Even without James Shields, the Rays still have one of the best rotations in baseball. And while we all know these guys have high ceilings and think we know what they are capable of achieving, let’s see if we can come up with a realistic idea of what to expect, who might improve, and who might actually take a step back in 2013.
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 better than ERA at telling us 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) Is the pitcher consistent from year-to-year, or is he trending in one direction or the other?; and 2) how does he compare to average FIP in the AL (4.14 in 2012 and 4.31 for starting pitchers). Notes and thoughts can be found below…
Notes on the pitchers…
- David Price is a stud and there was nothing fluky about his 2012 season. In fact, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Price continues to improve and lowers his FIP a little more in 2013.
- As we have discussed here several times, Jeremy Hellickson is a giant red flag. Some think you can explain his bloated FIP. But if we just look at the numbers, they suggest that he is not as good of a pitcher as his ERA suggests.
- Matt Moore’s minor league numbers were just insane and there was only one way for him to go. And his 3.93 FIP was reminiscent of David Price in 2009. If he follows the same pattern, he could be huge in 2013.
- Jeff Niemann is what he is. His 2012 numbers are likely due to his limited use. But if he plays an entire 2013 season, it is reasonable to expect he will once again be a slightly-better-than-average starting pitcher.
- Alex Cobb’s career arc looks like it could mirror Jeff Niemann’s.
- I threw in Wade Davis to show what moving to the bullpen did for him. Also notice how similar his first three years in the big leagues were to Jeremy Hellickson’s. Of course, I am not sure Hellickson has the fastball to be a reliever. But if the Rays were not satisfied with Davis’ back-to-back below-average FIP seasons, how patient will they be with Hellickson?
- Finally, there is Chris Archer. He is the one pitcher that hasn’t shown much of a pattern yet. Was 2011 an outlier or a red flag for his move to the big leagues?