Stop Using the Win Statistic – A Guide to Analyzing Pitchers
Like the .300 hitter in last week’s piece, it is time to devalue the “20-game winner.” Back when pitchers went the full nine every time out on the mound, the win was a decent evaluator. However! With shorter starts, more reliance on relief pitching, blown leads by said relief pitching, and inconsistent run support, the individual pitching win has become obsolete. For those of you who are unfamiliar with some of the more advanced pitching statistics, this is the guide for you.
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ERA is wonderful and should continue to be used. My guess is that no one really needs a tutorial through that one. So, we at FriarsOnBase will be adding ERA+, FIP, and WHIP to your repertoire.
First, ERA+. This stat evaluates a pitcher’s ERA relative to the league’s ERA and adjusted for park effects. So, a Padre pitcher with an ERA of 3.00 will have lower a ERA+ than a pitcher on the Phillies with the same 3.00 ERA, because Citizens Bank Park is a bandbox. Like OPS+, the average pitcher has an ERA+ of 100 and the higher the number, the better the pitcher. Anything over 120 is very good, and over 130 is great. To add more perspective, Tyson Ross (ERA of 2.81) had an ERA+ of 119, last season.
FIP (fielding independent pitching) adjusts what a pitcher’s ERA would be if there were a league-average defense behind him. There are other factors like league average batter’s timing, but what it boils down to is that it factors what balls would be turned into outs or not with a league-average set of defenders. So, when looking at a pitcher’s FIP, treat it like it’s ERA. The only difference is that the numbers are a little less extreme. A really high ERA will probably yield a moderately high FIP. The same applies for low extremes. Tyson Ross had an ERA of 2.81 last year, with a very respectable 3.24 FIP, which ranked ninth in the National League.
For analyzing how effective a pitcher is at keeping opposing hitters off base, WHIP is both a common and very competent statistic. Basically, how many runners get on base off of a pitcher in an inning (hence walks and hits per inning pitched). The league average is about 1.300. A few pitchers get under 1.000 per year, but the happy zone is below 1.150. And anything above 1.500 is on the level of Edinson Volquez as a Padre. Back to our test subject. Ross has a very good opponents batting average. But, like evaluating a hitter’s average, it would be foolish to ignore walks. Because Ross could get wild, his WHIP was 1.211 last year, which, while still good, is not as good as his ERA+ or FIP would suggest.
Tune in next Thursday to see who gets the analyst’s treatment.