The FIP Of Joe Kelly And Why It Doesn’t Mean He’s Having A Great Year

Maybe it’s an apologist culture. Maybe it’s a culture where everyone gets a trophy. Maybe it’s a culture where we can’t hurt anyone’s feelings or bring up a contrarian idea without ending up before the nice human resources lady.

Whatever it is, some baseball fans have been trying to figure out ways to shrink the numbers that we know make a player great and, oddly, shrink the numbers that we know show a player stinks.

Such is the case of the FIP (Fielder Independent Pitching) and Poor Joe Kelly. Poor Joe still throws upper 90’s, and got paid a lot of money to move west from Boston to Los Angeles. He opened up with a debut month-and-change with the Dodgers and a 9-ish ERA. He has since recovered and followed it up with a sparkling 6.75 ERA, which taken en masse equals 7.25. Ugh.

Now I know some of you think ERA is meaningless and that FIP is a better identifier of a pitcher’s true performance. Kelly’s FIP: 4.86. Still crappy even if the defense behind him got to every ball.

But in baseball, a 2.41 difference in anything is huge. And in this case, I don’t know how accurate it is considering his FIP right now is only a little higher that Greg Maddux’ FIP his final season. I’ll take a 60-year-old Greg Maddux over Joe Kelly, wouldn’t you?

Kelly’s problem isn’t team defense, though. The Dodgers are top-10 in fielding percentage, top-three in passed balls allowed, and second in defensive efficiency.

I like the idea of the FIP, but Kelly’s problem is an inability to put hitters away once he’s ahead in the count, or behind, or even. The other problem: National League hitters have put balls into orbit more often than NASA. For every ball hit in the air, 28.6 percent of them leave the yard. Now that is a stat that tells me something. Does FIP take that into account? No. In fact, there’s a second FIP to apologize for all of the home runs he’s giving up. The 28.6? That’s almost three times the average for the xFIP stat, which is another stat invented to try to show you how a pitcher would stink less if everyone else around him played better and if he only gave up a home run every 10.5 at-bats, which of course we know isn’t true. Be-cause-the-num-ber-is twen-ty-eight-point-six.

Now, before you accuse me of being a Neanderthal, grunt, know that I love numbers. But…just for fun, let’s kick the numbers to the curb and do something weird. Let’s actually watch the game. The play of the game, if you are impartial, will sometimes –not always– tell you what you need to know.

If you watch Kelly, to end a sentence in a preposition, Kelly can’t hit what he’s aiming at, also known as “wild in the zone” and big league hitters destroy “wild in the zone.” Even though his FIP shows he’d only be barely adequate in terms of his ability to help his team, his 12 walks and 28 hits per 22 innings (WHIP of 1.79) indicate otherwise.

And that’s the explanation. Not FIP, not xFIP. Not yFIP, whatever that’s going to be.

Joe Kelly has got a really high WAH.

Wild. As. Hell. Come up with that or PLMW (Pitches Like Mitch Williams) and I’ll buy in. Somewhere there’s a stat head who’s making a stat based on batting average on balls that miss the catcher’s target by a half inch, inch, two inches, four. Now that will tell me something.

Until then, I’ll watch the game and use the statistics that make sense.

And right now, FIP isn’t one of them.

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