Data Dump: Breaking up FIP

There is a lot to be said for component stats. Some say there is an over-reliance on these numbers in the modern internet world. “Some” might be right. Strikeouts, walks, home runs allowed are the foundation of invaluable tools like Fielding Independent Pitching. These components, however you take them, tell a story.

They describe pitchers who limit damage by keeping runners off the basepaths and the ball in the park – skills essential to effective big league pitching. Rather than shoving these rates into a mathematical stew to create semi-esoteric numbers, let’s throw a bunch of pitchers and their numbers (Strikeout differential K%-BB% and home runs per ball in play) and see how they rate.

All starting pitchers with 300 innings pitched over the last three seasons are represented below. As noted above, K differential is the x axis while HR/BIP is the Y. Why HR per ball in play? There is less wiggle room in terms of stat stringers definitions of what makes a line drive or a fly ball or whatever. Which is a longer way of saying ballpark matters. Correcting for ballpark is important but a good team shapes its roster around the environment in which they compete.

Using ground ball rate might also suffice but there is more than one way to “Matt Cain” a cat. Again, fly balls aren’t bad in and of themselves if the pitcher who favours them is supplied the correct place to ply his trade.

Enough preamble: on to the charty goodness. These are combined over the last three seasons with the red lines representing the averages of this grouping and providing us with some tidy little quadrants to work with. The actual league average numbers are slightly lower as cups of coffee and swing starters shallow up the gene pool.

Some pretty clear clusters emerge: the lower right is the aces/number one starters, above them the #2s and good #3s. The lower left quadrant is the wide swath of 4th/5th starters, innings eaters and Twins bait. Guys who consistently get work. They may not miss too many bats but they seem to keep the ball off the barrel, as they say. That counts for something.

The upper left is the village of the damned. Too many walks or too few strikeouts with too many home runs.

More assorted observations:

  • Special shoutout to Rich Harden who barely qualified but I excluded him anyway. His insanely high HR/BIP made this thing impossible to read and his innings were so low I don’t feel bad axing him. Sorry, Canada.
  • Edwin Jackson is the most average pitcher in baseball. Seriously, he could not be any closer to the intersection of these two league averages. Buyer beware, as we detailed before.
  • Gio Gonzalez is equally average though more pronouncedly in the “good” corner of life. Dave Cameron points out that Gio keeps good company and this image supports it.
  • Why did the Reds give up so much for Mat Latos? Even if his home runs increase, he still finds himself in the middle of a damn good group of starters.
  • Joe Saunders wants a three-year deal. Me thinks he won’t quite get there.
  • Roy Halladay is better at everything than you are at anything.
  • Is C.J. Wilson somewhat underrated? Anyone who can keep the ball in the park while playing his home games in Texas has a lot going for him, we all quickly forgot. See, Lewis, Colby.
  • Brandon Morrow and Ricky Nolasco should start a support group for fantasy owners. So tantalizing!

Let me know in the comments if you want to know where a specific pitcher sits. Does seeing pitchers divided in this manner change your mind on anyone? Is the HR/BIP a sticking point for you? There is literally nothing else going on, let’s talk about pitching on the internet instead of staring out the window waiting for spring.

Stats courtesy of Fangraphs, as you probably assumed.

Comments (43)

  1. I’m assuming Halladay is the Guess Who?
    Where sits Ricky Romero? Brett Cecil?

    • Romero is 9.8/3.27, just below the Edwin Jackson circle of competence.

      Cecil is 8.3/4.53 aka very not good at all.

      Shaun Marcum is the only other Jays-related guy I can think of. He does pretty well at 13.7/3.85. Right in Garza’s territory.

  2. I’d like to see the Jays pitchers highlighted, especially Romero.

  3. How many pitchers are represented with the 300-inning cutoff? Seems like a large number. Though as bored as I am, I don’t feel like counting dots.

  4. Very interesting. I would be curious to see where Mark Buehrle falls on here.

  5. Yes. Would definitely like to see where the Jays starters would lie, although I’m sure a few of them didtn’t mee the inning criteria. I miss Roy Halladay.

  6. Could you colour-code the dots so that a team’s #1 is blue, #2 is green, and so on?

    • That’s a lot of dots. And what of the players who changed teams? Again, this is a three year sample.

      • I was hoping to look for a clear visual pattern to the “the lower right is the aces/number one starters, above them the #2s and good #3s. The lower left quadrant is the wide swath of 4th/5th starters, innings eaters and Twins bait.”

        And also see how many teams (other than Philly) that have 2s & 3s in the bottom right, and which teams have none.

        When I think about it, it may be a lot of extra work, and I do appreciate what you’ve done here – your graphs are some of my favourite pieces!

  7. I’m surprised about Gio. This definitely changed my opinion of him but I’m glad we didn’t get him. He may be in the proper quadrant but he’s awfully close to a #2/#3 and #4/#5.

  8. Seems Morrow keeps some good company: Nolasco, Hamels, Weaver, Haren.

    Who is the other dot in that small cluster?

  9. hey, cool chart! just wondering where and which pitchers the following players are close to:

    1) Jurrjens
    2) A.J Brunett (he has to hav 300 IP!, you would think lol)
    3) Chad Billingsly* spl error!
    4) Carlos Zambranno
    5)David Price
    6) James Shields
    Thanks a lot for doing this Drew!

    • Jurrjens: 8.3/2.78 (not bad, lower left, above Masterson)

      Burnett: 9.9/4.6 (terrible. So bad.)

      Billingsley: 10.8/2.24 (just inside the really good corner)

      Big Z: 8.6/2.72 (Jurrjens and R.A. Dickey in his neighhbourhood.)

      David Price: 13.3/3.345 (right above Oswalt)

      James Shields: 14.7/4.35 (up near Vasquez, bad 2010 dooms him)

      Other guys with Shields: Scherzer, Baker, Beckett.

  10. This is fantastic. I’m currently scouring the list for guys that I’d call “underrated” or “overrated” based on this information. (Love that EJax is exactly in the middle. He is clearly just “rated”)

    Any thoughts on that? anyone you see as being underrated or overrated? I’m thinking Garcia is underrated, and maybe J Johnson too… Some people recognize how good he is, but it seems a lot overlook him.

  11. where would Yu Darvish be? Japan numbers with salt of course

  12. I recognize it’s apples and oranges, but what about Yu Darvish’s placement on this graph using NPB stats, Drew?

  13. Jaime Garcia being in the lower right surprises me a bit because he’s not really an overpowering “ace” type pitcher (FB velocity averages about 89 for career), but I suppose he does limit the damage by not walking people…

  14. Damn. Using Yu Darvish’s raw NBP stats, his K%-BB% is 22.5% and his HR/BIP is 1.2%. So he’d be off the charts good against weaker competition. Wow.

  15. Jon niese! Please!

  16. Superb! Now I’m back to my window and getting next weeks kegels done

  17. I’d love to see where C.C. Sabathia fits on this graph.

  18. Scratch that. I see him now- all 300 lbs of him

  19. Great work Drew !

  20. I’m a year late to this, but this is terrific! (Cue Josh Johnson boner!)

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