2013 Nerdy Baseball Stat Projections: Pitchers

Baseball nerds are looking at all kinds of statistics that weren’t listed on the back of a baseball card when we were growing up. With the newer FIP, BABIP, and WAR statistics that have become a part of analysis of player abilities, it seems to be easier to project rebound candidates, potential breakouts, or potential flops based on these newer, sabermetric-based statistics.

FIP Winners and Losers for 2013

Fangraphs.com defined FIP as measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. FIP can be calculated with the following formula:

FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant

The constant is solely to bring FIP onto an ERA scale and is generally around 3.20. Fangraphs.com also provided the following table to show how the values should be interpreted:

Rating FIP
Excellent 2.90
Great 3.25
Above Average 3.75
Average 4.00
Below Average 4.20
Poor 4.50
Awful 5.00

Pitchers to Target

Here are some pitchers who could have solid seasons based on an inflated ERA and solid FIP values:

BlantonJoe Blanton, RHP, Los Angeles Angels: Blanton was not good in 2012…at least on paper. At 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA over 191 innings, you’d think that he was one of the weaker pitchers in the National League. Not so. Blanton posted an FIP of 3.91 and a WHIP of 1.26 last season, while walking just 1.60 batters per nine innings, his best rate since 2007 (1.57) when he was still with Oakland. For Blanton, his issues stem from the longball, as he gave up 29 last season and has a career HR/FB rate of 10.3 percent, which is close to the league average (roughly 10 percent), but that statistic has climbed to 13.9 percent in 2011 and 15.3 percent in 2012. The fact is, Angels Stadium of Anaheim ranked as the 4th lowest scoring park in baseball in 2012. Joe Blanton could have a huge year for the Angels. Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton only help his cause.

Adam Wainwright, RHP, St. Louis Cardinals: Wainwright has had a very good career. As a starting pitcher, he has a 3.14 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 3.01 K/BB over 996 innings and 151 starts. In 2012, Wainwright’s ERA “ballooned” to 3.94, which was a pretty drastic increase considering that in 2010 (he missed 2011 due to TJ surgery) that number was 2.42, while it was 2.63 in 2009. The time on the shelf could have had something to do with it, but Wainwright’s FIP was 3.10 in 2012, 6th best in MLB. With Chris Carpenter and Kyle Lohse seemingly gone from the equation in 2013, the Cardinals really need Wainwright to rebound. Nerdy baseball statistics show that he is well on his way to do just that. The inflated .315 BABIP (career .293) may have played a role in the ERA inflation, as the 9.9 percent HR/FB (career 8.0), as well. Water under the bridge.

DarvishYu Darvish, RHP, Texas Rangers: The rookie season that Darvish had seems to have gone completely unnoticed, thanks to the fishy outfielder for the Angels. 16 wins, 221 strikeouts over 191.1 innings, a 3.90 ERA, and a 1.28 WHIP shows that Darvish was very good in his transition to MLB from Japan. While the ERA looks a bit exaggerated, it was just that. When looking at Darvish, look at the 10.4 K/9 and the 3.29 FIP for the 2012 season. His ability to finish off hitters was very impressive and, as long as he holds up better than Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideo Nomo physically, Darvish is well on his way to establishing himself as one of the top pitchers in MLB.

Pitchers to Avoid

Here are some pitchers who may have terrible seasons based on a negative correlation to their FIP and ERA:

Jason Vargas, LHP, Los Angeles Angels: While Vargas is moving from Seattle (No.1 pitcher’s park) to Los Angeles (No.4 pitcher’s park) with Joe Blanton, it is unlikely that he will have a season like he had for the Mariners in 2012. Vargas has managed ERAs the last three seasons of 3.78 in 2010, 4.25 in 2011, and 3.85 in 2012, while posting FIPs of 3.95 of 2010, 4.09 in 2011, and 4.69 last season. Somehow, Vargas managed to give up 35 home runs last season, 26 of them on the road, even while pitching in Safeco. So…can Angels Stadium hold as many balls and make him valuable, or is this the year that reality and statistics set in on Vargas? Even when he was posting an ERA of 3.96, a WHIP of 1.25, and winning 33 games over the last three seasons, it seemed to be with quite a bit of luck.

Clayton Richard, LHP, San Diego Padres: You have to love Petco Park, right? Richard should, as he managed to keep his ERA at 3.99 last season with an FIP of 4.62. Richard has kept himself somewhat useful in the world of fantasy baseball by posting a 3.88 ERA over the last three seasons and 520 innings for the Friars, even while posting a below average WHIP of 1.34 and going 33-32 over 84 starts. Richard may continue to keep his ERA, but with his HR/FB ballooning to 15 percent last season and the fences being moved in this season at Petco Park, is it going to last?

HellicksonJeremy Hellickson, RHP, Tampa Bay Rays: Hellickson is either really good or a ticking time bomb. He doesn’t strike many out, as his 5.93 K/9 is 66th in baseball since the start of the 2011 season. His .242 BABIP is the lowest in baseball since the start of 2011, just in front of Jered Weaver (.246) and Justin Verlander (.255). Hellickson’s career ERA is a sexy 3.06 and his career WHIP is 1.19; however, his FIP in 2011 was 4.44 (when his ERA was 2.95) and 4.60 in 2012 (when his ERA was 3.10). He turns 26 in April and has just 402.1 innings pitched in his career, but can he really maintain the success that he has had in the ERA, WHIP, and BABIP categories if his FIP continues to inflate?

DetwilerRoss Detwiler, LHP, Washington Nationals: With Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, and Dan Haren in the rotation, do the Nationals really need to expect a lot from Detwiler in 2013? They probably shouldn’t. Detwiler has long had the stuff to be a solid starting pitcher and finally received an opportunity last year. The low to mid-90’s fastball would say that Detwiler has shutdown stuff, but his 5.7 K/9 as a starter in 2012 says otherwise. While he posted a 3.40 ERA in 2012 and an FIP of 4.04 (which is right around average), what is in store for the 27-year-old left-hander in 2013? The Nationals have already shown a short leash on Detwiler, pulling him from the rotation in late May of last year after nine starts, even after he posted a solid 3.88 ERA. Detwiler, like Hellickson, seems to have the stuff to continue posting solid peripheral statistics, in spite of a potentially alarmingly high FIP and an inability to miss bats.

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