Top 5 FIP Series: Toledo Mud Hens
For this series, I’m going to write about the top 5 FIP’s of each Tiger minor league affiliate. In order to understand why I am doing this, I’ll give a little bit of background to FIP and why it’s important.
First of all, FIP stands for "Fielding Independent Pitching". When looking at a pitcher, it’s important to realize that plenty of their successes or failures hinge on the quality of their fielders. For example, pitching behind a defense of Evan Longoria at 3B, Brendan Ryan at SS, Darwin Barney at 2B, and Adrian Gonzalez at 1B would substantially help a pitcher’s numbers. The same way that pitching behind a defense of Mark Reynolds at 3B, Derek Jeter at SS, Ryan Raburn at 2B, and Prince Fielder at 1B would hurt a pitcher (oops, the two on the right side actually started a few games for the AL Champion this season).
Anyway, FIP takes into account the things that a pitcher can control, like strike outs, walks, hit by pitches, and home runs. Also, FIP is a better indicator of things that are going to happen in the future, instead of what happened in the past. For example, earlier in the season, when Max Scherzer gave up a bunch of runs in this first few starts, while having a K/BB around 8, it was pretty obvious that he was going to have a much better second half of the year. This is because his BABIP was unsustainably high, meaning that an inordinate amount of the balls that were put into play were falling for hits. Good thing for minor leaguers, their numbers don’t start to matter until they reach the big show. Therefore, FIP is a nice indicator of their minor league success, and how likely it is that they will sustain it in the future.
Remember though, FIP is not perfect. Adam Wilk puts up a great FIP because he doesn’t walk very many. I don’t see him having a major league impact. It’s just another fun metric to use to define success indeterminate of luck.
Finally, for this series, I’m going to use the team where the pitcher threw the most innings. So, Bruce Rondon will inevitably appear on Lakeland’s list, even though he ended on Toledo. For starting pitchers, the minimum is 75 IP. For relievers, the minimum is 20 IP.
5. Luke Putkonen: I have not had the opportunity to express my feelings for Luke yet on TPR. If I don’t like Andy Oliver, take a wild guess how I feel about Putkonen. He has a straight fastball and a "developing" curve. Aka, he’s just another Francisco Cruceta, Franklin German, etc. This is a perfect example, however, of a case where a pitcher’s peripherals do not match the outcome. Putkonen’s 3.37 FIP was a run and a half lower than his 4.87 ERA in Toledo. This was probably due to a .360 BABIP, and he gave up 68 hits in 57 innings.
4. Adam Wilk: the only starter on this list was soft tossing left hander Adam Wilk. It makes sense that starters have higher FIP’s than relievers, because relievers only have to throw one inning, and often strike out more batters than starters do. As far as Wilk goes, he had an outstanding year in Toledo, and I even named him Tiger minor league pitcher of the year for his performance. It’s evident that AAA hitters are no match for Wilk, who posted a 2.77 ERA and 3.18 FIP for the season. Adam walked only 28 in 149.2 innings, while surrendering a measly 123 hits. However, in 3 starts with the Tigers, he only managed 11 innings, and surrendered 21 hits (including 4 HR). What figures to be the problem for Wilk are right handed batters. Only 42 right handed batters walked to the plate against Wilk, 4 hit home runs and 16 managed hits. I see a 6th/7th starter ceiling for the soft tosser, as he does not have the stuff to be a reliever. Maybe he should start throwing side arm.
3. Chris Bootcheck: as expected, the AAA crop isn’t exactly a breeding ground for prospects. Bootcheck actually had an outstanding season for Toledo. Aside from 2 awful outings of 4 and 5 runs, Bootcheck only allowed 11 runs in 43 other innings spanning 39 other appearances. I don’t know what to think of Bootcheck, other than he probably needs to throw a spitball in order to put up good enough numbers to get any major league consideration. He’s had a few stints in the big leagues, and has a 6.54 ERA in that span. Regardless, he was good for Toledo this year, surrendering a nice 3.00 FIP, although his 4.06 ERA doesn’t match his peripherals. One extraneous note about the journeyman, he walked 5.28 per 9 this year, and he’s usually closer to around 3/9. If the Tigers retain him for next year, he could have an awesome year as Toledo’s closer once again.
2. Luis Marte: Marte didn’t perform as well as the Tiger faithful were hoping this past season at the MLB level, but he’s still young with plenty of room to improve. Marte could still be an excellent 7th inning and good 8th inning guy for the Tigers in the future. He has a legit wipeout slider, with a major league average fastball and changeup. Marte struck out 10/9 in AAA, putting up a 2.75 FIP and a 3.70 ERA in 24 innings. Look for Marte to have a good season next year if he stays healthy.
1. Darin Downs: Downs had an excellent season in Toledo, putting up a miniscule 1.77 FIP and 2.15 ERA. He struck out 4 times as many as he walked in 29 innings yielding 0 home runs as well. In another 20.2 innings in the majors, Downs enjoyed more success, giving up a 3.48 ERA and 3.24 FIP. Downs figures to compete for the LOOGY job in spring training, and should be counted on as the second left hander out of the bullpen going forward. You could do much worse than Downs for a role like that.
So, that's it for this week's "Sabermetrics Weekly" segment. Next week I'll be tacking the Double A-Erie Seawolves Top 5 pitcher's by FIP.
Please, leave your thoughts on this segment in the comments section. Brian and I are both very interested in the response that this segment will garner from you all, the readers. After all, you guys are why we do this!