Unfortunately, I’m not sure the Cardinals can sustain the pitching as well as the Tigers can. Injuries, abnormal HR rates and mediocre team defense (outside of Yadi, of course) will bring them back to the pack pretty abruptly.

    I think the bullpen is probably better than it has been, though, so that should help.

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    • Josh says:

      I’d argue that the Tigers defense is worse. Jackson and Hunter are great, but the infield includes Cabrera, Fielder, and Peralta. That’s hardly a top notch defensive alignment. They also likely won’t be hit by home run regression quite as badly as the Tigers, given that they are an NL team. And the Cards have insane pitching depth, with at least 6 starters who would be no worse than 3rd in most rotations. I’m not saying they won’t regress (they will), but I don’t think it will be any worse than the Tigers’ regression.

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      • Voxx says:

        Cardinals just don’t have the strikeout potential to be truly dominant, pitching-wise. They rely on HR suppression and limiting walks to be effective.

        I’m a Cardinals fan, mind you – so I hope I’m wrong. But I just worry.

        Wainwright, Lynn, Miller, Wacha, Lyons is respectable, but that’s a lot of youth. Garcia being gone kills them, and Westbrook isn’t… worth a rotation spot on a contending team. Dude is effectively a 1:1 K/BB pitcher at this point in his career who can only be effective if he gives insanely lucky with double plays after the plentiful hits/walks.

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        • StL to Chi says:

          How are you a cards fan and still overvalue strike outs so much? Everyoneknows the cards relie on ground balls which means sabermetrics undervalue them….several years of results under Duncan and Lilliquist show that groundballers can be very eeffective even with moderate defenses. …you don’t have to be a huge strike our pitcher to dominate a game…

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  8. Commodore says:

    I know that everyone wants it to be the late ’90s again, but the early 1920s were 90 years ago, not 75.

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  9. The 1954 Indians had a decent staff; Bob Feller was the team’s fourth-best starter that season. The aging Bullet Bob went 13-3 [yeah, yeah, I know] with a 120 ERA-plus.

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  10. Mike says:

    I don’t expect the HR rate to stay the same, also the tigers have little to no depth outside the starting five. Home runs can also be kind of flukey which is why xfip, imo is better.

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    • Dave K says:

      No depth outside of the starting five?

      Over 32 innings of relief, Smiley has a FIP of 2.21. Not many other teams have a starter pitching that well out of the pen should someone need some time off for injury.

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      • Mike says:

        Smiley has been impressive, I just meant that they don’t have a starter in waiting like some teams do. I am not convinced that Smiley would be as successful were he a starter.

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    • Frank C says:

      xFIP is great for projecting future performance, but that’s it. In historical comparison pieces, it has little to no reason for usage.

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      • Mike says:

        I disagree, I think when speaking about Hr/9 rates it is very useful and it is superior to fip. Siera is superior to both and kind of makes me wonder why it is isn’t used more in cases like this.

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    • pitnick says:

      xFIP is interesting to look at, but from what I’ve seen, it’s less predictive than FIP.

      Agree that that home run rate will probably jump though.

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  11. Sam says:

    Does FIP- include park adjustments? If so, are the park adjustments based on total run environment (like ERA-), or are they based on specialized FIP environments (i.e. only looking at HR/SO/BB rates in each park)?

    If it’s the former, you’re going to overrate teams in high r/BIP parks and underrate teams in low r/BIP parks (just like fWAR does). If a hitters park is only a hitters park because it’s conducive to a high BABIP, FIP- should treat it as a neutral park.

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  12. kevinthecomic says:

    Weren’t those negative ERA – FIP due to the Braves defense, especially Andruw Jones as it relates to Glavine? Take Jones out of center and replace him with an average defender, and Glavine’s ERA goes up.

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    • DJG says:

      Glavine pretty consistently posted lower ERAs than FIPs even when he didn’t play with Jones. Some guys just do.

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      • Ivan Grushenko says:

        The 1991-1995 Braves were +67 fielding according to Fangraphs, or about +15 runs/year. OK it’s not the +60 runs/year like the 1996-1998 Braves but it’s still very good.

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    • bravemarine says:

      No, they weren’t really due to AJ in the 3 yrs of the study above.
      Jones played only 224 total innings as a late season 19 yr old call up in ’96; only 71 in CF. That’s statistically pretty meaningless. In ’97 it was only a bit over half a seasons worth overall, 973 innings, but again less than half that, 415, in CF. More influence certainly but not the primary/major impact you suggest. It wasn’t till ’98 he became the starter in CF and it could be argued his defense skewed the numbers of the pitching staff.

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  13. Wobatus says:

    I went looking at some of the Philadelphia Athletics teams of the early 20th Century. But their great era – scores were much lower than their FIP-. In 1909 or 1910 the E-F was like -.40. I guess that really was the $100,000 infield with Frank “Home Run” Baker, Stuffy McInnis, Eddie Collins and Jack Barry.

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  14. Josh M says:

    Whats amazing is the Tigers have two of the best hitters in baseball, a great rotation and are still just only the 8th best team in baseball

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    • Mike says:

      they have the 2nd best run dif…

      The gulf between their expected win % and actual is significant.

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      • Bobby Bonilla says:

        Their manager and bullpen suck, that pretty much explains the difference.

        Stupid doesn’t regress to the mean.

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  15. shoewizard says:

    Wilbur Wood. Amazing.

    The 71 White Sox kinda stick out here. 79-83 WL, 83-79 Pythag, (+20 run diff) and offense wasn’t that horrible, (95 OPS+).

    Everyone remembers Wood’s great year, (or most do) and obviously throwing 334 innings weights things kinda nicely.

    But how many remember TOm Bradley. In his first full season at age 24 that guy made 39 starts and appeared in relief 6 times. In all he threw 285 Inn, struck out 206, walked 74 and gave up 16 HR. 7.4 WAR ! He made another 40 starts, 260 IP the next year, (5.8 WAR) and then “only” 35 starts 224 IP the next year as his ERA jumped a full run run and WAR dropped to 2.8, and then faded out fast. Talk about burning out a young pitcher quickly. The early 70’s were crazy for workload. Amazing how some guys came through it as well as they did.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1001316&position=P#advanced

    And that staff had Tommy John too, but that was probably not one of his better pre surgery seasons, although he gave them over 220 innings.

    Anyway, pretty interesting team to show up on this list. 3rd in K’s, 3rd in walks and 2nd in homers in their league that year. SOmehow they just seem out of place on this list.

    1970 Cubs pretty interesting too. Jenkins of course the big dog there, but good seasons from Kenny Holtzman and Bill Hands. Again with all the starts and ip. That team was 10 games under their Pythag ! (84-78 vs. 94-68). When I was a kid I loved playing the 1970 Cubs in strat though. Jim Hickman !

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  16. Pete says:

    How did the 2002-2003 Yankees not enter this conversation?

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  17. Asterisk says:

    So Dave, I’m sure there’s much more data on this somewhere but I am wondering. If the current research is making findings that DIPS and our current understanding of pitcher-isolated value underrates ground-ball heavy pitchers a bit, could it be true that it overrates strikeout pitchers a bit, too? Has there been work done on this?

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  18. Nick in ATL says:

    Not sure if it’s significant, but I think it’s sorta neat that the Braves HR- didn’t move after the relocation from The Launching Pad to The Ted in ’97.

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  19. jaroto says:

    Why is the Braves staff (’96-’98) the only multi-year staff on the list? Everyone expected the Phillies staff to be dominant for years, and it only last one (2011).

    Is it that difficult for 5 quality pictures to pitch consistently for consecutive years?

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  20. Phil says:

    FIP always underrated Glavine because Glavine threw very few pitches over the heart of the plate. FIP assumes that a fastball down the middle that is put into play should go for a hit the same percentage of the time as a fastball down and away right on the edge that is put into play.

    FIP does not take into account that certain pitches are harder to hit than others, therefore pitchers that throw pitches in good spots like Glavine always get underrated by FIP and pitchers like Blanton that throw tons of pitches over the heart of the plate always have a much higher ERA than FIP.

    FIP says that Glavine is lucky because he had 3 pitches on the edge or outside the strike zone put into play and that Blanton is unlucky that he allowed 3 hits on 2 fastballs belt high over the heart of the plate and a hanging slider. It has nothing to do with luck, Glavine allows fewer hits than most because the balls that are put into play against him are pitches that are difficult to hit, Blanton isn’t unlucky he just throws a ton of pitches over the heart of the plate that are super easy to hit.

    Essentially FIP is fairly useless without looking at each individual pitch that was put into play. According to FIP a 50 mph fastball down the middle should turn into a hit as often as a 95 mph fastball down the middle provided both are put into play. Or that a flat slider belt high is as easy to hit as a 95 mph fastball low and away 2 feet off the plate(obviously you shouldn’t try to put this ball in play but it does happen; looking at you Josh Hamilton). FIP assumes that every pitch that was put into play has an equal chance of becoming a hit yet simple logic says that the chance of a ball being put into going for a hit is dependent upon the pitches location, movement, velocity, the individual hitters strength and weaknesses, what pitch the hitter was looking for and how well the hitter is seeing the ball on that specific day.

    FIP might be fielder independent but in my opinion it is still a useless stat because it is not pitcher dependent(it assumes that every pitcher throws the exact same quality of pitches on every individual pitch that is put into play, which if you’ve ever played or watched even 1 game you know is not true.). Just my 2 cents.

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    • NEPP says:

      Yes, the exception to the rule most definitely means the entire rule itself is null and void.

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    • Andy says:

      That is ridiculous, though most deliberately provocative statements are.

      FIP is not “useless”. It does a fairly good job of predicting future ERA. xFIP is better,and SIERRA is slightly better still, but FIP is far from useless. The studies which prove this statement are very easy to find.

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      • Phil says:

        Andy I did not make the statement to be deliberately provocative, I just made an honest mistake in my choice of words when using useless and choose to strong of a word. I should have said something like it is not that accurate of a method of measuring a pitcher’s true performance, in my own opinion. Again I’m sorry just a poor choice of words on my part.

        I know about the studies that are in favor of FIP. I wasn’t trying to discredit anyone’s work or call anyone stupid.
        All I was saying is that FIP is only right if the assumption that any ball that is put into play has an equal chance of being a hit(disregarding defense). Simple logic says that every ball that is put into play DOES NOT have an equal chance of being a hit. Certain pitches are easier to hit than others. Do you honestly believe that a fastball belt high down the middle of the plate put into play has the same chance of being a hit as a fastball 2 feet off the plate outside and 1 inch off the ground? Or that a flat belt high slider down the middle from an opposite handed pitcher has the same chance of going for a hit as a 99mph fastball low and away right on the edge from a same handed pitcher? My point is that very simple logic says that not every ball that is put into play has the same chance of being a hit. FIP says the opposite; that every ball put into play has an equal chance of going for a hit, and I vehemently disagree with that.

        If every ball put into play has an equal chance of being a hit then why don’t hitters swing at every pitch they know they can put into play? Why don’t pitchers try to throw every pitch down the heart of the plate?(If a fastball down the middle is as hard to hit as a fastball down and away why not throw the pitch you know is easier to aim?) Why when you’re watching a game do you groan when a hitter on your team takes a fastball right down the middle but you don’t groan when they take a fastball down and away? Why when you were a kid and you played baseball did you hope the pitcher would throw you a really slow pitch with no movement right down the center of the plate?

        Also why does fastball velocity matter for a pitcher? I mean if a 95mph down the middle isn’t harder to hit than a 80 mph fastball down the middle there can only be 2 possible conclusions. One is that velocity is unimportant and that everyone that has ever said that fastball velocity matters is wrong. Two is that the assumption that every pitch has an equal chance of being hit once it is put into play regardless of location, velocity or movement(this is what FIP says) is wrong.

        Unless someone can answer these questions and logically explain to me the reasoning behind location, velocity and movement having no effect on how often a ball in play turns into a hit I will continue to believe that FIP is not a helpful stat and I will continue to disregard it.

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        • NickUM says:

          I think the logic goes that if a pitcher really does throw pitches that are harder to hit, then it should manifest itself in a higher strikeout rate.

          Think of it like this. There is a certain amount of error in every batters swing, either directionally or time wise. He can swing low or high, late or early or just right. You can represent hitter error on a bell curve by a normal distribution. The ends of the distribution represent large error or swings and misses. The middle of the distribution represents batted ball contact.

          So when determing a pitchers true ability, we are measuring their ability to generate hitter error. So if youre arguing that a pitcher that turns an abnormal amount of his batted balls into outs is really that good, then youre arguing that they have a differently shaped curve of hitter error induced. One that would be small on the ends with few Ks, small in the middle with few hard hit balls, and fat in between with a lot of weak contact.

          Most pitchers follow a similar hitter error curve, after all pitchers want a hitters error to be as large as possible and they will pitch to that. Some may pitch to contact and some may have very slight late movement that is enough to make contact worse but not miss a bat entirely. Those pitchers are typically exceptions to the rule though.

          The reason is that you rarely see pitchers with fip – era differentials that are consistently large season to season.

          While I think pitchers have some control over how hard of contact they allow, they have no control over WHERE a ball is hit, and that is the crux of the argument. Some pitchers in small samples are unlucky with ball placement and some have bad defenses that they shouldnt be penalized for.

          Maybe a metric that analyzes FB, LD, and GB rates to compute expected babip and then inserts that to make an ERA adjustment is a better metric. FIp has its purposes and its not perfect. But to act like some pitchers only toss up meatballs and some only throw wicked unhittable stuff is too dismissive of the value of defense independent stats.

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        • DCN says:

          The thing with that theory is that it’s not absolute. Different pitching styles produce weak contact and strikeouts at different rates.

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        • Phil says:

          Nick I agree completely with almost all of what you said. You are right about hitter error as far as aiming the bat and the timing of the hitters swing. I agree that the vast majority of pitchers over a large sample size will generate very similar hitter error frequency and that there are very few pitchers who are exceptions to this rule.

          I also agree that pitchers have very little control over where the ball is hit; that is why although I disagree with FIP I agree with the overall DIPS theory. I also agree that pitchers should not be penalized for defense as they have no control over this.

          The only thing I disagree with you on is that I do not think that pitchers have some control over how hard the ball is hit; in a large sample I believe they have close to total control (say 95%) on how hard the ball is hit. FIP agrees with you that pitchers only have a little control over how hard the ball is hit. I believe that in a large sample pitchers control almost all of how hard the ball is hit. Since like you said in a large sample hitter error will be close to equal for all pitchers what determines how hard the ball is hit(for pitchers) is location, velocity and movement. In my opinion a pitcher completely controls their individual control, movement and velocity. That is the crux of my argument; that while DIPS theory is right that pitchers can’t control WHERE the ball is hit they do control HOW HARD the ball is hit dependent on their location, movement and velocity(in that order).

          I was not trying to sound dismissive of defense independent stats (if I made it sound like I did then I am sorry) I was just trying to point out that while defense independent stats are great because they attempt to neutralize the things that pitchers can’t control(defense) they also have a fairly big weakness in that while they neutralize what the pitcher can’t control(defense) they also neutralize what the pitcher can control(the quality of pitches that they throw) by assuming that all pitchers throw equal quality of pitches(on pitches put in play). FIP may be defense independent but it is definitely not pitcher dependent as it does not take into account the location, movement or velocity of the pitch that was put into play.

          My point is that the most important skill for a pitcher is the quality of pitch thrown and FIP neutralizes this skill and assigns an average value to balls put in play. I was not saying that some pitchers throw nothing but great pitches and some throw nothing but junk. I was trying to say that the percentage of good pitches thrown is far, far and away the most important skill for a pitcher and is completely dismissed by FIP. I get that this skill is extremely difficult to account for but that does not mean it should be dismissed.

          I guess for me it is simple, the thing that a pitcher has far and away the most control over is the quality of pitches that they throw and for balls put into play FIP just assigns each pitcher a generic value that isn’t dependent on the pitcher but instead is dependent on what the average of the entire population does. While it makes sense to assign the average value for hitter error and defensive error since the pitcher has no control over this, the pitcher has total control over their individual average pitch quality therefore it is wrong to use the population’s average for something the pitcher themself has total control over especially considering that this skill is essentially the most important skill a pitcher can either possess or not possess.
          I agree with you that a better way would be a metric that computes individual expected BABIP to make an ERA adjustment would be better. I’ve thought for a while now the best way would be to assign a value to each pitch a pitcher throws similar to how defensive plays are graded. The way you mentioned using LD, GB and FB rate could work as well.

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    • DCN says:

      Come on, man. I’m all for looking beyond FIP in cases like that, but FIP is not “useless.” It is sometimes over-applied, but overall it has a very good use and the reason it exists is that it has this use (predicting future pitcher performance).

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  21. awalnoha says:

    On the Glavine thing and good defense, Glavine was quoted as saying that he would rather walk a guys with men on or with bases loaded then groove a fastball. As such I would think that a BB in FIP hurts a lot more than a hit. So his walks would elevate his FIP. You can get more fielding independent than a walk. He always walked a lot of guys. That was his MO. Davemany thoughts.

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  22. Merkle's Boner Pill says:

    What Phil said.

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