In continuing with the sabermetrics analysis of our Washington Nationals, Scott Eastment will be breaking down another extremely pertinent SABR statistic known as FIP. Fielding Independent Pitching is similar to ERA+ in that sense that it is another way of putting every pitcher in Major League Baseball on a level playing field. It does this by measuring what a pitcher’s Earned Run Average (ERA) should be assuming that their team’s defensive performance on balls in play was completely average.
The FIP sabermetric deals with the fact that pitchers have very little control of a ball once it is in play. This is why it looks at more specific occurrences that he can control, such as home runs, walks, strikeouts, and hit by pitches. Any hit that stays in the ballpark technically cannot be controlled by the pitcher, which is why home runs are the only offensive statistic taken into account.
The actual formula used to find a player’s FIP is as follows:
FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant
The constant is used to allow the FIP and ERA numbers to coincide and hangs around 3.20. The ‘scale’ will generally range from about 2.90 (Excellent) to 5.00 (Horrible), with the average usually hanging around 4.00. One thing to point out here is that the constant is always changing in order to make sure that the league average ERA and league average FIP are IDENTICAL.
FIP has been proven to be a much stronger predictor of future success than ERA, while ERA+ deals more in present analysis. It also takes into account the fact that walks and strikeouts are not as important as home runs allowed, and weighs these numbers accordingly. The Washington Nationals pitching staff for the 2014 season posted these FIP numbers last season:
SP Jordan Zimmerman: 3.33
SP Stephen Strasburg: 3.18
SP Gio Gonzalez: 3.38
SP Doug Fister: 3.26
SP Ross Detwiler: 3.64
CL Rafael Soriano: 3.62
RP Craig Stammen: 2.79
RP Tyler Clippard: 3.79
RP Drew Storen: 3.59
RP Jerry Blevins: 3.88
RP Ryan Mattheus: 3.42
RP Christian Garcia: 3.73 (2012 statistics, DNP in 2013)
SP/RP Taylor Jordan: 3.47
SP/RP Ross Ohlendorf: 3.99
SP/RP Tanner Roark: 2.39
So, what do these numbers tell us about the Washington Nationals pitching staff? Well, as we already knew, this is a legitimately stacked bunch of pitchers. It also shows that Stephen Strasburg was much better than his 8-9 record last season and that Craig Stammen is a freak of nature. I would be willing to bet there is no other team in the league that can boast an entire staff with FIPs below the league average of 4.00. If these guys put up similar numbers in the 2014 season (which is expected), then the offense will be in control of what happens with this team.