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SOE, Brian Kenny: The End of FIP


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It was a massive breakthrough. In 2001, Voros McCracken -- who now works for an MLB club -- rocked our baseball world. He found that a pitcher was, by and large, not responsible for the batted ball, but was only responsible for what would be known as the "Three True Outcomes": strikeouts, walks and home runs.

It was, of course, met with vehement opposition. It would be mocked in the mainstream media and by old school baseball types. Until it just became accepted in a modified form. Defense Independent Pitching became -- with Tom Tango's formula -- Fielding Independent Pitching, which was both a better indicator and predictor of pitcher performance than ERA.

What McCracken found became the foundation for how we would understand pitching. There is a wild variance in the batted ball. Defense and luck are huge components in run prevention. What was known as the "peripherals," the strikeouts and walks, would've been better known as the "essentials." For the past 14 years, you could reliably find out how good an outing was by looking at a pitcher's strikeouts and walks.

This breakthrough, as recent as it is, now seems to be blowing up. Extremes in strikeouts and walks are throwing it all off.

I began to notice one strange start after another. Check out this list:

Brandon McCarthy: 10 strikeouts and 0 walks ... 5 runs.

C.J. Wilson: 8 strikeouts and 0 walks ... 6 runs.

Noah Syndergaard: 10 strikeouts and 0 walks ... 7 runs.

Anibal Sanchez: 9 strikeouts and 0 walks ... 5 runs.

This is NOT supposed to happen. Ten strikeouts and no walks is what Cliff Lee is supposed to be doing, when Cliff Lee is throwing a shutout.

I began to look at how often this was happening. How many times has a pitcher had at least eight strikeouts and one walk or less, while also giving up five runs or more? In 2012, it happened only 12 times. In 2013, it was up to 17. Last year, it went up to 20.

In only about two months of the 2015 season, it has already happened 17 times. Meaning, in 2015, we are going to double or triple the amount of outings where a pitcher is dominant with his strikeouts and walks but is also getting hammered.

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I love Brian Kenny, but isn't this a stretch? Are there not instances of fip and era not lining up? Plus, he's also just taking some games where the pitchers were dominating, and still getting hammered. Sure, these kind of games are increasing, but so are ks in general. 8 ks in a game isn't what it used to be. And with lower walk rates, neither is walking very few batters. Even if things are making fip a little wonky, isn't it still the superior predictor?

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I like Kenny but I question how deep his knowledge base is.

I think he is more of a layman and not a real number cruncher.

Agreed. He isn't very good at explaining stuff. When Hawk Harrelson can tear you up, you're probably not that bright. That said, I suspect there may be some type of study out there that Kenny is trying to relate....even if poorly.

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I'm not trying to defend his logic, just pointing something out. At least on his show, mlb now, he also pointed out the gap between fip and era in kershaw, and cluber. So, not just the wild starts by some pitchers, but also how kershaw is 7 th in fip but 40th in era. So he's not TOTALLY leaving home runs out of gs analysis.

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I do think he is a believer.

And I am glad his viewpoint is represented.

I agree though that he comes across as a layman, much like I am. I'm not a practicing member of SABR but I understand basic statistical principles.

Kenny talks with that "truthiness" factor that Steven Colbert uses. Say anything with enough conviction and you can get people to buy in. So he plays that role in the sports entertainment industry.

The best part is that his shows have a lot of screen time for actual members of SABR, FanGraphs, etc.

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