The time has come to peer deeply into the Magic 8 Ball to try and project each team’s fortunes as a function of starting rotations. The Phillies earned the honor of going first by virtue of their 141-win season (or maybe it was 102). In order to scientifically derive these projections, I have created an algorithm that uses FIP, xFIP, BABip, ERA+, and shoe size to generate non-weighted estimates. (NOTE: This sounds much better than suggesting that the projections are just wild guesses.)
The Phillies represent a particularly interesting case, because there exists a great deal of curiosity regarding just how far the team’s pitching can carry them this year. If you begin analyzing the team’s 2011 season by looking at FIP and xFIP for the pitchers who were responsible for the vast majority of the team’s starts in 2011, you will quickly understand how the team reach the 102 win mark.
- Roy Halladay (32 starts) – 2.20 FIP, 2.71 xFIP
- Cliff Lee (32 starts) – 2.60 FIP, 2.68 xFIP
- Cole Hamels (31 starts) – 3.05 FIP, 3.02 xFIP
- Roy Oswalt (23 starts) – 3.44 FIP, 3.95 xFIP
- Vance Worley (21 starts) – 3.32 FIP, 3.66 xFIP
- Kyle Kendrick (15 starts) – 4.55 FIP, 4.42 xFIP
In some years, the Cy Young award winner has had a FIP higher than the 3.05 posted by Hamels, and that was only good for 3rd best among the starters.
- Roy Halladay - Bill James- 2.96 FIP, RotoChamp – 2.57 FIP, Fans – 2.77 FIP, Me – 3.00 FIP (18 wins) => Halladay kept his HR-to-flyball rate at a ridiculously low 5.1% in 2011. That number represents about half of his career average of 9.8%, and it just seems unlikely that he’ll be able to maintain anything close to that 5.1% rate again in 2012. Even if he does manage a low BABip (around .300), it would not take a lot of balls leaving play in the “fair” direction to push that FIP up to normal human levels. Still, a 3.00 FIP is nothing to cry about.
- Cliff Lee - Bill James – 2.99, RotoChamp – 2.72, Fans – 2.85, Me – 3.05 FIP (15 wins) => Maybe a 3.05 FIP is being to “bearish” on Lee, but he could be due for a slightly down year as more NL teams adjust to his pitching style. That does not mean that he will turn into Dennys Reyes overnight, but it probably does mean a few more scoring opportunities for his opponents.
- Cole Hamels - Bill James – 3.50 FIP, RotoChamp – 3.31 FIP, Fans – 3.43 FIP, Me – 3.40 FIP (15 wins) => Bullish on Hamels? Yep. The reason is not that Hamels has suddenly become an even better pitcher. Actually, maybe that is the reason. In 2011 Hamels was better than ever at keeping the ball in the park, and he was significantly better than normal at stranding runners. Perhaps he just got away with playing with fire too often, but perhaps he just learned to execute in tight situations. I’m going with the latter and the belief that Hamels can improve on an already solid game.
- Vance Worley - Bill James – 3.86 FIP, RotoChamp – 3.34 FIP, Fans – 3.73 FIP, Me 3.91 FIP (13 wins) => If he is strong enough to pick up essentially where he left off in 2011, the Phillies have one of the best #4 pitchers in the game. That is either high praise or an indictment of the talent level in the National League starting rotations. Maybe it is a little of both.
- Kyle Kendrick - Bill James – 4.60 FIP, RotoChamp – 4.81 FIP, Fans – 4.54 FIP, Me – 4.75 FIP (8 wins) => Just imagine being the 5th man in this rotation. You almost have to throw a no-hitter to even have a shot at “Employee of the Week”. That is plain rough.
It would be an obvious oversimplification to suggest that there is a relationship between FIP and win totals. However, the questions surrounding Ryan Howard‘s health alone are enough to warrant some concerns about the margin of error the team has going into 2012. There then exists a reasonable expectation that the team will not challenge the franchise win record it set in 2011. That is bad news for a team that is starting to see its window of opportunity close as this version of “4 Aces” append more years to their baseball card statistics.
SOURCE: FIP, xFIP, and shoe size information provided courtesy of Fangraphs.com.