Fielding Independent Pitching is a ratio designed to estimate the number of runs one might expect a team to allow based on (a) their pitchers’ performances with strike outs, walks, and home runs, and (b) average defensive efficiency. This is a popular baseball metric in the last decade, simply because it attempts to move beyond the defensive influences of traditional pitching stats (such as ERA or runs average). There are a lot of problems with FIP — for instance, defensive efficiency is not distributed equally throughout the National League, defensive efficiency is not distributed equally within each team’s pitching staff, and, the basic calculations to determine FIP are not park-adjusted (this means that a pitching staff that works at a ballpark such as Miller Park — which typically encourages more K, BB, and HR than the league — is treated the same as a staff that works at a ballpark such as PetCo Park — which typically suppresses those elements). Nevertheless, FIP-related stats are a great starting point for analyzing how a team is pitching against the league, and while its shortcomings are extremely wild and difficult to gauge against individual pitchers, its benefits can help analyze team pitching performances.
The 2013 Milwaukee Brewers are allowing more line drives than any other club in baseball. Despite their defensive shifts, despite their generally solid strike out rate, the club is simply not converting plate appearances into outs at a solid ratio. Coupled with their gang of home runs allowed, the Brewers have a magical combination of suspect fielding efficiency, high line drive rates, and high home run rates. This really isn’y a difficult calculus to solve; even if you can’t blame a defense for having to field lots of line drives, even if you can’t blame a pitching staff for working in front of a porous defense, even if you can’t (technically) blame pitchers for working in a HR-friendly park, if you combine all of those hypothetical imperatives, you’ve got yourself the ingredients for poor pitching.
2013 NL FIPratio (ratio is (13HR+3BB-2K)/(IP)): 0.68
2013 NL FIPConstant (Runs Average – FIPratio): 3.43 (.697 defensive efficiency)
2013 NL Runs Average (9R/IP): 4.11
2013 NL Runs Average (Park adjusted for Miller Park): 4.32
2013 Brewers FIPratio: 1.16
2013 Brewers FIPConstant: 3.72 (.683 defensive efficiency)
2013 NL Runs Average: 4.88
2013 Brewers are 29 runs worse than their park adjusted average
2013 Brewers have allowed 15 more runs than expected with an average defense
Unfortunately, even if the Brewers allowed, say, 219 or 233 runs, the club would be expected to have a losing record because of their current performance by their bats. Their gang of replacements scored a solid 4.72 R/G in April, but their May performance simply dropped off the table. Through 26 games in May, the Brewers have scored 3.23 R/G. That output is so bad that the pitching doesn’t really matter — for example, even the NL-leading St. Louis Cardinals would hardly be expected to post a .500 record in May with an offense that scored 3.23 R/G.
In the 2013 National League, the clubs’ ratio between hits, walks, and extra base hits suggests that approximately 3208 runs should have been scored thus far; 3164 runs have actually been scored, which simply means that the league is slightly inefficient with their hitting versus run production. The Brewers’ relationship between their expected runs created and their actual runs scored is even more extreme; so far, the Brewers H, BB, and TB suggest that they should have scored approximately 216 runs thus far. They’ve actually scored 202 runs, which suggests that the team has not efficiently used their batting elements to score runs.
The Brewers bats have the lowest line drive rate of any club in the MLB — their current line drive percentage is 18%. Perhaps this helps to explain why the club is not scoring runs efficiently, despite a decent OBP, serviceable strike out and walk rates, and an average HR rate (perhaps the HR rate is where the Brewers’ replacement offense is most visible).
Here’s an extremely simple way to summarize the Brewers’ current woes:
Line Drives: 23% allowed, 18% produced
Strike Outs: 375 allowed, 387 produced
Walks: 150 allowed, 126 produced
Home Runs: 64 allowed, 52 produced
Expected Runs: 233 allowed, 216 produced
Actual Runs: 248 allowed, 202 produced
Baseball-Reference. Sports Reference, LLC. 2000-2013.