OK, easy now. The Rays have a fantastic rotation. One of the best in the big leagues. But let’s see if we can come up with a more realistic idea of what to expect, who might improve, and who might actually take a step back.
To get a sense of just how good each pitcher has been, and where they might be headed, let’s use Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP). In short, FIP is what a pitcher’s ERA might have looked like if they had pitched all of their games in an average ballpark with an average defense. In the long run, FIP is a better indicator than ERA of how good a pitcher is, and how well they will pitch in the future.
Let’s take a look at the year-by-year FIPs for each of the Rays six starting pitchers. Red lines indicate when the pitcher was promoted to the big leagues (approximately).
WHAT TO LOOK FOR: Don’t get too caught up in what FIP is versus ERA. Rather, look at: 1) how consistent is the pitcher from year to year, even from the minors to the majors; and 2) keep in mind that average in 2011 for AL starting pitchers was about 4.08. Notes and thoughts can be found below…
Notes on the above charts…
- James Shields has been incredibly consistent. However, his 2011 numbers were clearly below his typical season. Has he figured something out? Or is he due for a bit of a letdown in 2012?
- Jeff Niemann has also been very consistent
- Jury is still out on David Price, but the last two seasons were nearly identical. If he can keep that up, he will be the ace we all want.
- Right now, Wade Davis looks like the weak link. Two straight seasons with an FIP over 4.60 is not a good sign for things to come. So, if you could choose which starter to trade, it might be better to keep Niemann and move Davis, unless you are concerned about Niemann breaking down.
- Jeremy Hellickson’s 2011 season is a concern. Both David Price and Wade Davis showed similar jumps in FIP in their first full big league seasons. However, Price saw his FIP improve dramatically the following year, and Davis did not. Which one will Hellboy be in 2012?
- Matt Moore? Well, Moore is awesome. None of the other pitchers had a minor league career as good as Moore’s. Of course, he needs to prove it in the big leagues, but even if his FIP jumps, he will still be very good.