|Aroldis Chapman has been nothing short of awesome this month. (US Presswire)|
Aroldis Chapman broke FIP.
For those who don't know, FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching, a stat that attempts to measure pitchers by looking at those things a pitch can control -- strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches and home runs.
If you want to know more, there's a handy dandy video that explains the basic idea:
And then there's xFIP, which takes those numbers and neutralizes the ballpark effect.
So, that's the short version -- and here's the fun outlier, Chapman's FIP for July is -0.99 -- that's right, that little mark in front of what would be an impressive FIP means it's silly good. (His xFIP is a slightly less -- but still completely certifiable -- crazy -0.73.)
I'd seen this somewhere and looked it up myself -- it's true. And to try to figure out what that menat, I emailed one of the smartest baseball stat folks I know (and who will return my emails), Dave Cameron of FanGraphs.com. Here's what he had to say about it.
Basically, he's been so good he broke the formula. Obviously, it's not possible for a pitcher to have an ERA lower than 0, so a negative FIP just means that based on his walk rate, strikeout rate and home run rate, the formula expects him to have given up zero runs this month.
What does the real world think about this theory? Chapman's appeared in 12 games this month, throwing 11 1/3 innings and allowed no runs. So it works!
What doesn't work is the Reds getting an extra run per nine innings for being awesome, unfortunately.
This, as it has been suggested, doesn't mean FIP is invalid -- this is simply an outlier based on a miniscule sample size. FIP is better used a predictor of future performance than it is a review of past results and it's best using a full season or so of data. A strange result from 11 1/3 innings does not say anything about the validity of a statistic.
That's not the only impressive number for Chapman this month -- he's struck out 26 of the 40 batters he's faced, allowing four hits and two walks. Batters are hitting .105/.150/.132 against him. They've got a .333 batting average on balls in play, but that doesn't matter as much when only 12 of the 40 batters he's faced have managed to put balls in play. His last outing, Wednesday against the Astros, was just the second of his nine this month in which he's struck out a lone batter. His other one-strikeout inning? That was on July 17 against the Diamondbacks and he only faced one batter, striking him out. He's struck out the side in four of his 11 three-out appearances in July.
FanGraphs.com's Wendy Thurm noted that if Chapman continues his strikeout rate through the rest of the season, he's establish new records for most strikeouts per nine innings strikeout percentage.
In a word, the stats back up what anyone whose seen the Reds this season already knew, Chapman's awesome.
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