2006 AL Pitchers, ranking by ERA:
- (1) C.C. Sabathia - 2.62 (if qualified)
- 28. Jake Westbrook - 4.77
- 29. Paul Byrd - 4.81
- 31. Cliff Lee - 5.04
- 43. Jason Johnson - 6.00
What if I told you that Jason Johnson is not even our worst starter?
Crazy, right? But it appears to be true.
Johnson -- and all our starters other than Cliff Lee -- all look above average under a stat called called Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP. It's a formula devised by Tangotiger and discussed by Ryan before on this site. FIP is explained at The Hardball Times web site:
In other words ... on the baseball diamond, some things happen that are entirely in the hands of the pitchers. Some things are mostly in the hands of the fielders, or the luck of a bounce ("fielding dependent pitching"). In fact, some things are entirely in the hands of the fielders ("pitching independent fielding") -- baserunning outs for example. All of these events, plus luck, are rolled up into ERA, even though many of them have little or nothing to do with the pitcher.
ERA = FIP + FDP + PIF + luckFIP was designed to assign an ERA type of number to pitchers, representing only those things that are mostly or entirely in the hands of the pitcher. No bad fielding, no good fielding. No good bounces, no bad bounces. It's an attempt to remove the noise, to look as closely as possible at "pure" pitching performance.
FIP = ERA - FDP - PIF - luck
2006 AL Pitchers, ranking by FIP:
- (4) C.C. Sabathia - 3.45 (if qualified)
- 19. Jake Westbrook - 4.21
- 20. Paul Byrd - 4.40
- 28. Jason Johnson - 4.71
- 33. Cliff Lee - 4.89
Seemingly to answer that very question, the Hardball Times also presents a stat called FIP-ERA. It's called that because they haven't come up with a better name, I guess. I think they should call it HMYDISY, which is short for "How Much Your Defense Is Screwing You."
2006 AL Pitchers, ranking by HMYDISY:
- 1. Jason Johnson - -1.29
- 14. Jake Westbrook - -0.56
- 17. Paul Byrd - -0.41
- 24. Cliff Lee - -0.14
- (40) C.C. Sabathia - +0.83 (if qualified)
Ryan has written about FIP before, but it's important not just to understand what it does to individual stats, but what those distortions mean in the context of the whole league. And these are the conclusions:
- Our defense is killing our starters' starts, and
- Our starters' starts are killing our bullpen, so
- We are getting killed, even though
- Our rotation is solidly above-average and deep, and
- Jason Johnson is the most screwed pitcher in the American League.
And just to add insult to injury, who do you think is the worst pitcher in the American League, as ranked by FIP?
- 49. Scott Elarton - 6.92