What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

As the calendar turns and baseball fans start counting down the days to when Pitchers and Catchers report, Fantasy players begin to worry more about the Pitchers than the Catchers. When it comes to being successful at this game, the most difficult challenge is always predicting the performance of starting pitchers. There are certainly a dozen or so fairly reliable commodities (think Clayton Kershaw, Felix Hernandez and others) but even if you manage to roster one of those stars, you still need 4-5 other rotation members. The inconsistency of these other hurlers equates to finding any tool that might help you draft the SP’s that won’t make you cry by Memorial Day.

 

In an earlier visit, we talked about an advanced pitching metric called “Fielding Independent Pitching” (FIP), which measures what a player’s ERA would have been if the pitcher were to have experienced league average on balls in play. A similar stat called “Defensive Independent Pitching Statistics” (DIPS) addresses the same concept. You can find a pitcher’s FIP at “fangraphs.com” and his DIPS at “espn.com”, but the premise is to determine if a pitcher was lucky or unlucky in a given season. While this is only one measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness, it might help determine if you go the extra dollar (or wait that extra round) when choosing a pitcher in your league.

 

Based on a comparison of ERA versus FIP in 2015, there were 13 SP’s whose ERA should have been at least a half run (0.49) better than the actual results…

 

1) Carlos Carrasco, Indians – 3.63 ERA, 2.84 FIP = .79 differential…seems to be targeted in every trade rumor during the off-season.

 

2) Rick Porcello, Red Sox – 4.92 ERA, 4.13 FIP = .79 differential…two consecutive years on this list, so maybe he’s unlucky and lousy?

 

3) Gio Gonzalez, Nationals – 3.79 ERA, 3.05 FIP = 0.74 differential…the forgotten man in the Nats rotation, so maybe he’ll finally be under-rated instead of over-rated?

 

4) Jeff Samardzija, White Sox – 4.96 ERA, 4.23 FIP = .73 differential…moves to a NL park with big dimensions.

 

5) Chris Sale, White Sox – 3.41 ERA, 2.73 FIP = 0.68 differential…when you watch him pitch, you wonder how he could have a record of only 13-11.

 

6) Wade Miley, Mariners – 4.46 ERA, 3.81 FIP = 0.65 differential…got off to a horrible start in Boston and now moves to a pitcher’s park.

 

7) Kyle Hendricks, Cubs – 3.95 ERA, 3.36 FIP = 0.59 differential…rumors always have the Cubbies looking for another starter and he could be the odd man out, but the numbers say why?

 

8) Jeff Locke, Pirates – 4.49 ERA, 3.95 FIP = 0.54 differential…still not very tempting for a NL starter.

 

9) Corey Kluber, Indians – 3.49 ERA, 2.97 FIP = 0.52 differential…a 9-16 record following a Cy Young season, but there is no issue with the underlying numbers.

 

10) Yordano Ventura, Royals – 4.08 ERA, 3.57 FIP = 0.51 differential…still some upside in that electric arm.

 

11T) Andrew Cashner, Padres – 4.34 ERA, 3.85 FIP = 0.49 differential…based on the expectation, even the FIP was too high pitching in Petco.

 

11T) Taijuan Walker, Mariners – 4.56 ERA, 4.07 FIP = 0.49 differential…same comment as Cashner, with Safeco replacing Petco.

 

11T) Colby Lewis, Rangers – 4.66 ERA, 4.17 FIP = 0.49 differential…neither number should be on your roster.

 

At the other end of the spectrum, there were 12 SP’s who seemed to have luck on their side this past season with ERA’s over 0.49 runs better than expected.

 

1) Marco Estrada, Blue Jays – 3.13 ERA, 4.40 FIP = -1.27 differential…turned these numbers into a 2-year, $26 Million deal.

 

2) Hector Santiago, Angels – 3.59 ERA, 4.57 FIP = -1.18 differential…another suspect in the Halos’ rotation.

 

3) Zack Greinke, Diamondbacks – 1.66 ERA, 2.76 FIP = -1.10 differential…the Snakes would be thrilled with even the FIP number in Chase Field

 

4) John Lackey, Cubs – 2.77 ERA, 3.57 FIP = -.80 differential…moving to the friendly confines won’t help.

 

5) Scott Kazmir, Free Agent – 3.10 ERA, 3.98 FIP = -0.78 differential…moving to a contender and a pitcher’s park, but don’t over-bid.

 

6) Sonny Gray, A’s – 2.73 ERA, 3.45 FIP = -0.72 differential…a really good hurler, but an ERA under 3.00 again might be wishful thinking.

 

7) Jake Arrieta, Cubs – 1.77 ERA, 2.35 FIP = -0.58 differential…nothing to worry about here.

 

8) Yovani Gallardo, Free Agent – 3.42 ERA, 4.00 FIP = -0.58 differential…hitting the market at the right time, but will be overpaid.

 

9) R.A. Dickey, Blue Jays – 3.91 ERA, 4.48 FIP = -0.57 differential…durable but hittable.

 

10) James Shields, Padres – 3.91 ERA, 4.45 FIP = -0.54 differential…and this was in a pitcher’s park.

 

11) Mike Leake, Cardinals – 3.70 ERA, 4.20 FIP = -0.50 differential…that $80 Million contract better be for durability because he doesn’t miss bats.

 

12) Michael Wacha, Cardinals – 3.38 ERA, 3.87 FIP = -0.49 differential…don’t expect another 17-7 campaign.

 

So, when your friends want to know what a baseball fanatic does during those cold Winter nights, tell them you’re studying your FIP & DIPS.

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