Tag Archive | "ERA"

The Triumphant Return of John Lackey…Sort Of

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The Triumphant Return of John Lackey…Sort Of

Posted on 06 March 2013 by Will Emerson

There is talk, as there so often is around Spring Training camps, of John Lackey being in the best shape of his life (I am being a bit hyperbolic, but you get the point) and ready to return to his old self.


The bulldog, big game winning, innings eating, ace-like pitcher of yore. Obviously the Red Sox would love that. Well, sort of. I mean, they would be glad take anything better than Lackey’s 2011. To say John Lackey’s 2011 was atrocious would be, well, pretty accurate. In 28 starts with the BoSox, Lackey was 12-12 with an ERA of 6.41. Although, managing 12 wins with an ERA like that is impressive, even if it was mainly due to having a very good offense behind him. His FIP of 4.71 was also, well, terrible, but it does show that he was tad better than the ERA would indicate. Would be hard to be worse, wouldn’t it? Once you close in on an ERA around five or higher though, the difference is somewhat negligible, in my mind. Now, if Lackey was making the league minimum in 2011, the Red Sox could just be like, “Oh well, moving on”, but Lackey was not making the league minimum in 2o11, was he? No, he was not, in case you were actually unawares of his salary. Lackey made $15.95 million in 2011 or exactly $15.95 million more than what I will make writing about him in this little post. Now the Red Sox won’t have to pay him nearly as much as that in 2013, so rest easy Red Sox fans. No, no, he is only due $15.25 million in 2013 or roughly $15.2498 more than I have in my savings account. So, needless to say, the Red Sox are hoping to get something out of that chunk of change, preferably what they thought they were paying for. But what exactly did the Rouge Hose pay for?

The Sox backed up a Brinks trunk to get Lackey in a Boston uniform, shelling out loads of cash for a pitcher who was one of the big names on the free market back in ought nine. (It may have technically happened in 2010, but I just wanted to type ought nine.) Lackey certainly had an aura around him. Big game pitcher? Check. Yankee killer? Check. The latter being the biggest reason the Sox would pursue him…that and not letting the Yankees get their greasy mitts on him. You see, back in the olden days of the early 21st century the Red Sox and Yankees would play the free agent market like a game of poker at Teddy KGB’s. If one showed interest in a big-ish name free agent, the other would as well. The team to show initial interest may not have even wanted the player, but they knew they could bluff the other into making a move. So if the Yankees showed interest in John Lackey the Red Sox would do the same, even though the Yankees may not have really wanted him in the first place, but rather wanted the Red Sox to throw money at him, when the Yanks really only had mild interest. Got all that? Sort of, maybe? (That is not the proposed sequel to the Ryan Reynolds vehicle Definitely, Maybe…yet) Well, anywho, the Sox went out and threw money at Lackey. Lackey was considered to be a workhorse, innings eater as well a previous mentioned big game pitcher and Yankee killer. Or so everyone thought.

I guess Lackey just has that bulldog mentality and because he pitched well in big games, he was a gem. A gem worth $18.7 million to the Red Sox in 2010. I recall severall pundits and what-have-yous, having their mindholes blown by the contract the Red Sox doled out to this thirtysomething hurler. Why? Lackey was ace like or at the very least a serviceable number two starter, right? In the words of Willy Wonka, “WRONG! Wrong sir!” In ten major league seasons Lackey posted an ERA below 3.44 just once and below 3.66 just thrice! All three of those seasons were in his mid to late 20s. Now of course you should know by now, that ERA is a flawed statistic and should not be the number to completely judge a pitcher at all. So try these numbers on for size. In his career Lackey has posted an xFIP below 3.83, exactly once. Once! In that season he had a 3.59 xFIP. Even his regular ol’ FIP was high, only coming in under 3.50 twice! Surely they advanced stat mavens in the Sox front office looked at these numbers, right? Oh wait a tick! Lackey is a Yankee killer, that’s why the Red Sox gave him the big bucks, right?

In 2009, Lackey had a 2.57 ERA when he pitched against the Bronx Bombers in the regular, posting a K/9 of 7 and a WHIP of 1.29. Well, that’s pretty darned good, isn’t it? It sure is! He dominated the Yankees in that one regular season start. Well obviously the Angels and Yankees did not meet much during the regular season, but it was Lackey’s ’09 postseason performance against the Bombers that basically earned him his 2010 contract. It had to have been, right? In two ALCS starts against the Yankees in 2009, Lackey threw 12 innings, allowing five earned runs on 15 hits, striking out ten, and walking six. That’s an ERA close to four, folks, which I guess against the Yankees could be considered pretty good. But $82.5 million over five years pretty good?  Although conversely, Lackey’s last three postseason starts against the Red Sox for very good. In those starts Johnboy tossed 21 innings allowing four earned runs on 15 hits, stymieing the Sox. So, maybe they just wanted to spend that money to avoid seeing Lackey in the postseason? That’s a lot of money to insure you don’t have to face a certain pitcher in the postseason, but the Sox have deep pockets, so to each their own. I know, I know, all of this is hardly new information and something that could not have been written back in 2009-10, but I am going somewhere with this, I swear. You see, many fantasy players are certainly eyeing Lackey as a possible sleeper, hoping he can return to form. But what form is that and is it really sleeper worthy form?

First off, there is no way in heck (I sometimes look at John Lackey and feel he says “heck” and “shucks” a lot, but that’s neither here nor there) you should expect him to return to the form of his career season in 2007. That 19-9 campaign with a 3.01 ERA was a big anomaly (Big Shucks? I think I just found John Lackey’s new nickname). As in a season not to be repeated by John Derran Lackey. So what is Lackey’s “form”? Well, just for craps and giggles, let us take a look at Lacker’s three best seasons. In those three seasons Lackey averaged a 3.86 xFIP, but a respectable 3.33 FIP. Coincidentally his overall ERA for those three seasons was also 3.33. Of course that season with the 3.01 ERA in there certainly helps. Lackey also posted a K/9 close to eight! Wow, a solid three seasons it seems, even though his overall ERAs were a bit lower than they should have been. So if, if, he were to return to that form he would be a sleeper for sure. Unfortunately in the four seasons Lackey has pitched since then, he has not really quite approached that level of goodness, so the three seasons prior to that disaster of a 2011 season are more likely your best case scenario for Lackey in 2013. That translates into a borderline sleeper at SP, I suppose. You would probably get 12 wins, with an ERA right around four, WHIP of about 1.30 and a K/9 in the mid sixes. That’s sleeperish if not for just the wins, I would think, but remember that is the best case scenario for Lackey in 2013.

What you are more likely to get out of Lackey, still eight to ten wins, sure, but an ERA closer to 4.50, with a WHIP of about, well 1.30-1.40 and very few Ks. Hey, look at that! Not too far from the best case scenario I just laid out for you, huh?! For fantasy purposes though, you are in luck, because unlike the Red Sox, you will not have to pay big bucks for Lackey, so he could very well be worth a late round, or $1 bargain bin auction, pickup.  I don’t foresee myself drafting Lackey in any format, but at the very least, in shallow mixed or AL-only leagues, he could be a viable streaming option from time to time. So keep John Lackey in the back of your mind (and start calling him Big Shucks) as the season progresses, but don’t expect anything ace-like that is for darned sure.

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Believe It Or Not

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Believe It Or Not

Posted on 27 February 2013 by Will Emerson

That’s right folks, it’s time for a bit of “Believe it or not?”! Excited? No? What’s that? You have no idea what ”Believe it or not?” is, exactly. Oh. Well, then allow me to elaborate here.

“Believe or not?” is when I take at a look at some numbers from last season and see if I believe them or…..not. Not, people. I really thought you would get that. Anyways, what I have done is picked a few pitchers to look at and see if we should believe in their 2012 numbers. So, away we go!

Wade Miley

First up is Wade Miley. Mr. Miley actually could have won the National League Rookie of the Year Award had it not been for that no-name, out of nowhere Bryce Harper. Of course that could also speak to the weak rookie class outside of Miley, Harper and Todd Frazier. Nevertheless Miley was very solid, going 16-11, with an ERA of 3.33 and a WHIP of 1.18. Not too shabby, right? You’re darned tootin’, right. Miley is by no means an ace and no one seems to think he is either, as evidenced by his general preseason ranking in the 90s. So let’s say you’re in a 12 team fantasy league, Miley barely ranks as rosterable. Is rosterable a word? Ah, no matter. According to RotoChamp, Miley was just inside the top 25 fantasy starting picthers last season, so his current rank and general draft positions seem to show that know one believes in Miley’s 2012. But should they? Well outside of the those superficial numbers you’ve already seen, let’s look into some other numbers. Miley posted an xFIP of 3.75, which points to a good ol’ regression in ERA.  Well, if that doesn’t, that 6.66 K/9 combined with a 43.3 ground ball rate certainly should. Wins are obviously a crapshoot, but with that low amount of Ks and lowish amount of groundballs, in a hitter’s park, nonetheless, that WHIP and ERA are sure to shoot on upward. So I would tend to agree with the masses in the case of Wade Miley and say that I do not believe in his 2012 numbers.

Next up is Reds “ace” Johnny Cueto. Ya see how I put ace in quotation marks? Looking at Cueto’s 2012 numbers, he was ace-like. He was 19-9, with an ERA of 2.78 and a WHIP of 1.17. Dems right there are Cy Young type numbers. Based on Cueto’s 2011 numbers, it does not appear the 2012 numbers were completely out of nowhere. In 2011 Cueto was 9-5 with an ERA of 2.31 and a WHIP of 1.09, so the 2012 numbers were not completely unprecedented, although you will notice the slight increase in ERA and WHIP. However, while those numbers are great and all, he also posted a 3.90 xFIP in ’11 and a 3.65 xFIP ’12, well above his ERAs for those respective seasons. Cueto’s ERA and WHIP are due for a sizeable regression and with a career K/9 under seven, I don’t see him being a top 20 fantasy pitcher in 2013. So I guess I am saying I do not believe in Cueto’s 2011 or 2012 numbers. I’m not saying that he will be a flop in ’13, but I tnink he should be drafted as a three or four SP, instead of a one or two, which is where it appears he is being taken in early fantasy drafts.

Next up, we have former Cy Young Award winner, Timmy Lincecum. Lincecum had, without a doubt, his worst season in the majors, in 2012. An ERA over 5?! What?! That’s right the former Cy Young Award winner who posted a sub three ERA in 2011 had an ERA over five in 2012. However, his xFIP was 3.82 which is not great, but much, much, much better than his actual ERA. Plus, he still posted a K/9 over nine, so he was still striking guys out in 2012. The biggest problem for Lincecum in 2012 were walks and the longball. Lincecum had a 4.35 BB/9 and a HR/FB of 14.6%. Timmy’s fly ball rate was about the same as it has been over the past few seasons, but when batters were putting balls in the air against Lincecum in 2012 they were putting them over the fence at almost twice of his 2011 rate. Now there was a slight increase in hard hit balls for Lincecum, so expecting the Cy Young Award winning Tim Lincecum to show up in 2013 may be a bit of a stretch, but I would say you can expect much better than 2012. So when it comes to Lincecum’s 2012 numbers, I would say I do not believe in them that much. You will see a stat line in the middle of Lincecum’s 2011 and 2012 numbers.

So there ya have it kids. What did we learn this week? Well with regards to these three pitchers, I guess I don’t believe in any of their 2012 numbers. Maybe I should have just called this article, “Three Pitchers Whose 2012 Numbers I Just Plain Don’t Believe In”? Eh, seems a bit wordy, don’t ya think? Anyways, to be fair, it’s not like I was being all negative in my disbelief, right? I did not believe in Lincecum’s 2012 numbers, but in a good way. Unlike with Miley and Cueto, I do believe Lincecum’s numbers will improve over his 2012 campaign. So for now, take a tip from Journey and don’t stop believin’. Or, I guess, based on this post, don’t start believin’?

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2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

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2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

Posted on 06 February 2013 by Will Emerson

I should start by saying, I cannot definitely label this pitcher the luckiest pitcher in baseball, per se. I may be just a bit too hyperbolic, but this pitcher was darned lucky on the bump in 2012 and it looks like his luckiness may be tough to beat. I  have not gone through every pitcher’s numbers from 2012 though so I can’t say with absolute certainty. Really, I haven’t! Anyways, let’s start with one of my, and I am sure your, favorite things in the whole wide world, a blind player comparison! Yay!


Player A: 9.35 K/9, 3.06 FIP, 3.32 xFIP

Player B: 6.77 K/9, 3.75 FIP, 4.18 xFIP

So which pitcher would you rather have? Choose your answer wisely, grasshopper. Of course you would most likely choose Player A, but, as you are probably guessing, as with most blind player comparisons, there is a bit of a twist. So before the big reveal let’s look at a couple of, what I like to call, superficial numbers for the same two players:

Player A: 13-12,  3.01 ERA

Player B: 20-5, 2.81 ERA

So the ERAs are not monstrously far apart, but I would guess Player B would have received more Cy Young votes wouldn’t you? So who are these two pitchers? Well, here’s the big twist moment for ya….Player A is Jered Weaver in 2010 and Player B is, well, Jered Weaver….in 2013. Yes, that’s right folks, Jered Weaver had to be one of, if not the, luckiest pitchers in baseball last season.

Come on, you have to admit it is hard to argue the luck here for Jered Weaver. 20-5? 2o and frickin’ 5! With an FIP of 3.75 and a K/9 under seven you would hardly expect a sub three ERA and 20 wins. I’ve been over this before, but it bears reiterating (I think?), strikeouts per nine innings, as much as I love ‘em, are not the end all be all. However, pitchers with a low K/9 are generally crafty pitchers who keep the ball on the ground and such. Jered Weaver on the other hand? Well, he is not. Jered was inducing worm burners about 36% of the time, which is kind of low for a pitcher that is not striking guys out.  In fact, in looking even deeper into his numbers, almost 75% of batters that faced Weaver last year put the ball in play and of those balls in play close(ish) to twice as many were in the air. Generally not great percentages, so naturally Weaver would need a wee bit of luck.

Los Angeles Angles pitcher Jered  Weaver throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, May 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

In 2012 Weaver had a BABIP of .241, which is pretty darned low. Just for a quick comparison, the league average in 2012 was .293.  Weaver was over 50 points below the league average, in case you are not quick with the arithmetic. That number right there points to a great deal of luck on Weaver’s side. Obviously BABIP can be subjective and will not always be extremely telling, but generally you would expect a pitcher to, at some point, come back to the mean, right? Well, if anything, Weaver is getting luckier by the season, believe it or not. Weaver’s BABIP has gone down in each of the last five seasons. Take a look for your self:

2007: .312

2008: .298

2009: .278

2010: .276

2011: .250

2012: .241

Quite a unique trend Weaver has going on here. Along with the lower BABIP, his FIP has gone up each of the past two seasons as well. So is regression, in fact on the way for Weaver in 2013? It’s almost tough to say. Really, he should have a fairly large regression, but he has avoided it thus far with that 2010 ERA of 3.01 being the highest in the last three seasons, so who knows? The big question though, is what does all this mean for Weaver’s fantasy value in 2013?

The regression just has to be coming, right? It makes no worldly sense if it doesn’t, right? What I can say for sure is that I am steering clear of Jered Weaver come draft day. The  thinking being that the ERA will float closer to his FIP or xFIP in 2013, due to that BABIP coming closer to the league average. Even if it doesn’t, the high probability of this happening should be enough to scare some people away from Weaver, especially at the price you will more than likely have to pay for his fantasy services.  Fantasy services? Okay, that sounded bad, but you know what I mean. RotoChamp, for instance, has him ranked as the number nine starting pitcher (39th overall) for fantasy. It is early but, barring injury or some sort of Spring Training meltdown, I would wager that is about where he will be drafted in most leagues. I just don’t like that kind of risk, for a guy that will more or less be the de facto ace of whatever fantasy squad he is on. Then again, the luck has been with Weaver consistently and it’s not like most, or probably any, leagues have BABIP or FIP as categories. But is there more to be concerned about with Mr. Lucky than just those advanced statistics with the giant blinking arrow pointing towards regression?

Well, one thing that does count in just about every fantasy baseball league is strikeouts, where Weaver has seen a major decline over the last two seasons. While the three season sample size here could be a fluke, there are some red flags within Weaver’s numbers that lead me to think otherwise. First of all, Weaver’s swinging strike percentage has gone down each season since 2010, from 11.2% to 9.1 % to 8.5%. This could be due in part to him just not fooling hitters as much and or the second red flag…his velocity. Weaver has also been slowly losing miles per hour on his fastballs since 2010. Weaver’s average  four-seamer and cut fastball have both lost about two miles per hour from 2011 to 2012.  What’s also interesting is that his average change-up is up in velocity about a full mile per hour since 2010. So, in reality he has lost three miles per hour difference in velocity between the two pitches over the past few seasons, not a trend you like to see in a pitcher. So, what are we to make of the 2013 Jered Weaver?

Luck, good or bad, can definitely play a huge factor for many, if not all, players and the luck has certainly been on the good side for Jered Weaver. Even with the disconcerting advanced stats, he is still a viable fantasy option though, because the bottom line is he, inexplicably, posts good numbers. Somehow he is getting the job done. Maybe it has something to do with the Danny Glover/ Tony Danza vehicle Angels in the Outfield, I dunno? What I do know, is I just can’t warrant drafting him as high as he will be going this year, especially if I can wait a little longer and land a Max Scherzer or Matt Garza. I know it sounds weird to be down on a guy who finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, but I just don’t have faith in Jered Weaver. There is an implosion on the way and I want to be far, far away when it happens. Now, I think I want to go watch Angels in the Outfield.

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Sabermetric Mining – FIP, xFIP, and SIERA

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Sabermetric Mining – FIP, xFIP, and SIERA

Posted on 03 August 2012 by Blake Murphy

The unfortunate fact of most fantasy leagues is that while ERA is a category, it is not very strong as a predictor of future performance. So how can fantasy players better predict ERA for pitchers moving forward if they can not rely on their performance in the category to date?

In addition to my weekly Down On The Farm pieces I will be writing a weekly fantasy piece called Sabermetric Mining, about how to use advanced statistics to aid you in your roster management. I start this week by looking at Defensive Independent Pitching Stats (DIPS), specifically Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP), and SIERA (Skills Interactive ERA).

DIPS Theory was originally put forth by Voros McCracken, who posited that pitchers exhibit little control over what happens once they have pitched the ball. Defense, park factors, and dumb luck can all have an impact on what happens when the ball enters the field of play, so a lot of the times the pitcher will be rewarded or penalized in a way that fails to reflect what he may have deserved. As an example, a pitcher who walks three batters and then allows a home run is charged with four earned runs. However, if he allows a home run and then three walks, he is charged with just one. Here, the pitcher has allowed three walks and a home run in both scenarios, but is penalized in very different ways in terms of earned runs against his ERA. DIPS formulae use different methods to try and strip out the impact of luck, defense, and event sequencing in order to provide a better indicator of the pitcher’s performance and, hopefully, a better predictor of their future performance.

It should be noted that none of the statistics discussed claim to be ERA predictors. Rather, they are backward-looking statistics that happen to better predict future ERA than ERA alone does.

The Stats
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching – This stat normalizes BABIP (batting average on balls in play) and event sequencing, basing the formula on walks, strikeouts, and home runs allowed. These indicators are then applied to a constant to put the metric in ERA form.

xFIP – Expected Fielding Independent Pitching - This stat takes FIP and then normalizes the pitcher’s home runs allowed based on how many fly balls they allow and the league average home run rate. This basically takes FIP and applies the caveat that pitchers can control the amount of fly balls they surrender, but not how many of them clear the fence.

SIERA – Skill-Interactive ERA SIERA was created as an alternative to FIP and xFIP, arguing that pitchers can control the types of balls in play they allow, even if they can not control the outcome of those balls. Since groundballs and pop ups are more desirable than fly balls or line drives, pitchers who display a specific trend in batted ball data should have their stats adjusted as such. The stat is far more complicated than FIP and xFIP, as it also controls for factors like walks being less damaging the fewer you allow and high strikeout pitchers allowing weaker contact. While slightly more complicated, the theory is straightforward…but is it more effective?

Which Is Best?
When SIERA first came out, Matt Swartz at Fangraphs tested the different DIPS metrics to see which was the best predictor of future ERA. If you are a math person, I suggest checking out the article for the specifics, but allow me to summarize his results as they apply to using these stats to predict the next year’s ERA:

2) xFIP
3) FIP

The gap between SIERA and xFIP is relatively small, while the gap between xFIP and FIP is more pronounced. Basically, using xFIP or SIERA will both be helpful, while using FIP will help to a lesser degree.

With that said, when it comes to predicting rest of season ERA, it should be noted that FIP will do better than these tests show. This is because FIP does not normalize for home run rate, which may be in part impacted by ballpark factors. While xFIP will apply a normal home run rate for pitchers, a pitcher pitching in, say, Petco Park may exhibit a low HR/FB for the rest of the season, making FIP slightly more valuable than in end-of-season analysis.

I tend to favor using SIERA when available, and FanGraphs has all three available on their leaderboards.

How To Use
The best way to use these statistics is to look at pitchers who have ERAs that greatly differ from their FIP, xFIP, or SIERA. What gaps between ERA and one of these metrics will tell us is when a pitcher’s ERA is under- or over-stating their actual performance to date. I will go through some examples to illustrate, but basically you would hope to find pitchers with ERAs higher than their DIPS number and identify them as potential buy-low candidates, while finding pitchers with ERAs lower than their DIPS numbers and idenitfying them as potential sell-high candidates.

Again, these metrics do not claim to be ERA predictors, so when I say that a player is a buy-low, it is not because SIERA is predicting a better ERA moving forward, but that SIERA indicates the pitcher has been better than his ERA would suggest. So if a leaguemate sees only a 4.00 ERA but SIERA indicates a pitcher performing at a 3.50 level, you might be able to get a 3.50 ERA-skilled pitcher for the price of a 4.00 one.

Dan Haren – Haren’s ERA is a disappointing 4.59 so far this season, but his peripheral stats indicte that he is still a decent pitcher, though maybe not at the level we have come to expect. Haren has a 3.91 SIERA (4.01 xFIP), based on the fact that he rarely walks batters (2.18 BB/9) and has been somewhat unucky in terms of BABIP (.315). His batted ball data is in line with his career norms, but his HR/FB rate is inexplicably up, causing him to allow a career-high 1.4 HR/9. Based on this, we would anticipate Haren’s ERA to fall more in line with how he has actually performed, creating a buy-low opportunity.

Cliff Lee – The case of Lee is compounded by the fact that he has just two wins, but predicting wins is a fool’s errand so we will focus on his ERA, a respectable 3.73 mark that is significantly higher than what we have come to expect from him. Lee sports a SIERA mark of 3.15 (and an xFIP of 3.12), drawing our attention to the fact that his dominance (8.55 K/9) and control (1.72 BB/9) have not faltered at all. In addition, Lee is generating a career-best 48.1% groundball rate at the expense of line drives. Lee’s batted ball data lines up favorably with his previous performance, indicating he is still pitching like the Cy Young candidate we know, but happens to be suffering from a career-worst 13.0% HR/FB rate. Lee is a great buy-low opportunity, a chance to acquire an ace, albeit without the wins, at the price of a second-tier starter.

Ryan Vogelsong – Vogelsong has been quite the story again this year, sporting a 2.22 ERA after most thought his 2011 mark of 2.71 was a mirage. While I will touch on pitchers who can perhaps consistently outperform their peripherals later, let’s explore the case of Vogelsong anyway as an illustrative example. Vogelsong strikes out few batters (6.59 K/9), is not an elite control pitcher (2.98 BB/9), and is not an extreme ground ball ptcher (43.4%). While he has allowed fewer line drives than last year, his BABIP of .250 is unsustainably low, and he has stranded 84.8% of base runners, well above the league average. Vogelsong has also allowed home runs on just 6.1% of fly balls. As such, SIERA sees Vogelsong as a below-average starter (4.32) and xFIP sees him as more or less unownable (4.46).

James McDonald – While the bloom has come off the rose over his last few outings, McDonald still sports a 3.38 ERA for the year. SIERA (4.03) and xFIP (4.01) agree that McDonald is more of a league-average starter, primarily because his strikeout rate has regressed while his walks have increased. Whatever McDonald had going in May has been lost, and his better-than-average BABIP and LOB% do not appear sustainable based on his batted ball profile.

When To Adjust For Certain Pitchers
Obviously, none of these stats are perfect, and none claim to estimate future ERA with much a degree of certainty. Simply, they are better tools than looking at ERA alone. While there are countless examples of players regressing after outperforming their peripherals, there are also a few examples of pitchers consistently performing outside of DIPS.

Matt Cain is the primary example, having posted an ERA better than his xFIP/SIERA in every single season of his career, leading to a 3.30 career ERA despite a 4.20 career xFIP and a 4.13 career SIERA. Up until this year, Cain had always shown an ability to limit HR/FB%, has posted a low BABIP in every year but one, and has consistently been among the league leaders in LOB%. Possible explanations include a strong ability to pitch out of the stretch, the ability to fool hitters with four above-average pitches, or Matt Cain just being really good. I think at this point you can safely say Cain has an ability to outperform his peripheral stats, but I would not dare claim to know how.

Ricky Nolasco is the counter-point to Cain, a pitcher who has consistently had a higher ERA than you would expect based on his other stats. Over 169 career starts and 16 relief appearances, Nolasco has posted a 4.55 ERA despite a 3.80 SIERA and a 3.76 xFIP. The explanation for a pitcher underperforming their peripherals is an easier narrative than in Cain’s case, as Nolasco might simply make too many mistakes. This is an easier justification than “Cain doesn’t make mistakes, ever,” and as such Nolasco may have been written off entirely by the fantasy community. Specifically, while he has improved his groundball rate annually, he has done so by sacrificing strikeouts, meaning he is no longer even an attractive commodity for strikeout totals.

Potential Sell High – These pitchers have ERAs that appear to be superificially low, with a SIERA mark at least half a run worse than their ERA.

Potential Buy Low – These pitchers have ERAs that appear to be superificially high, with a SIERA mark at least half a run better than their ERA.

Hopefully this article has helped explain some of the defense independent pitching stats available to fantasy owners, and how you can use indicators like xFIP and SIERA to add some value at the trade table. Let me know if there are any specific stats you would like to see examined for future pieces.

I’m new here, so come get to know me on Twitter @BlakeMurphyODC.

All stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

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Point and Grunt Baseball: The Scrap Factor

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Point and Grunt Baseball: The Scrap Factor

Posted on 19 July 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Schumaker, Skip – Professional diver

With the continued growth of sabermetrics, baseball has a way of quantifying nearly everything that lends itself to being broken down to a single number.  UZR, TZR, total runs saved, dWAR, and even to a certain extent fielding percentage provide what some might consider empirical data-driven tools for evaluating a players performance in the field.  ISO, wOBA, oWAR, and OPS+ create a statistical image of a player’s performance on offense.  Finally, ERA+, xFIP, BAbip, game scores, and different split data sets tell us more than we ever need to know about what pitchers do when throwing a round ball at relatively high speeds.

None of these tools in the analytical tool box can tell you about the most important factor in baseball, and that just happens to be the “sCRAP” factor.  To fully understand and appreciate the sCRAP factor, you must be familiar with the qualitative, albeit subjective components which constitute sCRAP.

  • The basic component for sCRAP is the amount of dirt that appears on a player’s uniform.  Since the sCRAPpiest players on a team tend to be oft-injured or bench players, the percentage of the uniform covered in dirt is divided by the number of innings a player plays in a given game.  If a player has 90% of his uniform covered in dirt and plays exactly half the game, then the dirt component = .2.
  • So “dIRT” = (% of uniform covered / IP)/100.  The dIRT component is technically a cumulative one used later to help calculate sCRAP
  • E” equals the number of true errors made during a season.  This encompasses both errors scored by the official scorer as well as mistakes made in the field that should not be made by a sCRAPy player.  In this way the “true error” deviates from the traditional error in that the “true error” allows the assumption of the double play.
  • Another component for sCRAP is the “GRIT” component which is a “counting stat”.  This means that the final value is arrived at by adding the following together:  Unnecessary slides for any reason + running out a line drive all the way to 1st base despite the ball being caught by an infielder + headfirst slides + hit by pitch + collisions with another player + crotch grabs per at-bat.
  • As is the case with WAR, the sCRAP factor includes a poorly conceived and completely arbitrary position adjustment (POS).  If the number of games started is greater or equal to the number of pinch hit appearances, then the player’s position adjustment is set to “1″.  If the number of games started is less than the number of pinch hit appearances, then the player’s position adjustment is set to “1.000001″.
  • The final piece of the sCRAP puzzle is the “tough out” or “TO” component which is equal to the number of plate appearances in which the player fouls off 5 or more pitches.  Ideally, this would only count foul balls that an average hitter would be expected to put in play.  The problem most frequently associated with this ideal case primarily consists of a really detailed discussion about the concept of “BA+” which is loosely defined as the points below the league average that a player with a high sCRAP factor is hitting.  This necessarily must include both a park factor and a dynamic league factor value broken into slices based on position played.  The calculation of BA+ becomes quite tedious, so naturally the laborious process of putting random numbers together for a “TO” component in complex form becomes non-trivial.

In basic form:  sCRAP = dIRT * E * TO * GRIT * POS

While this relatively simplistic approach to evaluating sCRAP has not gained substantial traction with mainstream baseball people, it has several groups of regional supporters.  Eventually, sCRAP may gain widespread acceptance as a way of differentiating “sCRAP” from “CRAP” which post altogether.

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