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Fantasy Baseball 2012: Starts Weren't THAT Bad, Buchholz, Luebke, Minor, and Gio

ERA is a funny stat. It's sort of arbitrary, a number determined decades ago that now seals the fate of the player that owns it, even though it is outdated. Sort of like all baseball statistics!

Henry Chadwick is credited with devising ERA, and up until the 1900's, a pitcher's success was basically only determined by his win-loss record. So, I guess you could at least say it was a baby-step in getting better. It just took us about another 100 years to get better again.

FIP and xFIP are numbers that should more accurately determine the success of a pitcher in 2012. Field Independent Pitching is defined by Fangraphs as such:

A walk is not as harmful as a homerun and a strikeout has less impact than both. FIP accounts for these kinds of differences, presenting the results on the same scale as ERA. It has been shown to be more effective than ERA in terms of predicting future performance and has become a mainstay in sabermetric analysis.

For those curious, here’s the formula for FIP:

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

Taking into account things beyond just how many Earned Runs a pitcher "allows," FIP delves deeper into the results and asks not what your defense can do for you, but what you can do for your defense. xFIP just takes it one step further...

xFIP is defined as such:

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) is a regressed version of FIP, developed by Dave Studeman from The Hardball Times. It’s calculated in the same way as FIP, except it replaces a pitcher’s home run total with an estimate of how many home runs they should have allowed. This estimate is calculated by taking the league-average home run to fly ball rate (~9-10% depending on the year) and multiplying it by a pitcher’s fly ball rate.

Basically, the same as FIP but with a closer look at home runs allowed.

xFIP = ((13*(FB% * League-average HR/FB rate))+(3*(BB+HBP-IBB))-(2*K))/IP + constant

It's too early to make any kind of determination of anything on the season, whether the stats are advanced or "how many times did Mister Cespedes cross home plate, papa?" but it's never too early to start having fun with the numbers! Several starts were made last week, and some of them came out rather bad, but maybe not as bad as ERA suggests. Here are some examples:

Clay Buchholz vs. Tigers, 4/9/2012: 4 innings, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 1 HBP, ERA of 15.75, FIP of 3.94

Buchholz made his first start since June 16, 2011, and ended up allowing 7 runs in only four innings. Buchholz was not good by any means, allowing half of the batters he faced to reach base with a 2:2 K:BB ratio and hitting one batter. His xFIP was 6.22, which still reflects that Buchholz was bad against the Tigers.

The Red Sox lost 13-12, marking the first time that they have scored 12 runs and loss since 1933.

Was he as bad as a 15.75 ERA suggests? The only thing that matters to me is how he felt.

"Man, you know I felt really good," Buchholz said. "It’s just a matter of wanting to keep the ball in the park because the wind was blowing out and I did that, but it just seemed that every time they made contact, the ball either found a hole or was just out of the reach of somebody in the infield. It’s not the way you wanted to start."

If Buchholz is healthy, the rust of a 10-month layoff should begin to wear off and he can post respectable numbers for Boston. He posted a 2.33 ERA in 2010, but the strikeouts have been down and the walks remain in the 3.50-4.00 per nine range, so he's still far from being anything more than a #4 starter.

I'd just give him some time to get better, and he might be a good buy-low candidate.

Cory Luebke vs. the Dodgers, 4/6/2012: 4.2 innings, 9 h, 6 R, 5 ER, 6 K, 1 BB, 9.64 ERA, 0.76 FIP

Luebke was a sneaky pick in drafts this season, thanks to a highly successful 2011 campaign split between the bullpen and the rotation. No more splitting though, 2012 is all about taking advantage of those starter-level innings! Luebke has posted a 9.89 K/9 and 2.83 BB/9 over 162 major league innings, so if he can keep his numbers in that range he'll be one of the top starters in the NL.

No, really! If he can actually do it!

He gave up 9 hits to the Dodgers and didn't make it past that qualifying 5th inning, allowing 5 earned runs in the process. However, Luebke struck out six in less than five innings and walked only one. Luebke was dominated by Andre Ethier for the day, who had a double and a triple and drove in four runs.

The most important thing right now is that Luebke continues to show K/BB numbers like he did against the Dodgers, and he should be just fine.

Mike Minor vs. the Mets, 4/8/2012: 5 innings, 6 H, 6 ER, 6 K, 4 BB, 10.80 ERA, 2.69 FIP

Minor needed 104 pitches to get through just five innings, and only 62 of those pitches went for strikes. The most concerning thing however is the curse of the devil in his final numbers.

The promising number is of course that Minor struck out six batters with eight swinging strikes. He got killed by the fact that he let four batters get on base without even having to generate solid contact by swinging the bat and then hoping beyond reason that the batted ball will find itself somewhere on the field without being caught or without the runner being thrown out at any one of the bases.... in other words, four walks.

Minor needs to find his control, but the six strikeouts keep my hopes up that Minor will stay out of the minors. (Boom. Take that puns!)

Gio Gonzalez vs. the Cubs, 4/7/2012: 3.2 innings, 7 H, 4 ER, 6 K, 3 BB, 9.82 ERA, 1.87 FIP

Gio Gonzalez is the perfect example of a pitcher that should post a good FIP, even if he doesn't post a good ERA. Mostly because, Gio has never had a problem getting strikeouts. It's just a matter of having good control and if he keeps the ball in the park, he'll be successful.

Gio faced 21 batters in his Washington Nationals debut and he struck out six of them with six swinging strikes, but he walked three of them.

In some ways, it was a successful debut, but in most ways it was not. In the sense that if he can strikeout that many batters this year it's a good start, but he can't walk that many either. The hits will eventually find a balance, but Gio needs to keep hitters on the bases, as was always true in the American League, too. You should know these things by now, Gio!

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