Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Crystal Ball 2011: Jeremy Guthrie

I don't know how Jeremy Guthrie will pitch in 2011. But I'll wager on one thing; he will outperform his FIP. After all, he's done it for the last three seasons.

When I looked at the 2011 Bill James Handbook last week, I discovered that Guthrie is among the best at keeping opposing batters off the bases, among the likes of Justin Verlander, Josh Beckett and Felix Hernandez.

I decided to pull some data from FanGraphs and see where Guthrie ranked in terms of outperforming his FIP over the past four seasons. The results:

                FIP - ERA
Trevor Cahill      0.97
Johan Santana      0.67
Jeremy Guthrie     0.62
Shaun Marcum       0.61
Matt Cain          0.46

That's good company for Guthrie. Really, those top 4 are head and shoulders above the rest of baseball in this regard.

How do they do it? Three of them have BABIP's under .280 and the other (Santana) only had a .286 BABIP. Those numbers help but they are just results. What do they do to keep the BABIP down? How do they outperform their FIP year after year? What do they have in common?

In short, they have little in common. They don't all have live fastballs, they are not all groundball pitchers, they are not all big strikeout guys. They don't all pitch in front of great defenses, they pitch in pitcher and hitter friendly stadiums, some throw a ton of changeups, others throw a ton of sliders.

The only thing they all do reasonably well is limit their walks but FIP should already account for that.

It's probably not any one thing that these pitchers do but a combination of characteristics. But they all have a knack for outperforming their FIP, however they arrive at it.

My theory on Guthrie? He gives up a lot of weak flyballs and his outfielders have pretty good arms. But that's a weak theory, I'll admit. If anyone else has some ideas, let me know.

Guthrie in 2011 will be a slightly above average pitcher again and go for 30+ starts. Considering the rest of the rotation will be 25 and under, it's nice to have one guy who should be steady, if not spectacular.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

one explanation could be that some or all of these pitchers are very good with runners on base. FIP assigns a fixed run value to each outcome (walk / strikeout / HR), but maybe for a pitcher who's better at pitching with men on base, some of these outcomes have lower run values. who knows.

a piece of evidence that might support this theory: if you look at the top 10 LOB% among qualified starting pitchers over 2008-2010, only Tim Lincecum didn't outperform his FIP. obviously, better pitchers will have higher strand rates, but some surprising names show up near the top, including Ted Lilly (an extreme flyball pitcher), who outperformed his FIP by 0.5. Guthrie's middle-of-the-pack, but he has a higher ERA than Santana / Marcum / etc., which would naturally lower his strand rate.