A pitching statistic I have frequently used here is FIP (“fielding independent pitching”). It is superior to ERA for pitcher evaluation, as it removes the variables a pitcher has no control over – defense, bullpen, and luck. Instead, it focuses on outcomes the pitcher controls – strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. It is measured on the same scale as ERA and is better for predicting future performance. Read more about it in the pitching stat glossary section on the top right of the page. FIP+ adjusts a player’s FIP for league and park factors, similar to OPS+ and ERA+. A FIP+ of 100 is league average; a FIP+ of 110 is 10% better than league average. Let’s take a look at the 2008 FIP, FIP+, and ERA of the 2009 Mets starters and prospective Mets starters:
a) I hate to say it, but Johan Santana’s ERA in 2008 was somewhat lucky. His left-on-base % (LOB %) was unsustainably high. Coming off knee surgery, I think his ERA will regress in 2009. Then again, Citi Field may be a pitcher’s park in the mold of Petco Park so maybe his ERA will remain sub-3.00.
b) Derek Lowe was outstanding in 2008. His FIP was 3rd in the league behind Tim Lincecum and Danny Haren. He almost certainly won’t be able to repeat that performance, considering ’08 was a contract year and he’s 35 years old. I still think he’ll be a top tier pitcher for the next couple years – his 2009 Marcel projection has him at a 3.67 FIP. Compare to Santana, who is projected at 3.60 or C.C. Sabathia at 3.16.
c) Oliver Perez was 9% worse than league average in 2008, his contract year. This worries me. Tell me again why he’s worth $12 million a year? Don’t get me wrong – I like Ollie. I just don’t want the Mets to overpay for talent, especially in this off-season of bargains (Yankees signings excluded).
d) As I’ve posted previously, my ideal feasible 2009 Mets rotation would be Santana, Lowe, Pelfrey, Maine, and Redding, with Niese expected to make a few starts. Let’s see how this group’s FIP+ stacks up with those of the 2008 Phillies and Cubs, the top 2 teams in the NL last year:
Obviously we can’t expect these pitchers to perfectly match their 2008 performance. However, coupled with an improved bullpen and one of the top offenses in the league, the 2009 Mets would look pretty strong with this rotation.
Thanks to BtB for the FIP+ numbers.