FIP
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Stat of the Week
by Peter Liubicich
FIP
This post was written by Peter Liubicich on February 13, 2012
Posted Under: Stat of the Week

This week I’ll be looking at a Defensive Independent Pitching Statistic (also known as DIPS in the sabermetrics world) called Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP).  FIP is intended to be a predictive statistic that should be used from season to season rather than to evaluate a single start or series of starts.  I will use the statistic to measure some of the best pitchers of all time, some of the best starters the past few seasons, and two of the best relievers of all time to measure the benefits and drawbacks of this statistic.

The onset of DIPS is credited to Voros McCracken, a Chicago paralegal, who noticed that pitchers’ ERAs would fluctuate from year to year and wanted a more accurate way to evaluate a pitcher than ERA (For more history on DIPS click here).  This led to the development of formulae, such as FIP, that measure a pitcher’s effectiveness based solely on the statistics the pitcher can control, HR allowed, Walks, Hit Batsmen, Intentional Walks, Strike Outs and Innings Pitched.  The equation also involves a constant that is added to raise the value of FIP closer to the value of ERA.  (The constant is usually between 3.15 and 3.20 and is season specific and league specific but for the evaluation I conducted I used 3.2 as my constant).  An interesting part of the formula is that it looks similar to linear weights (a statistic that will be covered in the near future) where each variable is multiplied by a coefficient with HR being multiplied by 13, Walks, HBP and IBB by 3 and strike outs by 2.  Additionally, the formula takes into account that intentional walks are usually the decision of a manager and rarely the decision of a pitcher which makes intentional walks a statistic that is out of the control of a pitcher, and subtracted out of the total number of batters a pitcher allows on base through their own effort and fault.

FIP arose from the shortcoming of ERA being a measure that could be affected by the various players’ range in the field, the catcher, base runners, umpires, the stadium, random luck and even the official scorer whose job is to decide between an error and a hit.  FIP measures a pitcher’s ability based on the effectiveness of the pitcher, the umpire and his strike zone, the stadium and luck.  This would make FIP a better indicator than ERA of future performance as the formula compares only the statistics that a pitcher can control from year to year while ERA can fluctuate based on the defense behind the pitcher from year to year and many other variables (FanGraphs).

Let’s take a look at FIP through player analysis.  I’ve compiled some of the all-time great pitcher’s FIP by getting their statistics from Baseball-Reference and then comparing the pitcher’s actual ERA across their career against their FIP.

Tom Seaver

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1967

19

78

5

6

170

251.00

3.75

2.76

(0.99)

1968

15

48

8

5

205

278.00

2.98

2.20

(0.78)

1969

24

82

7

9

208

273.33

3.70

2.21

(1.49)

1970

21

83

4

8

283

290.67

3.01

2.82

(0.19)

1971

18

61

4

2

289

286.33

2.66

1.76

(0.90)

1972

23

77

5

2

249

262.00

3.36

2.92

(0.44)

1973

23

64

4

5

251

290.00

3.15

2.08

(1.07)

1974

19

75

3

10

201

236.00

3.41

3.20

(0.21)

1975

11

88

4

6

243

280.33

2.90

2.38

(0.52)

1976

14

77

4

9

235

271.00

2.93

2.59

(0.34)

1977

19

66

0

6

196

261.33

3.33

2.58

(0.75)

1978

26

89

0

11

226

259.67

3.66

2.88

(0.78)

1979

16

61

0

6

121

215.00

3.81

3.14

(0.67)

1980

24

59

1

3

101

168.00

4.87

3.64

(1.23)

1981

10

66

3

8

87

166.33

4.04

2.54

(1.50)

1982

14

44

3

4

62

111.33

4.88

5.50

0.62

1983

18

86

4

5

135

231.00

4.15

3.55

(0.60)

1984

27

61

2

3

131

236.67

4.34

3.95

(0.39)

1985

22

69

8

6

134

238.67

4.17

3.17

(1.00)

1986

17

56

7

2

103

176.33

4.32

4.03

(0.29)

I started to use FIP as an evaluative tool with the pitcher who holds the record of first ballot Hall of Famer with the highest percentage of votes, Tom Seaver.  FIP proves to be more constant line in the graph as is expected, however, Seaver’s FIP is higher than his ERA in every season except 1982. (This might be a result of the constant across Seaver’s career could be lower than the constant used to measure today’s pitchers.)

Greg Maddux

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1986

3

11

1

2

20

31.00

4.14

5.52

1.38

1987

17

74

4

13

101

155.67

4.57

5.61

1.04

1988

13

81

9

16

140

249.00

3.65

3.18

(0.47)

1989

13

82

6

13

135

238.33

3.72

2.95

(0.77)

1990

11

71

4

10

144

237.00

3.41

3.46

0.05

1991

18

66

6

9

198

263.00

3.30

3.35

0.05

1992

7

70

14

7

199

268.00

2.92

2.18

(0.74)

1993

14

52

6

7

197

267.00

2.98

2.36

(0.62)

1994

4

31

6

3

156

202.00

2.42

1.56

(0.86)

1995

8

23

4

3

181

209.67

2.31

1.63

(0.68)

1996

11

28

3

11

172

245.00

2.62

2.72

0.10

1997

9

20

6

6

177

232.67

2.44

2.20

(0.24)

1998

13

45

7

10

204

251.00

2.75

2.22

(0.53)

1999

16

37

4

8

136

219.33

3.36

3.57

0.21

2000

19

42

10

12

190

249.33

3.15

3.00

(0.15)

2001

20

27

7

10

173

233.00

3.14

3.05

(0.09)

2002

14

45

4

7

118

199.33

3.56

2.62

(0.94)

2003

24

33

8

7

124

218.33

3.96

3.96

(0.00)

2004

35

33

9

4

151

212.67

4.46

4.02

(0.44)

2005

29

36

7

4

136

225.00

4.19

4.24

0.05

2006

20

37

0

7

117

210.00

3.75

4.20

0.45

2007

14

25

6

3

104

198.00

3.49

4.14

0.65

2008

21

30

6

5

98

194.00

4.08

4.22

0.14

The Mad Dog’s career did not get off to a great start, but he is now ranked as the 3rd best pitcher of all time according to Baseball-Reference’s EloRater.  FIP again remains the more constant line than ERA which has many more peaks and valleys.  Maddux had many jaw dropping seasons in terms of ERA, especially his run from 1992 to 1995, but his FIP tells an even greater story as Maddux’s FIP is far below the constant of 3.2 meaning he gave up a minimal amount of home runs, walks and hit by pitchers and was striking out a high number of batters in comparison.

Bob Gibson

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1959

4

39

1

2

48

75.67

4.13

3.33

(0.80)

1960

7

48

1

6

69

86.67

4.15

5.61

1.46

1961

13

119

6

7

166

211.33

4.10

3.24

(0.86)

1962

15

95

10

9

208

233.67

3.49

2.85

(0.64)

1963

19

96

13

1

204

254.67

3.84

3.39

(0.45)

1964

25

86

9

9

245

287.33

3.52

3.01

(0.51)

1965

34

103

11

6

270

299.00

3.96

3.07

(0.89)

1966

20

78

5

5

225

280.33

3.36

2.44

(0.92)

1967

10

40

3

3

147

175.33

2.95

2.98

0.03

1968

11

62

7

6

268

304.67

2.53

1.12

(1.41)

1969

12

95

10

7

269

314.00

2.92

2.18

(0.74)

1970

13

88

4

9

274

294.00

2.76

3.12

0.36

1971

14

76

7

11

185

245.67

3.31

3.04

(0.27)

1972

14

88

3

11

208

278.00

3.22

2.46

(0.76)

1973

12

57

3

6

142

195.00

3.37

2.77

(0.60)

1974

24

104

5

14

129

240.00

4.61

3.83

(0.78)

1975

10

62

4

6

60

109.00

4.94

5.04

0.10

I chose Bob Gibson as another historic pitcher to evaluate through FIP as his 1968 season of a 1.12 ERA is one of the most unimaginable feats in MLB history and likely to never be repeated.  Gibson’s ERA the from 1967 to 1970 fluctuated greatly, with the 1968 season being the greatest change, while Gibson’s FIP remained more stable and served as a better predictor of his independent statistics the next few season’s than ERA.

Tim Wakefield

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1992

3

35

1

1

51

92.00

3.66

2.15

(1.51)

1993

14

75

9

2

59

128.33

5.62

5.61

(0.01)

1995

22

68

9

0

119

195.33

4.63

2.95

(1.68)

1996

38

90

12

0

140

211.67

5.66

5.14

(0.52)

1997

24

87

16

5

151

201.33

4.71

4.25

(0.46)

1998

30

79

14

1

146

216.00

4.93

4.58

(0.35)

1999

19

72

5

2

104

140.00

5.09

5.08

(0.01)

2000

31

65

4

3

102

159.33

5.69

5.48

(0.21)

2001

13

73

18

5

148

168.67

3.98

3.90

(0.08)

2002

15

51

9

2

134

163.33

3.82

2.81

(1.01)

2003

23

71

12

0

169

202.33

4.24

4.09

(0.15)

2004

29

63

16

3

116

188.33

5.18

4.87

(0.31)

2005

35

68

11

4

151

225.33

4.88

4.15

(0.73)

2006

19

51

10

0

90

140.00

4.99

4.63

(0.36)

2007

22

64

4

1

110

189.00

4.61

4.76

0.15

2008

25

60

13

0

117

181.00

4.91

4.13

(0.78)

2009

12

50

10

0

72

129.67

4.68

4.58

(0.10)

2010

19

36

5

3

84

140.00

4.58

5.34

0.76

2011

25

47

8

1

93

154.67

5.15

5.12

(0.03)

Tim Wakefield is an interesting case study for FIP because as Wakefield is the most famous knuckleballer of the past decade and the nature of his pitch places great stress on the catcher and umpire, both of which affect ERA, while also causing more weak grounders and pop ups.  Wakefield was used as a spot starter from 1999-2002 but his FIP as a starting pitcher from 1992-1998 and 2003-2009 surprisingly imitates his ERA more closely than the other pitchers evaluated.

Derek Lowe

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1997

11

23

4

3

52

69.00

4.81

6.13

1.32

1998

5

42

4

5

77

123.00

3.48

4.02

0.54

1999

7

25

4

1

80

109.33

3.34

2.63

(0.71)

2000

6

22

2

5

79

91.33

2.95

2.56

(0.39)

2001

7

29

5

9

82

91.67

3.22

3.53

0.31

2002

12

48

12

0

127

219.67

3.57

2.58

(0.99)

2003

17

72

11

4

110

203.33

4.37

4.47

0.10

2004

15

71

8

2

105

182.67

4.38

5.42

1.04

2005

28

55

5

1

146

222.00

4.32

3.61

(0.71)

2006

14

55

5

2

123

218.00

3.70

3.63

(0.07)

2007

20

59

1

2

147

199.33

3.90

3.88

(0.02)

2008

14

45

1

7

147

211.00

3.22

3.24

0.02

2009

16

63

4

7

111

194.67

4.05

4.67

0.62

2010

18

61

4

10

136

193.67

3.86

4.00

0.14

2011

14

70

3

4

137

187.00

3.81

5.05

1.24

Derek Lowe is another interesting case study as he places more pressure on his defense as a sinker ball pitcher and has never had more than 147 strike outs in a season.  Lowe’s FIP and ERA followed almost identical paths from 2006 to 2008, which happened to be his most stable years as a pitcher in terms of ERA which could be a product of a better defense playing behind him, although Julio Lugo’s defensive stats in 2007 and 2008 were well below what a team would hope for from its shortstop.

The following four pitchers are amongst the best in the game today, so feel free to check out their FIP the last couple of years.  One can assume their FIP will remain constant or decrease slightly in the years to come.

Justin Verlander

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

2005

1

5

1

0

7

11.33

4.70

7.15

2.45

2006

21

60

6

1

124

186.00

4.38

3.63

(0.75)

2007

20

67

19

3

183

201.67

3.91

3.66

(0.25)

2008

18

87

14

8

163

201.00

4.13

4.84

0.71

2009

20

63

6

5

269

240.00

2.84

3.45

0.61

2010

14

71

6

0

219

224.33

3.09

3.37

0.28

2011

24

57

3

0

250

251.00

3.17

2.40

(0.77)

Jered Weaver

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

2006

15

33

3

1

105

123.00

3.93

2.56

(1.37)

2007

17

45

2

3

115

161.00

3.96

3.91

(0.05)

2008

20

54

6

4

152

176.67

3.90

4.33

0.43

2009

26

66

4

3

174

211.00

4.11

3.75

(0.36)

2010

23

54

0

0

233

224.33

3.18

3.01

(0.17)

2011

20

56

3

0

198

235.67

3.37

2.41

(0.96)

Clayton Kershaw

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

2008

11

52

1

3

100

107.67

4.06

4.26

0.20

2009

7

91

1

4

185

171.00

3.11

2.79

(0.32)

2010

13

81

7

9

212

204.33

3.11

2.91

(0.20)

2011

15

54

3

2

248

233.33

2.62

2.28

(0.34)


Tim Lincecum

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

2007

12

65

2

5

150

146.33

3.49

4.00

0.51

2008

11

84

6

1

265

227.00

2.67

2.62

(0.05)

2009

10

68

6

2

261

225.33

2.42

2.48

0.06

2010

18

76

5

7

231

212.33

3.17

3.43

0.26

2011

15

86

6

5

220

217.00

3.27

2.74

(0.53)

I also wanted to check out if FIP was an effective measuring tool of relief pitchers so I looked at one Hall of Fame closer, Bruce Sutter, and a shoe in Hall of Famer whenever he decides to hang up his jersey, Mariano Rivera.  FIP for relievers actually seems to have more volatile movements and does not move as constant as it does for starting pitchers, which is an effect of the denominator in the FIP formula, IP, not being as high for relievers.  This leaves an opportunity for future research for a DIPS for relievers that can act as a predictive statistic the way FIP does for starting pitchers.

Mariano Rivera

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1995

11

30

2

0

51

67.00

5.24

5.51

0.27

1996

1

34

2

3

130

107.67

1.83

2.09

0.26

1997

5

20

0

6

68

71.67

2.80

1.88

(0.92)

1998

3

17

1

1

36

61.33

3.49

1.91

(1.58)

1999

2

18

3

3

52

69.00

2.85

1.83

(1.02)

2000

4

25

0

3

58

75.67

3.23

2.85

(0.38)

2001

5

12

1

2

83

80.67

2.36

2.34

(0.02)

2002

3

11

2

2

41

46.00

2.98

2.74

(0.24)

2003

3

10

4

1

63

70.67

2.52

1.66

(0.86)

2004

3

20

5

3

66

78.67

2.86

1.94

(0.92)

2005

2

18

4

0

80

78.33

2.33

1.38

(0.95)

2006

3

11

5

4

55

75.00

2.73

1.80

(0.93)

2007

4

12

6

2

74

71.33

2.53

3.15

0.62

2008

4

6

2

0

77

70.67

2.10

1.40

(0.70)

2009

7

12

1

1

72

66.33

2.94

1.76

(1.18)

2010

2

11

5

3

45

60.00

2.78

1.80

(0.98)

2011

3

8

2

2

60

61.33

2.27

1.91

(0.36)

Bruce Sutter

Year

HR

BB

HBP

IBB

K

IP

FIP

Actual ERA

Actual ERA-FIP

1976

4

26

0

8

73

83.33

2.72

2.70

(0.02)

1977

5

23

1

7

129

107.33

1.88

1.34

(0.54)

1978

10

34

1

7

106

98.67

3.22

3.19

(0.03)

1979

3

32

0

5

110

101.33

2.21

2.22

0.01

1980

5

34

1

8

76

102.33

3.14

2.64

(0.50)

1981

5

24

1

8

57

82.33

3.22

2.62

(0.60)

1982

8

34

3

13

61

102.33

3.73

2.90

(0.83)

1983

8

30

1

14

64

89.33

3.50

4.23

0.73

1984

9

23

1

4

77

122.67

3.39

1.54

(1.85)

1985

13

29

3

4

52

88.33

4.89

4.48

(0.41)

1986

3

9

0

2

16

18.67

4.70

4.34

(0.36)

1988

4

11

1

3

40

45.33

3.18

4.76

1.58

The beautiful thing ones finds in sabermetrics and statistical analysis is that although it tries to break baseball down to an exact science, statistics can only predict the future to a certain extent.   Production and value cannot be assessed until the batter digs in and the pitcher goes into the wind up.  The 2012 baseball season has officially begun with the Seattle Mariners’ pitchers and catchers reporting to camp yesterday.  In the upcoming season, don’t rely solely on ERA to see if your favorite team’s rotation will repeat success or failure, but look at each of the pitcher’s FIP to have a better understanding of what each pitcher will do in the 2012 season in terms of statistics that pitchers alone can control.

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