The Legend

The Legend

Thursday, June 30, 2016

FIP'd Off (Kershaw is Awesome, Pirate Pitchers not so Much)

We are getting to the point of the season where buyers and sellers begin to take shape.  Unfortunately for my Buccos it is looking like the latter.  10 of the next 13 games are against the Cardinals, Cubs and Nats. That is a tough stretch.  Realistically you have to think the Buccos need to win 8 or 9 to keep their heads above water.  I'm really hoping this happens as the Pirates have a long run of below .500 teams on the schedule after the Nats series.

Obviously losing Gerrit Cole and Francisco Cervelli has been a huge blow, but injuries aside one glaring deficiency shows up.  The starting pitching has been horrendous.

One of the best stats to measure a pitchers worth is FIP (fielding independent pitching).  The idea of FIP is to give a better picture of a pitchers true performance. ERA has too many variables outside the pitchers control to give a proper estimate of a pitchers true worth. FIP takes all the stats a pitcher can control like K's, walks, hbp etc and assumes league average defense. Here is a good measuring stick.

Above Average3.50
Below Average4.10

Now lets look at the FIP leaders.

Top 3 qualified starters
- Clayton Kershaw  1.68 (WOW!!!!!!!)
- Noah Syndergaard  1.92
- Jose Fernandez  1.98

I always snicker at people who dismiss new stats because more times than not they prove what many people already know.  No matter how you measure it, Kershaw is in a league of his own. He is essentially worth the equivalent of two aces.

Here is a link to the top 30

Until this year the Pirates have had good luck turning pitchers around that had historically high ERA's (Burnett, Volquez, Liriano).  They would buy low on such players realizing that their FIP or XFIP was much lower than the actual ERA.  Add in the Pirates extreme shifting and many of these pitchers would go on to have career years.

This year has been a different story for the Buccos. Regression can be a bitch sometimes and the Pirates are getting it from 3 guys currently in their rotation.

Of qualified starters the Pirates currently have the 2nd (Jon Niese), 3rd (Francisco Liriano) and 18th (Jeff Locke) in worst FIP standings. Basically what this is saying is that these guys have been terrible even with good defense behind them.

For the Pirates to get back in the race they need Liriano to find his control.  This had been an issue with him before, but during his Pirates tenure he would counteract that with high k rates.  Now he is walking guys then giving up crucial homeruns.

Jeff Locke will likely be replaced at some point this year by Tyler Glasnow. I'm assuming Jon Niese will be give the whole season to right the ship, or else the Pirates will decline the team option next year.

The unfortunate part in all this is that the Pirates will do little to try and improve the team this year.  The Cubs have about a 95% chance of winning the division.  It really makes no sense to trade minor league assets to make the run at the second wild card. As Pirate fans know the wildcard is a crazy coin flip situation in which you will likely run into an ace type of pitcher.  The last three years we've faced Cueto, Bumgarner and Arrieta.  Trading a minor leaguer to get bullpen help doesn't help you much against those guys.

The silver lining in all of this is that maybe the young pitchers help the Pirates get back in the race this year.  If not, the Pirates can trade all of their expiring contracts to supplement the core for next year.

Embrace Analytics!

Thanks for reading.


  1. But how many wins do those guys have? The regression the Pirates starters have experienced this season really is remarkable. Although, I think Liriano's has been the most surprising. Niese has been disappointing because he is one of the few starters the Pirates haven't been able to turn around in a year where they really needed him to be more than a 5th starter. Will the Pirates see some positive regression in the second half?

    1. Hahahaha. Troll!!!!! I think the positive regression will be the young guys outperforming the replacement level guys. We are going no where if Liriano doesn't rebound.

  2. Good post!

    Hopefully my team will see the writing on the wall and sell this season.

    1. It will be interesting to see what the Yankees do. Chapman should be gone no matter what.

  3. Mets got it worse 11 out of 14 our the Nats Cubs and the other 3 the Marlins. Didn't start off too week getting swept by the Nats in DC. At least they beat the Cubs. Return the favor an sweep the Nats

    1. Good thing you guys signed Cespedes. He is the only one worth a crap in that lineup. You guys have good pitching so you will likely balance back. We have 1 good pitcher.

  4. You know you're in trouble when Jeff Locke is better than two of your other starters. You always have lay years... remember 1973?

    1. Locke is a like a cat. He should have been out of the rotation 2 years ago yet injuries keep him in there. Hopefully Glasnow will finally get him out of there.