Rockies fans are all too familiar with the inconsistent nature of the game of baseball. Charlie Blackmon squares up a ball and hits it to the deepest part of Coors Field, only to have it tracked down by an outfielder. Next at bat, he bounces one off the hands that falls in for a single. One of those goes down in baseball history as a hit, the other goes down as an out, just like every other out. And while these inconsistencies are frustrating for fans, they are even more frustrating for pitchers, and for evaluating pitchers.
Fortunately, these days there are advanced stats for most everything, and decoupling events a pitcher does not have control over from a pitcher’s value is a pretty straightforward process. Enter fielding independent pitching - FIP.
Developed by Voros McCraken in the early 2000s after he demonstrated that pitchers “don’t appear to have the ability to prevent hits on balls in play”, FIP is set on a similar scale to ERA, but designed to be a better indication of the pitcher’s performance. Rather than earned runs and innings pitched, the formula for FIP solely relies on events that do not result in balls in play. By decoupling FIP from defenses, parks, and luck, it attempts to paint a clearer picture of a pitcher’s performance.
FIP = ((HR x 13) + (3 x (BB + HBP)) - (2 x K)) / IP + FIP constant
The FIP constant is added to make league average FIP the same as league average ERA for any given year. This also makes it easy to quickly compare the two. While there are some outliers, a pitcher whose FIP is lower than his ERA is typically due for some better luck, whereas a pitcher whose ERA is lower than his FIP is typically due for a regression. FIP is widely regarded as indicative of a pitcher’s performance that it is used in Fangraphs calculation of WAR, rather than ERA.
One of those outliers, conveniently, is the entire Rockies pitching staff due to (you guessed it) Coors Field. Over the last 10 years, the Rockies staff FIP has outperformed the staff ERA every year. Predictably, they are the only team in the majors with this streak. Due to Coors being the ultimate hitter friendly park, Rockies pitchers are continually punished for soft base hits that would be outs in other parks coming around to score.
Is this likely to change? No. Rockies pitching staffs will likely always underperform when comparing their FIP to their ERA. But does that mean that we should discount FIP for Rockies pitchers? Also no. While a Coors factor should be applied to Rockies pitchers FIPs, it’s still a good indication of who is over and underperforming. The same principles that guide FIP still play at Coors Field. Strikeouts are still great. Walks and homers still hurt. They just hurt more.
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The Rockies backstops are at a crossroads heading into 2022. As Drew Creasman notes, it was a tale of two seasons for Elías Díaz in 2021 - he spent the first 24 games with an OPS of .332, before slashing .278/.345/.549 over his next 82 games. If Díaz can prove that the latter is his true self, then he (and the Rockies) will be sitting pretty when the season starts.
Top prospects on 40-man rosters could lose significant development time if MLB lockout drags on | The Athletic ($)
With no end to the lockout in sight, we are now discussing the intricacies of a major and minor league spring training. Younger players who were hoping to impress this spring camp and are currently on the 40-man roster have found themselves stuck in the lockout, and potentially falling behind their peers in minor league spring training. While the players affected are surely working out elsewhere, they are missing out on the chance to make an impression on the major league clubs.
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