Stat of the Week: Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

Clip art illustration of a Cartoon Tiger with a Missing Tooth

One of the things I want to try to do here at New English D is to introduce sabermetrics into the common vernacular of baseball fandom. I think the biggest reason for resistance to new stats and metrics is that they are not commonly understood. It’s not because people are too stupid, they just simply aren’t looking to spend a lot of time learning new things that don’t seem relevant.

Basically, most baseball fans don’t really understand why the basic statistics are misleading them about a player’s true value.

I’d like to start with one of the more prominent sabermetrics for pitchers, Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) which is essentially a stand in for Earned Run Average (ERA).

The problem with ERA is that so much of it is outside of a pitcher’s control. For example, if you have a terrible defense, your ERA is going to be higher than if you have an awesome defense, even if you make identical pitches for an entire season.

What FIP tries to do is factor defense out of the equation by presenting a formula that predicts what your ERA would be if you had league average defense and league average luck by looking at your strikeouts, walks, and homeruns allowed (things you can actually control as a pitcher). Generally speaking, the most contact hitters make against you, the more variation we could see.

The formula goes something like this and is based on long run averages in MLB history:

FIP = (13 x HR) + (3 x (BB+HBP)) + ((2 x K) / IP) + constant

What this formula does is give you a number that looks like ERA, but only responds to things inside a pitcher’s control and FIP is a better predictor of future performance than ERA. Generally speaking, it’s a great place to start your analysis. You want to dig deeper into batted ball data and other trends, but FIP starts you off with a number that is based solely on a what a pitcher can control.

For reference, an average FIP is 4.00 with an excellent one being 2.90 and a terrible one being 5.00. For a full explanation from the people who created it, see this.

To give you an idea, let’s take a look at the some ERA to FIP comparisons from the 2012 season. For a complete listing of FIP, head here.

MLB’s top five in FIP this year were Gio Gonzalez (2.82), Felix Hernandez (2.84), Clayton Kershaw (2.89), Justin Verlander (2.94), and David Price (3.05). That seems to jive with what you might think. Remember Gio and Kershaw get to face the pitcher, so their number is going to look a little better just like ERA.

So of the qualifying starts in 2012, whose ERA made them look better or worse than they are?

I’m picking a few examples to demonstrate FIP’s usefulness. Tigers’ sinkerball Rick Porcello seems an obvious candidate for an ERA inflated by bad defense, right? Very true. Porcello’s ERA is a robust 0.68 runs higher than his FIP. The Royals Luke Hochevar didn’t get much help either with an ERA a whopping 1.10 runs higher than his FIP.

How about guys whose ERA made them look better than they are? Jeremy Hellickson got a full 1.50 runs back from his defense per nine innings and extreme fly ball pitcher Jered Weaver, with the help of the crazy good Angels outfield, got 0.94 runs better in ERA than FIP.

Now four random examples might not convince, but I encourage you to take a look at the FIP leaders and start using that metric to learn a little bit more about how someone is pitching.

Two final thoughts. One don’t bother with RA Dickey because there are so few knuckleballer’s in history and the averages don’t control for how differently knuckleballs get hit.

Two, whose defense and luck has been the most average so as to keep their FIP in line with their ERA this year? That award goes to the Pirates’ James MacDonald who posted an ERA and FIP of 4.21, making him the only player to have both numbers equal.

Come back next week for another Stat of the Week and feel free to suggest some that you would like to learn about.

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33 responses

  1. […] of you who follow me on Twitter know that yesterday I was abuzz about Yu Darvish’s -0.27 FIP. In other words, FIP thinks his strikeout rate, walk rate, homerun rate, and IFFB rate should yield […]

  2. […] Tigers pitchers comfortably lead the entire league in FIP and WAR at 2.79 and 4.2, respectively, which is mostly due to their 2nd best K/9 and league best […]

  3. […] take a look at his ERA and FIP in April across his […]

  4. […] have even though it does not qualify as an error. Sabermetricians have devised other metrics like FIP, xFIP, SIERA, and others to stand in for ERA with a focus on elements of the game that pitchers can […]

  5. […] job (97 wRC+), but the pitching has been the worst in baseball (-2.7 WAR) with a really terrible FIP (4.56) despite playing half their games in Petco […]

  6. […] month of May in which they struck out 9.9 batters per 9 and walked just 2.44 per 9, good for a 2.92 FIP and 2.99 […]

  7. […] Pitching (FIP) some months ago and my frequent use of the metric on the site. You can read my introduction to FIP or Fangraphs’ primer to catch up, but I’ll outline the basic concept because it carries […]

  8. […] walk rate of his career. He has the lowest homerun rate of his career. He has the lowest ERA, FIP, and xFIP of his career. He’s on pace for his highest WAR and might get there by August. […]

  9. […] 30 IP, 9.68 K/9, 1.76 BB/9, 2.93 ERA, 2.77 FIP, 2.14 xFIP, 0.8 […]

  10. […] because I added saves and blown saves to get save opps. The rankings below are determined by Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) because I believe that to be the best measure of pitcher performance because it takes into account […]

  11. […] on the same subject. His point, which is the one I’ll pick up here, is that when we adjust Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) for ballpark effects and league average, the Tigers have the best rotation ever, no hyperbole […]

  12. […] walks, and homeruns allowed (the basis of FIP) are good measurements, but FIP inherently strips away context. And context does matter for relief […]

  13. […] we used FIP-, which is the scaled version of Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), the results are even more troubling for […]

  14. […] had a lower ERA, FIP, and xFIP and if you prefer those numbers park and league adjusted, they tell the same […]

  15. […] younger version of me was thinking. 16 or 17 years ago, I didn’t know anything about wOBA or FIP. They didn’t even exist. Baseball analysis has come a long way since then. I’m not even […]

  16. […] Tigers were baseball’s best pitching staff with 17.1 WAR (what’s WAR?), a 3.26 FIP (what’s FIP?), and a 3.35 xFIP (what’s xFIP?). In fact, their starting rotation, when adjusting for park […]

  17. […] level so you can compare across eras. For pitchers, WAR is based either on runs allowed or Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and is scaled based on innings pitched, park, and defensive […]

  18. […] said, despite a respectable 3.69 ERA, 3.35 FIP (what’s FIP?), and 3.0 WAR (what’s WAR?), there are some signs of trouble. He has the lowest K/9 and […]

  19. […] staff was around average in July, offering a 3.0 WAR in the month and a 3.44 ERA and 3.91 FIP (what’s FIP?) after an historic start to the year. They are still within 1% of having baseball’s best […]

  20. […] rotation was on pace to be the best starting staff in MLB history by Fielding Independent Pitching (what’s FIP?) which is a statistic that measures the three true outcomes a pitcher has complete control over and […]

  21. […] Scherzer at McAllister  (3.47 ERA, 3.81 FIP) […]

  22. […] when he became a full time relief pitcher and work forward. And let’s start with ERA, FIP (what’s FIP?), and xFIP (what’s xFIP?) and lets park adjust them because he’s played in a few […]

  23. […] are their ERA, FIP, and xFIP (what’s FIP and […]

  24. […] his four seasons with the club which included 14 starts in 2011. He’s generally had a FIP (what’s FIP?) between 3.20 and 3.80, but his ERA has consistently been worse, topping out at 5.00 in 2013. In […]

  25. […] That’s hard to argue. He’s thrown 69 innings, turned in a 2.22 ERA and 2.43 FIP (what’s FIP?) to go along with a 1.5 WAR (what’s WAR?). He has struck out 26% of opposing hitters and […]

  26. […] more advanced ways to demonstrate to measure a pitcher’s value that factors out defense like FIP, xFIP, and others and I’ve also pointed out why this distinction between ERA and Runs […]

  27. I’m really loving the theme/design of your site. Do you ever run into any browser compatibility issues?
    A few of my blog audience have complained about my website not operating correctly in Explorer
    but looks great in Firefox. Do you have any suggestions to help fix this problem?

    1. I’ve never had any complaints, but I also don’t personally use Explorer so I can’t say for sure. Chrome, Firefox, and Safari have all been fine. Might be a better question to ask whatever site you’re using (ie WordPress, Blogger). Sometimes there are issues with older versions of browsers so if people haven’t upgraded, there can be weird formatting issues.

  28. […] time using things like strikeout and walk percentage, ground ball percentage, and two stats called FIP and xFIP. These stats churn out an estimate of what a pitcher’s ERA should look like based on […]

  29. I read this piece of writing fully concerning the resemblance of latest and earlier technologies,
    it’s remarkable article.

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