Monday, 3 October 2011

Informing The Masses: Part 1. Fielding Independent Pitching

The first thing I want to do is start off by saying, that this is not meant to insult anyone's intelligence or how informed they are. This is just meant to simply explain these advanced statistics, in a way that makes a rational argument.

Alright. Lets look at the current generic standard of evaluating how a pitcher has performed, ERA.  Looking at ERA, it is a good natured stat, that attempts to remove defense from the pitchers stats but it really doesn't do the job. Errors only account for balls that players get to so a poor fielding shortstop like Derek Jeter, will not be accounted for in ERA because of his lack of range, but someone like Yunel Escobar who gets to alot more balls, therefor makes more errors. 

There are many versions of FIP.  xFIP is a predictive stat, telling what a player will likely do in the future. bbFIP, which is my favourite for evaluating pitchers, breaks it down into what type of contact a pitcher induces.  But I'll explain these versions later.

The FIP Calculation
First off, there are values assigned to Homeruns, Walks and Strikeouts.  How TangoTiger, the creator of Fielding Independent Pitching metrics, arrived at these values was linear regression to find the average value that each true outcome (HR, BB, K).  What he came up with is this.

HR = 13
BB = 3
K = 2

This leads to the formula FIP =  (((HR x 13) + ((BB + HBP - IBB) x 3) - (K x 2)/IP) + Constant to convert to ERA.

This regulates things pitchers have little to no control over, BABIP or Batting Average On Balls In Play.  
The problem with FIP is, it can over value pitchers who give up hard contact without the ball leaving the park, striking out lots and walking few. One such example is Brandon Morrow, as Jays fans know, he strikes out a tonne, walks few compared to how many he strikes out, but gives up lots of hard contact.Another problem is that it doesn't account for home ball park, so pitchers in pitchers parks tend to have a slightly inflated FIP. It also doesn't account for how pitchers do with runners on base.

The top 10 in FIP for 2011 were:

As you can see from the chart, NL Pitchers are definitely favoured by FIP, and that is due to the fact that they face the pitcher once every 9 batters, and the usual likely K. Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Clayton Kershaw, and Dan Haren play in pitcher parks. That is not to say that these pitchers are products of their park. They all combine great K/BB rates and don't allow hard contact.

For tomorrow's installment, I'll breakdown xFIP and bbFIP..


Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Worst Best Play Of October 1st

Game One, NLDS. Brewers at home against the Diamondbacks.

Its the first inning, the talented Justin Upton steps up to the plate. Willie Bloomquist is on second and one out. 

Justin Upton hits a line drive, just out of Yuniesky Betancourt's reach. Bloomquist has to hold up to make sure he isn't doubled off at second if its caught.

One, Two, Three hops. Left Fielder Ryan Braun fields the ball, stopping and losing all forward momentum.

At this point, Braun isn't that deep in the outfield, fairly shallow actually. Matt Williams aggressively waves "Fast" Willie around 3rd.
Braun's throw is on line, but not strong. Bouncing maybe 7 feet inside the 2nd to 3rd base baseline.

One, Two, Three hops. Jonathan Lucroy fields the ball and blocks the plate. He lies in wait for Bloomquist. An easy play at the plate as Bloomquist decides to slide into the catcher rather than running him over and trying to jar the ball loose. 

So this is playoff baseball in the National League.

The abysmal Willie Bloomquist leading off for a playoff team. Attempting to score a first inning run, gets thrown out by a player with a notoriously poor arm. His 3rd base coach waving him around 3rd before the ball even lands in the outfield. A throw that slowly 3 hops to Lucroy, who can somehow just sit and wait for THE Willie Bloomquist to come and make him hold onto the ball with a physical clash at the plate. And Willie decides to quarterback slide into the tag.  Suddenly, I understand why its called the senior circuit. Men who throw like 80 year olds throw out guys who act as if any contact will break their hip as they have decisions made for them by a man who is obviously senile. Good game National League, good fucking game!

Ladies and Gentleman. 

The Worst-Best Best-Worst play of October 1st.