What Is A Good FIP In Baseball?

Among the numerous statistical acronyms used in modern baseball, FIP stands out as one of the most peculiar. But what exactly does it mean? FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, which aims to evaluate a pitcher’s performance solely based on factors within their control. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of FIP in baseball, exploring its calculation and its practical applications. 

What Constitutes A Good FIP In Baseball? 

Before delving into the formula, itself, it is crucial to understand the significance of different FIP numbers. Unfortunately, only a select few possess the knowledge to interpret these numbers accurately. Generally, a FIP below 4.00 is considered good, while a FIP above 5.00 is deemed poor. On the other hand, a FIP of 3.00 or below is considered excellent. To gain a better understanding of the ranges of FIP values, refer to the graphic below.

FIP ValueAnalysis
2-2.5Probably league leader
3-3.5Great; Probably top 10
3.5-4.0Good; Solidly above average
4.5-5Bad: Solidly below average
5.0+Awful; Look

The typical FIP range for pitchers in Major League Baseball during a season is approximately 3.10 to 3.20. In the Live Ball era (1920 to present), the lowest FIP recorded for a season was an impressive 1.39, achieved by Pedro Martinez in 1999.

How Can FIP Be Calculated?

In the FIP formula given below, the subsequent abbreviations are used:

  • HBP: Batters hit by pitch
  • cFIP​: “The FIP Constant”
  • K: Strikeouts
  • BB: walks allowed
  • HR: Home runs allowed
  • IP: Innings Pitched

With this symbolization, the FIP formula comes out to be FIP13HR+3(BB+HBP)−2K​+cFIP.​

How Is FIP Used? 

FIP works for two basic purposes. A baseball FIP statistic serves as a tool to forecast a pitcher’s future performance by assessing their individual skill and disregarding external factors like game sequence, luck, and team members. Additionally, FIP can be used to evaluate a player’s performance by comparing statistics on the same scale as ERA. 

It is important to note that FIP does not provide a comprehensive evaluation of a pitcher’s performance in a single game but rather over the duration of a season. Therefore, it is advisable not to rely solely on this metric and consider other data, such as ERA and BABIPs, to monitor both the player and the team effectively.

Related: What Is A Hit and Run In Baseball?

Difficulties With Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

There are a few other problems with fielding independent pitching. These are explained below: 

Problem 1: Does not Regularize for Hitters

This is the most significant issue with FIP in baseball, and it is truly unacceptable. The primary purpose of fielding independent pitching is to analyze the pitcher’s performance by isolating their actions. This statistic focuses solely on events where fielders are not involved, aiming to attribute the outcome solely to the pitcher. 

However, this is not entirely accurate. Regardless of the circumstances, the hitter always plays a role in the game. We cannot completely separate the pitcher’s contribution because the hitter’s actions significantly impact the outcome of each at-bat. 

Sometimes, hitters can single-handedly hit a home run through sheer determination, while other times, they may strike out due to their inability to track the ball. Moreover, consider the scenario where a pitcher is part of the toughest division in baseball, facing formidable offenses in most of their innings. 

Naturally, their FIP will be higher due to the challenging competition they face. Neglecting to account for the quality of the hitter when evaluating fielding independent pitching is a significant flaw that undermines the entire philosophy of this statistic. Fortunately, this issue can be easily resolved by implementing a solution like FIP+.

Problem 2: Some Pitching Styles Are Penalized

Fielding independent pitching (FIP) has its limitations when it comes to providing a comprehensive analysis of a pitcher’s performance. While it takes into account home runs, walks, strikeouts, and hit-by-pitches, it fails to consider the entirety of a pitcher’s identity. There are pitchers, particularly closers, who excel at striking out batters. 

Their primary goal is to rack up strikeouts. On the other hand, some pitchers rely on inducing ground balls and depend on their defense to make plays behind them. Even if these two pitchers allow the same number of runs, FIP will present a different narrative. FIP tends to favor strikeout pitchers, making them appear better than they actually are. 

Conversely, it may make ground ball pitchers or those who induce pop-outs look worse. Good statistics should not penalize players for having different styles. Instead, they should focus on capturing the outcome of the game without delving too much into the “how.”

Problem 3: It Isn’t Maximally Accurate

Lastly, the final problem is less significant, yet it warrants expression. It is the coefficients within the equation. The fact that all the factors are whole numbers (13, 3, and 2) implies that they serve as approximations for the relative worth of the different outcomes. If these were indeed the correct values, it would be highly unlikely for them to be so conveniently rounded. 

The original formula employed exponents of 2, resulting in aesthetically pleasing, well-rounded numbers. However, upon conducting further calculations, it has been revealed that the optimal exponent is 1.83.

How Reliable Is FIP?

FIP is highly effective in identifying warning signs that a pitcher is either over or underperforming within a shorter timeframe, providing a more accurate assessment of their true abilities. However, it is important to acknowledge that FIP has limitations as it does not consider the varying characteristics of different pitchers. 

Specifically, FIP does not take into account factors such as the quality of a pitcher’s defense, the level of contact made against their pitches, the type of contact (ground balls or fly balls), the impact of the ballpark size on potential home runs, or the situation in which a home run is hit (with bases empty or loaded).

Is It Likely to Have Negative Fielding Independent Pitching?

According to the data presented in the table, it seems extremely difficult for a player to achieve a negative FIP. It is evident that the pitcher must possess exceptional skills. While the FIP at the end of the season is not negative, it is possible for a pitcher to have a negative FIP if it is calculated during the middle of the season after multiple games and the pitcher has not allowed any runs in those games. Aroldis Chapman, famously referred to as the “Man Who Broke FIP,” had a remarkable FIP of -0.99 in July of 2012.

Some Closing Words on Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

The primary purpose of the baseball statistic Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is to evaluate pitching performance without taking into account the quality of the defense involved. A favorable FIP is comparable to a good Earned Run Average (ERA), typically at 3.00 or lower. However, it is important to note that FIP and ERA are not exactly the same. 

There are instances where a pitcher’s ERA may be unusually high due to playing for a team with poor fielding abilities or having their ERA inflated by consistently playing with significant leads in games. A low FIP becomes intriguing when attempting to identify potential hidden gems or underperforming pitchers who may excel in a different circumstance, such as being placed on another team.

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