Using advanced stats for Fantasy - FIP

Matt Cain always finds a way to beat his FIP. (USATSI)
Matt Cain always finds a way to outperform his FIP. (USATSI)

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post looking at two advanced stats I like to use in Fantasy leagues, and how I use them. There was some interest in the comments to make this a more regular thing, and I aim to please. So, I'm going to try and go more in depth here. In this post, I'll cover some of the stats I use to identify undervalued pitchers. I'll tell you where to find them, and how to use them properly. Let's do this.

Stat: FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching)

Where can I find it: Both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference carry FIP.

What does it do: FIP attempts to eliminate all the things a pitcher cannot control. It's based on research done by Voros McCracken, which said a pitcher has little control over a ball once it's put in play. So, FIP only considers strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs. It takes all of those things, and estimates what a player's ERA should have been based on those factors.

I still don't understand: Check out the FanGraphs glossary for a better explanation, or watch this fun video

How can I use it: Since FIP looks at a pitcher's skill, we can have an easier time finding guys who are experiencing bad luck. FIP tells us what a player's ERA should be, so finding guys with a lower FIP than ERA typically means that player should perform better moving forward. The opposite is true as well. A player with a FIP much higher than their ERA is probably due to regress. 

Example: Ian Kennedy has posted acceptable numbers this season, but there's a chance he'll improve even more. Kennedy is striking out more hitters, and not giving up as many walks. His home run figures have also been far more under control this year, which is probably a function of his new park. His ERA is 4.13, but his FIP is 2.32. That suggests Kennedy will see improvement moving forward. Everything he can control is better, so he's experienced some bad luck thus far.

What are the problems with the stat: It requires a decent sample size to be effective. While I believe Kennedy will pitch better this season, I doubt he posts a 2.32 ERA. FIP isn't working off much data yet, so one great, or poor, start can really influence the numbers. FIP also has a problem with home runs. A player like Homer Bailey has an equally bad FIP because he's given up a ton of home runs already. That's going to drop as the season wears on, which means his FIP is somewhat misleading. In order to adjust for home runs, we can use xFIP, but I'll cover that in the next blog post. 

Anything else: Some players routinely beat their FIP, or routinely have a lower FIP than ERA. For years, Matt Cain's FIP suggested he should be slightly worse. He's beaten it so many times, that we have to start believing in his ability. Ricky Nolasco has gone the other way. His FIP often suggests he'll get better, but he rarely does. These trends don't happen all that often, but try to be aware of them if possible. You can sort the "E-F" tab here if you want to see some players who are underperforming/outperforming their FIP.

Next post: I'll look at xFIP, how it differs from FIP and how it deals with home runs.

Show Comments Hide Comments
CBS Sports Shop
MLB Opening Day
Our Latest Stories