Walt Weiss is officially the new Rockies manager, and he inherits a very difficult situation. His team has struggling starters, a unique front office, and a home field that makes it impossible to win. In fact, Coors Field has prevented the Rockies from ever having a successful baseball team.
"People look at us like we're crazy, but we've been doing this for 20 years, and it's not working." - Dan O'Dowd on the paired pitching system, USA Today, 6/27/2012
Of course, there is some dissonance here. While the Rockies should have fielded five playoff teams in 20 years based on their payroll and simple probability, they have fielded three playoff teams. That is below average, but it is certainly above zero. With Coors Field against them, how were the Rockies' successful in the past?
In each of their three playoff runs, the Rockies had a capable but not overwhelming offense. They did manage to pitch particularly well, once park adjustments were taken in to effect.
In 1995, the squad was le by a quietly dominant bullpen, leading the league by over 3.5 fWAR. Curtis Leskanic, Darren Holmes and Steve Reed each pitched more than 66 innings with an ERA below 3.40 in a park more stacked against pitchers than 2012 Coors Field. 1995 was the beginning of the axiom that a game is never over at Coors Field, but that developed from the Rockies' offense coming back late in games while the bullpen quietly held the opposition in check.
In 2007, the Rockies posted the best pitching fWAR in the league for the first time in their history. Home-grown pitchers Jeff Francis, Aaron Cook, Ubaldo Jimenez, and Franklin Morales helped carry the staff while the offense got an MVP performance from Matt Holliday. The defense also set an MLB record in fielding percentage while leading the league in Total Zone defense.
In 2009, Colorado got impeccable health from their rotation. All but seven games were started by five pitchers, two of whom were Rockies for the first time. That health and consistency led to a rested and effective bullpen. and the best pitching staff in the league muted a negative Coors Field effect.
In 2012, the rotation was brutalized by injuries and ineffectiveness, forcing the bullpen to pick up a majority of the slack. That artificially inflated the bullpen fWAR. The defense was terrible, which didn't help, but the bullpen and offense was within range of prior contenders.
One other note: check the second column in that table. Every time the Rockies were most successful, they made Coors Field their advantage, not their disadvantage. Walt Weiss understands the importance of this.
"One thing we need to convince the players of is we have the greatest home-field advantage in all of baseball, and I don't think there's a close second. We've got to play on that. That's how it was. When our hitters stepped into the batter's box, we felt we were in control, and even against some of the best pitchers in the game we put up some damage. We had the momentum, and it was a matter of time before we'd get you. That mental edge was pivotal and we have to get back to it. I realize this is a different club than '95; we've got the possibility of doing really well offensively." - Walt Weiss
Weiss has the challenge of rebuilding that advantage on a "one-year" contract. He claims to be comfortable with the situation, as essentially every member of the Rockies organization except Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Cuddyer are essentially on annual one-year rolling contracts. The Rockies leaders in Tulowitzki and Helton approve of Weiss as their next skipper.
While Coors Field is certainly a challenge, the Rockies have used it to their advantage in the past. There is a formula (unless those three playoff teams were blind luck). If the Rockies get more stable pitching from even half of the rotation and stable defense, this team will improve dramatically.
Jason Giambi mulling offer to be Rockies' hitting coach - The Denver Post He claimed that he would not retire unless he got the manager position. Now we will know if he really means it. He reportedly has interest from other teams as a player, which could be agent posturing this early in the game.
Dante Bichette's name surfaced for Colorado Rockies with Walt Weiss - It will not come to pass, yet.
Baseball Prospectus | Manufactured Runs: What the Recent Trend Toward Inexperienced Managers Means - Colin Wyers has a BPro insider piece on Weiss, Redmond, Matheny and the other slew of recently hired inexperienced MLB managers.
MLB -- Winter Forecast for teams in National League West - ESPN - Jason Wojciechowski wrote up an offseason preview for each team in the NL West. He's yet another to link Kevin Youkilis to the Rockies, which makes little sense to me.
Rockies' Wilin Rosario not finalist for National League Rookie of Year - His defense prevented this.
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Bob Gibson’s 1968 Season Was Magical!!! Bob Gibson’s 1968 season was one that makes players into legends. His performance from the start of the season through the entire schedule and playoffs included is one of the most talked about and heralded … Continue reading →
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In recent weeks, I've written a fair amount about batting average on balls in play (BABIP). A different statistic, fielding independent pitching (FIP), uses the three true outcomes (Ks, BBs, HRs) to describe a pitching performance, while assuming a league average BABIP. This average BABIP assumption allows the statistic to regressed back nicely towards ERA, to create a defense independent version of ERA.
BABIP is not stable; thus (and for other reasons), not every pitcher finishes each single season with a league average BABIP. A gap between an individual's BABIP and the league average is one of the factors (along with sequencing or strand rate) that leads to a gap between a pitcher's FIP and ERA.
At the moment, Hellickson is baseball's poster child for not only the gap between FIP and ERA, but the idea that a pitcher could have a plan that revolves around inducing softer contact, and in turn, yielding a lower than average BABIP.
Among qualified starters in both 2011 and 2012, Hellickson lead baseball with the largest (absolute) gap between his ERA and FIP. The difference in 2012 was an incredible 1.5 runs (1.49 runs in 2011); while, Hellickson's BABIP (.261) was 32 points below the league average.
My focus for this article has really nothing to do with BABIP though, instead while writing the THT piece I referred to, I began wondering how Hellickson's gap between FIP and ERA stacked up historically.
Theoretically, the gap between FIP and ERA should decrease as innings pitched increases.
For that reason, looking at the historical significance of the 3.35 FIP/ERA gap that Josh Outman had in 40.2 innings last season, would be rather foolish.
My goal instead was to see if Hellickson's 1.5 FIP/ERA gap had any historical significance among pitchers who threw enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Questions such as, whether or not a qualified starter ever had a two run difference between his ERA and FIP, were what I was looking to answer.
So, I looked at ERA/FIP gap for every qualified starter dating back to 1950, because pre-World II baseball was a different game and FIP for a pitcher in the 20s and 30s really isn't too relevant.
I didn't concern myself with whether or not the pitcher outperformed his FIP (ERA much lower than FIP) or if the pitcher underperformed his FIP (ERA much higher than FIP), but instead looked at the absolute difference between the two statistics, to find the top-10 largest gaps in ERA and FIP since 1950.
In 1987, Chris Bosio, a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers had the largest FIP/ERA gap of any qualified pitcher in baseball, since 1950. '87 was Bosio's first full season in the majors, but he would go on to have a serviceable major league career. Both his career FIP and ERA finished under four as he racked up almost 30 wins above replacement (FanGraphs).
The most recent member of this list happened to be Ricky Nolasco's 2009 season, in which his ERA was over 1.70 points (runs) higher than his FIP would suggest. In Nolasco's career, he has only one season, in which he induced a BABIP lower than .300, but his 2009 season was most affected by his league worst 61 percent strand rate.
Neither of the two Hellickson seasons that sent me down this path made the top-10, but this list makes it clear that his 1.50 difference between FIP and ERA was nothing to bat on eye at.
I'm thinking of possibly separating ERA greater than FIP and FIP higher than ERA in a future study, seeing as eight of the ten pitchers on this list had an ERA much higher than their FIP, rather than the other way around.
The aspect of this list that most popped out to me though, had nothing to do with the names of the ten pitchers, but instead had everything to do with the calendar years in which these seasons occurred.
This sample consists of over 60 seasons, yet five of the ten seasons occurred within the last twenty years (1993-2012), while the other five pitchers came from the first forty.
This reminded me of an article written on this very site, by James Gentile, just a month ago. In that piece, James discussed the rise of the three true outcomes in baseball, and makes the argument that maybe FIP is only really useful from the start of the 1990s on.
The combination of James's piece and results of this list brought me to this hypothesis:
The rise in percentage of plays that result in one of the three true outcomes has resulted in the gap we often see between FIP and ERA. And that this gap is really only a recent (1990s - ) phenomenon in baseball.
James's piece and this top-ten list are clearly not enough conclusive evidence to back that hypothesis; thus, I decided to come up with another test.
What I would've liked to do, would be to test to see if there was an increasing trend in the gap between FIP and ERA within a single season for the entire population of pitchers, beginning in 1950.
The problem with that idea though is that there is never a difference between ERA and FIP among the population of pitchers.
The reason for this comes from the way FIP is calculated. FIP has its given weights, which result in a number for each pitchers, then that number is regressed against ERA in that given season, which scales the statistic up to ERA, and puts the two statistics on a comparable platform.
Luckily though, when we eliminate all relievers and isolate for the gap between starters' ERA and FIP, the gap is hardly ever zero.
Below, I plotted the (absolute) difference between ERA and FIP for starters from 1950-2012:
This data clearly shows an increasing trend for the difference between ERA and FIP from the starting point (1950) to the ending point (2012).
However, that trend does not begin as I expected in 1990, but instead around 1973.
Another interesting thing I should point out is that while I tested for any difference between the two statistics, the only times where all of the starting pitchers had an average FIP below their average ERA came before 1973.
Thus, I came to this final question:
Also, the secondary question that should be considered, or I guess needs to be considered along with this question, is why do relievers have higher FIPs than ERAs?
I'll be the first to admit that I truly don't know; however, I think I might have a few ideas, or starting points that we can work from.
While, James made the argument that FIP is really more useful in the last twenty years, it is clear from his research that the three true outcomes have been rising since 1920, and have for the most part risen each season from 1950 to 2012.
Here's the breakdown of the FIP components in 1950 versus 2012, for starters:
There is a strach difference between the two eras.
Starting pitchers in 1950 actually walked more batters than they struck out, which is nowhere close to today's average. Also, starting pitchers in 1950 had a better average ERA than relievers; which also is nowhere close to being true today (4.19 ERA for starters 3.67 ERA for relievers in 2012).
That difference needs to be taken with a grain of salt; however, as relievers were used sparingly in 1950, as opposed to receiving one-third of the innings in 2012. In a chapter of BP's Extra Innings, Colin Wyers goes into great detail about baseball's increasing use of pitchers out of the bullpen.
Many have postulated that the increase in hard-throwing speciality relievers has been one of (if not the) main reason for the increase in the three true outcomes.
I think this fact definitely needs to be considered in answering my question of why there is such a large gap between ERA and FIP for starters, but I'm honestly not positive on how it is affecting things.
My best guess is that the current gap between ERA for starters and relievers is so large, that FIP is trying to compensate for that fact when regressing the FIP components for both starters and relievers back to the league average ERA. This results in average FIP for starters and relievers residing somewhere in the middle of their individual average, and the average of every pitcher in baseball, regardless of type.
My final idea, which goes back to the increase in three true outcomes, is that because, in today's game plays result in three outcomes more often, individual pitchers' true outcome measures are more spread, which leads to an in-season regression to ERA that is not as tight as it was (in for example 1950) when individual (Ks, BBs, HRs) metrics were less spread.
I may have just opened up a can of warms and come up with no real conclusions; however, that can most times end up being a good thing.
I'm going to leave this study with the community.
What do you think?
Does anyone have any better idea for why we're seeing this gap between ERA and FIP?
All statistics come courtesy of FanGraphs
You can follow Glenn on twitter @Glenn_DuPaul
Over the course of the week, I detailed here at Fish Stripes a number of options the Miami Marlins have in terms of what direction the team will take this offseason. All the potential signings and moves eventually boil down to two potential choices for the Fish in the 2013 offseason. The team can either be limited buyers under their $12 million remaining budget, or the Marlins can become sellers of their few remaining short-term assets and look primarily to the future and eschew respectability in 2013.
Both arguments have reasonable support considering the Marlins' unique predicament. The Fish initially had planned on having the core set up in 2012 around for a little longer than one season, but trades of Hanley Ramirez, Omar Infante, and Gaby Sanchez have ravaged much of what was supposed to be a competitive team through 2014. In their place are a number of inferior options upon whom the team could improve. Unfortunately, the Marlins decided the 2012 season was such a disaster that they decided to pull back slightly on payroll and moved back down to $80 million from a previous team-high $100 million-plus payroll. As a result, not only did those trades deplete the Marlins of talent, but the resulting team has less budget with which to improve. Any other club would simply rebuild from the ground up, but such a dramatic rebuild only one season removed from promises of change in the Marlins organization would be devastating to a fan base that is already upset about 2012.
As a result, the Marlins are in an awkward position in 2013. They cannot tank the payroll and roster entirely, nor can they pay significantly to improve a very poor remaining roster. As a result, they are left with making minor, but still potentially significant, moves to support their future core, which should be infused with talent by 2014 with the arrival of top prospects Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez.
One case one can make for the Marlins in 2013 is to use the remaining $12 million or so in budget and add a piece or two that can provide an upgrade in 2013 and can play a supporting role for a new competitive team in 2014. Even with the addition of Yelich and Fernandez in 2014, the Marlins are unlikely to be competitive as constructed today. Rather than eating the savings, which is exactly what Marlins fans feared would happen when the team traded away Hanley Ramirez and his contract at midseason, the team should reinvest that money into a player or two who can help the team appear closer to contention in 2013 and assist them to a potential true contender status in 2014 and beyond, when the team's prospects arrive.
The advantage of this plan is that it does not forfeit the 2013 season. Even a modest four-win addition to the Marlins now may result in a win total of around 75 or so wins. While this is nothing to celebrate about, it is far closer to respectable than the current total this team is likely to put up in 2013. Adding victories to this upcoming season does nothing for the purposes of making the playoffs, as that record is not even close to postseason worthy. However, it does add a bit more to morale, especially if the team catches a few lucky breaks and pushes up to closer to 80 wins. A 75- to 80-win Marlins team in 2013 is far more likely to draw crowds than a repeat performance of 2012, and with the attendance situation in Miami still perilous following the worst-case scenario of last year,
In addition to making the team more respectable in 2013, the Marlins can also build towards the reinforcements arriving in 2014. If the Marlins can start off at a base of ideally around 78 wins, adding the infusion of young talent in 2014, along with the growth of some of the Marlins' current youngest players, could push the team closer to actual contention at best or at least fringe contention. If Yelich and / or Fernandez are even better than advertised, as Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Johnson ended up being, the Marlins may have the nucleus for a contending team already set alongside Stanton and Jose Reyes, and the team can move right into the playoff picture starting that year thanks to reasonable, short-term signings made in 2013.
Adding a potential three- to four-win player like Angel Pagan to the Marlins, for example, can boost next year's team and keep the club more respectable. A respectable record, with some good luck, can help to maintain the fan base's morale and attendance. Having Pagan on board may also help in 2014, when the Marlins add some talented players to the fray and improve their team with two potential stars. Signing players in 2013 helps to get the Marlins closer to contention in future seasons without giving up on the 2013 year and hurting the fans' devotion to the team with a clunker of a season.
Bob Gibson And ‘Club 3,000′ Date of entry into “Club 3,000″ - July 17, 1974 The Story – At home, and battling ‘The Big Red Machine’, Bob Gibson had an ‘odd’ day by the standards he had set for himself. Battling … Continue reading →
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More today on eight of the potential center fielders whose names will be thrown about this off-season as the PhilliesRead the Rest...
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