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?


  1. Joe D. says:

    Cork, are your data points in this graph, simply year end numbers? The reason I ask , is because as it pertains to Neimann, I seem to remember, I want to say in 2011, he was pretty dominate, until he got injured, he came back late in the season, struggled with his mechanics, and got rocked in like his last 6 starts. Which leads me to believe that he is one of those guys that you have to have that "when healthy" caveat with, i'm not sure a year end statistic accurately reflects Jeff Neimann.

    • Cork Gaines says:

      yep. year-end data. I dont have the splits for Niemann that season, but he was on the DL pretty early in the year (he missed most of may and early June). His ERA was 5.74 before the DL and his ERA was just 3.55 after returning from the DL. So maybe you are referring to missing 3 weeks in August in 2010? That year, his ERA was 3.12 before the DL and 9.82 after. That is also the one season his FIP was a little higher. So if anything, he is even more consistent that this chart shows.

      • Joe D. says:

        Yeah, i'm think of '10 than, and I remember the following season, his mechanics still looked off, DL stint, then he came back and finally "looked right". Thanks.

  2. Raysfan137 says:

    Anyone have thoughts on Jeff in the pen ? They did that little experiment with him there at the end of '10 and it worked well IMO. I often think that's the place for him since his back and other issues just don't seem to allow him to get a full season as a starter. I know he shows those "when healthy" runs of greatness, and his portfolio of pitches are a little wasted from the pen. But it just feels right in some ways.

  3. Alex says:

    Ah people are still pushing the ole Jeremy Hellickson isn't as good as his era suggests. We heard it his rookie year and we heard it last year. These stupid advanced stats can't explain everything. Hellickson is a good pitcher. His k rate improved, his BB rate improved. His era went up slightly 2.95 to 3.1 and his whip went up from 1.15 to 1.25. I don't get the feeling he's going to get worse

  4. Dave L says:

    So the Rays have come out and said the man formerly known as Fausto has no chance for a starters job? I don't beleive it till they say it.

    I think he will get a shot if he's 100% healthy. I think with the money they are paying him there is at least a hope he can be an option.

    Can they start him in Durham as a starter assuming all the regulars have a healthy productive Spring Training?

  5. Mr Smith 1980 says:

    Why is Davis' info included?

    • Cork Gaines says:

      Mentioned above. Basically, just using him as an example of why the Rays would move a starting pitcher to the bullpen. And also used him as a comparison for Hellickson.

    • Dave L says:

      Fausto Carmona's stats would be more germane to this comparison going forward.

      Ok everybody thinks im off my rocker.

      Get back to me in April and tell me how crazy I was.

      Its between Hernandez and Niemann for the 5 slot. Loser ends up on the DL whether or not an injury occurs.

      Young Archer is a loooong shot but will still get 3 to 7 starts against the NL sprinkled throughout the year


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