FIP vs. ERA: What to expect from the Mets rotation in 2013

Maggie Wiggin, Contributor

Though the team is stumbling these days, some statistics suggest that the rotation is due for improvement.

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) is a stat that measures a pitcher’s performance without interference from the fielders around him, using the same scale as ERA (3.00 is good and 5.00 is poor). FIP combines a pitcher’s strikeouts, walks, and home runs, which are the three events he has near-total control over. Because FIP is more stable and a better predictor for future outcomes, we can compare it to current ERA and see if their results will be sustainable for the rest of the season.

  • Shaun Marcum (2013 ERA: 6.75, FIP: 3.69) Not surprisingly, Marcum is most likely to show major improvements going forward, with his current ERA nearly three full runs higher than his career ERA (3.83) and and his current FIP.  These numbers indicate he’s given up lot of runs due to balls in play, where he has less control over the outcome. His strikeout, walk and home run rates are close to his career numbers, so we should expect Marcum’s results to improve considerably, with his FIP staying close to his career mark of 4.24.
  • Matt Harvey 1 polaroidDillon Gee (2013 ERA: 6.04, FIP: 5.00): Gee should expect better results going forward, as well. He is also taking a big hit this season from balls in play (like Marcum, he pitches to contact). His current ERA is about 1.5 runs higher than his career ERA and his FIP this year is about half a run higher; so, his ERA is projected to drop as the season progresses. If his HR/9 innings rate trends towards his lower career rate, he’ll likely improve his FIP over the season as well.
  • Matt Harvey (2013 ERA: 1.55, FIP: 2.21): Unfortunately, he’s not likely to finish the year with an ERA as ridiculous as 1.55. His FIP agrees, putting his performance at a still-pretty-ridiculous 2.21. Harvey is a FIP fan’s dream — lots of Ks, few walks, even fewer home runs. His ERA is being bolstered by a minuscule batting average on balls in play (.199 BABIP) that will probably increase; but given Harvey’s attitude and general dominance, he may be the kind of rare talent that literally defies the odds.
  • Jeremy Hefner (2013 ERA: 5.00, FIP: 5.61): Hefner is not projected to pitch much better or worse than we’re seeing right now. If Hefner’s home runs and walks slow down, which is possible, he should end up somewhere around his career FIP of 4.23. Interestingly, his ERA splits as a starter vs. reliever (6.51 vs. 3.55) are very extreme and also the opposite of his FIP splits (3.95 as a starter vs. 5.46 as a reliever). I have no idea what this means, and small samples abound, but it’s weird.
  • Jon Niese (2013 ERA: 5.40, FIP: 5.00): He still could have a strong season, if the defense behind him can tighten up. He shows very little difference between his ERA and FIP, but this doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t see more progress from him. It’s likely that both will decrease as the season wears on. With his uncharacteristically poor strikeout and walk rates expected to improve to near his career rates, he’s projected to finish the year with a FIP close to his career mark of 3.88.

There’s reason to think we will get significant improvements from at least three (four if replacing Hefner with Zack Wheeler counts) of this team’s starting pitchers, despite early season struggles. Now the Mets just need hitters, fielders, and relievers and they’ll be all set.