Advanced Pitching Stats: FIP, SwStr%, GB% , F-Strike% Second Half Leaders

Denis Poroy

I take a look at some advanced pitching stats to see if there are starting pitchers we need to target in 2014.

Yesterday I took a look at the second half starting pitcher leaders for some of the standard 5 x 5 pitching categories, wins, ERA, K/9 and WHIP, to see if there were any pitchers capable of breaking out in 2014. We found a few.

Today, I take a look at some advanced pitching stats, courtesy of FanGraphs, to see if we can discover some more possible 2014 breakouts. I will take a closer look at the second half leaders in FIP, swinging strike percentage (SwStr%), first pitch strike percentage (F-Strike%) and ground ball percentage (GB%).

FIP Leaders

I wrote about Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez yesterday, as he had an unbelievable second half, as he was one of the leaders in ERA and K/9. Well, it appears his ERA was for real, as his second half FIP (2.17), or Fielding Independent Pitching, was not far off his second half ERA (1.82). That indicates there was very little luck involved in his low 1.82 ERA.

What is FIP? Here is the definition according to FanGraphs:

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) 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. Back in the early 2000s, research by Voros McCracken revealed that the amount of balls that fall in for hits against pitchers do not correlate well across seasons. In other words, pitchers have little control over balls in play. McCracken outlined a better way to assess a pitcher’s talent level by looking at results a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and homeruns.

Another Indians starter Scott Kazmir had a terrific 2013 season, considering he hadn't pitched in the big leagues since 2010. Yes, 2010. He had a even better second half, putting up a 2.42 FIP, whicjh was almost a run lower than his second half ERA. Kazmir is a free agent this offseason, and you have to think he will get at least a 2 year deal from some team.

By the way, what's with these Indian starters pitching so well in the second half, anyway?

A couple other names to consider next season are Ricky Nolasco and Henderson Alvarez, as both put up an FIP in the low threes. Nolasco is a free agent this offseason, but Alvarez will be firmly entrenched in the Marlins rotation for the next several years.

Name

W

L

GB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

Ubaldo Jimenez

6

5

41.30%

1.82

2.17

2.99

3.00

Clayton Kershaw

8

3

48.10%

1.59

2.20

2.53

2.70

A.J. Burnett

6

5

58.10%

3.56

2.32

2.70

2.50

Scott Kazmir

5

5

39.50%

3.38

2.42

2.79

2.10

Anibal Sanchez

7

2

49.40%

2.20

2.50

3.12

3.00

Cliff Lee

4

5

45.70%

2.89

2.60

2.36

2.10

Cole Hamels

4

3

44.40%

2.97

2.65

3.21

2.40

Tyson Ross

3

4

57.30%

2.93

2.66

2.90

1.70

Madison Bumgarner

3

4

51.50%

2.36

2.72

3.32

1.80

Gerrit Cole

6

4

48.70%

2.85

2.72

2.80

1.70

David Price

7

3

42.50%

2.87

2.72

3.22

2.90

Hyun-Jin Ryu

7

5

52.40%

2.87

2.73

2.95

1.60

Jon Lester

7

2

40.90%

2.57

2.77

3.79

2.70

Hisashi Iwakuma

6

2

52.50%

2.14

2.82

3.30

2.40

Max Scherzer

8

2

29.80%

2.44

2.85

3.65

2.50

Kris Medlen

9

3

48.50%

2.38

2.86

2.90

1.80

Zack Greinke

7

2

48.00%

1.85

2.88

3.14

1.90

Andrew Cashner

5

4

50.50%

2.14

2.92

3.26

1.50

Stephen Strasburg

3

2

52.50%

3.01

2.95

2.71

1.60

Adam Wainwright

7

4

51.00%

3.69

3.07

2.93

1.70

Ricky Nolasco

7

2

44.60%

3.60

3.07

3.43

1.30

Doug Fister

7

4

53.50%

3.18

3.14

3.47

2.00

Gio Gonzalez

4

5

39.40%

3.86

3.20

3.40

1.50

Henderson Alvarez

5

5

57.60%

3.39

3.24

3.99

1.50

Francisco Liriano

7

5

49.60%

3.95

3.25

3.28

1.30


SwStr% Leaders

Swinging strike percentage is the percentage of strikes a pitcher throws that result in a swing and miss. Any SwStr% over 8.5% is considered above average. In the second half of the season, I was shocked to see Padres starter Tyson Ross at the top of the leaderboard. Not known to be a big strikeout pitcher, Ross struck out more than a batter per inning in the second half and now we know part of the reason for the jump in his K/9. He is someone to target late in 2014 fantasy drafts.

There are plenty of aces atop this leaderboard, which is not a surprise. But, there is that Scott Kazmir again. I figure if he can sign with a National League team, preferably in a pitchers park, he should have plenty of value next year as well.

Name

SwStr%

Tyson Ross

13.60%

Kris Medlen

13.30%

Anibal Sanchez

12.40%

Francisco Liriano

12.00%

Cole Hamels

11.90%

Scott Kazmir

11.80%

Yu Darvish

11.70%

Clayton Kershaw

11.50%

Max Scherzer

11.50%

Justin Verlander

11.30%

Stephen Strasburg

11.30%

Zack Greinke

11.20%

Patrick Corbin

11.00%

Ricky Nolasco

10.90%

Madison Bumgarner

10.90%

James Shields

10.90%

A.J. Burnett

10.80%

Julio Teheran

10.80%

Dan Straily

10.70%

Ervin Santana

10.70%


F-Strike% Leaders

F-Strike% is the percentage of times a pitcher throws a strike with the first pitch he throws to each batter that he faces.

Just look at the chart below and you will see why Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is the best pitcher in the game. He may have struggled a bit in game six of the NLCS, but when you throw first pitch strikes to almost 71% of the batters you face, you are putting that batter in an 0-1 hole in the count.

As you can see, several of the best starters in baseball are successful because they throw first pitch strikes. Getting ahead of the hitter is pretty important. If you take a look at the Baseball-Reference splits page for each pitcher, you will see how they fare when they get ahead of hitters.

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole, Rangers starter Martin Perez, and Padres starter Andrew Cashner performed very well in the second half, and part of the reason is because they were able to get ahead of the opposing hitters.

Namee

F-Strike%

Clayton Kershaw

70.70%

Jordan Zimmermann

70.60%

Patrick Corbin

70.50%

Dan Haren

68.80%

David Price

67.50%

Brandon McCarthy

66.90%

Max Scherzer

66.80%

Travis Wood

66.70%

Justin Verlander

66.60%

Cliff Lee

66.50%

A.J. Burnett

66.30%

Gerrit Cole

65.70%

Andrew Cashner

65.70%

R.A. Dickey

65.40%

Bronson Arroyo

65.40%

Jose Quintana

65.30%

Ervin Santana

65.20%

Mike Minor

65.00%

Martin Perez

64.70%

Matt Garza

64.60%


GB% Leaders

If you can draft a pitcher who strikes out anywhere from seven to nine batters per nine innings, who can limit the free pass to under three walks per nine innings (preferably lower), and keep the ball on the ground at a 50% rate or higher, then more than likely, you have a very good pitcher on your roster.

Here is a look at the starting pitchers who kept the ball on the ground at a 50% clip or better in the second half of the season. If you take a close look at the table below, you will see almost every pitcher listed had an ERA in the mid-low threes except for three starters.

Once again, we see Tyson Ross and Henderson Alvarez on this list. Write their names down. They will come cheap on draft day.

Name

Team

W

L

GB%

ERA

FIP

xFIP

WAR

Charlie Morton

Pirates

6

2

63.90%

3.28

3.29

3.53

1.30

Garrett Richards

Angels

5

4

59.40%

3.59

3.56

3.51

1.20

A.J. Burnett

Pirates

6

5

58.10%

3.56

2.32

2.70

2.50

Henderson Alvarez

Marlins

5

5

57.60%

3.39

3.24

3.99

1.50

Tyson Ross

Padres

3

4

57.30%

2.93

2.66

2.90

1.70

Ivan Nova

Yankees

5

4

54.70%

2.78

3.76

3.99

1.40

Brandon McCarthy

Diamondbacks

3

7

53.60%

4.08

3.76

3.68

0.8

Doug Fister

Tigers

7

4

53.50%

3.18

3.14

3.47

2.00

Joe Saunders

Mariners

3

8

52.80%

6.98

5.3

4.28

-0.2

Rick Porcello

Tigers

7

2

52.60%

3.71

3.55

3.40

1.50

Hisashi Iwakuma

Mariners

6

2

52.50%

2.14

2.82

3.30

2.40

Stephen Strasburg

Nationals

3

2

52.50%

3.01

2.95

2.71

1.60

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Dodgers

7

5

52.40%

2.87

2.73

2.95

1.60

Joe Kelly

Cardinals

9

2

52.20%

1.91

3.71

4.41

0.70

Wade Miley

Diamondbacks

4

3

51.80%

2.93

3.41

3.70

1.50

Madison Bumgarner

Giants

3

4

51.50%

2.36

2.72

3.32

1.80

Adam Wainwright

Cardinals

7

4

51.00%

3.69

3.07

2.93

1.70

Andrew Cashner

Padres

5

4

50.50%

2.14

2.92

3.26

1.50

Edwin Jackson

Cubs

2

8

50.00%

4.8

3.9

4.07

0.8


I hope i was able to uncover some sleepers with this exercise over the last few days. There are definitely some pitchers listed above that I will target next spring, and you should too. At the very least, I shared with you some of the pitching stats that I look at when evaluating starting pitchers. 

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