When used properly, advanced analytics can really tell you the ‘why’ as to what happened for a particular player over the course of a season.
One used is Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), used to determine how well a pitcher performed once you took outside factors away. Fangraphs gives a really good breakdown here on the metric.
Now turning it to the Pirates system, we can get an idea about who may have performed better, or worse, than at first glance. It could be a way to see who may be in line to progress, or regress, come 2023.
I took a look at all pitchers in the system — I even included any time spent in the FCL and DSL — who pitched at least 40 innings last year and compared their ERA against their FIP. My focus was on who had the biggest differential, both good and bad.
Top 10 FIP
There were 59 players to pitch at least 40 innings in the system last year, and before we get to the differentials, here’s a look at the top and bottom 10 pitchers in the system when it comes to FIP.
Maybe a little bit of a surprise at the top part was 18-year-old Andres Silvera, who pitched in the Dominican Summer League. His outstanding season (1.54 ERA, 29 K%, 3.9 BB%) was backed by a 2.13 FIP, which was by far the best in the system.
Burrows got roughed up a bit in Triple-A (5.31 ERA) but his FIP stayed under four, helping to keep his overall mark of 3.29.
Quinn Priester got a late start to the season but got on enough of a role that he finished with a sub-4 ERA and FIP.
Bottom 10 FIP
Here’s a look at the pitchers who threw at least 40 innings last year and finished with the worst FIP in the system.
One thing that immediately sticks out is that half of those 10 pitchers spent some or all of their season in Greensboro, which we didn’t really need another reminder at how hitter-friendly that park is, but here we are.
Adrian Florencio, Sean Sullivan, Santiago Florez, and Jack Carey all spent the entire 2022 season at High-A Greensboro, and you can see it in the results. Matt Eckelman also spent some time in Greensboro, but bounced around the entire system as he worked on a knuckleball towards the end of the year.
Osvaldo Bido posted some great strikeout numbers at the highest level of the minors, despite not being known for that in his past, but was hit around as well.
FIP Differential – Bad
One thing that sticks out immediately is the fact that this isn’t really the best tool to use when evaluating players, as you are going to find more well known pitchers on this list than on the other side.
Just because they are on this side of the differential doesn’t change the fact they may have had a good season or not. In fact it should only force us to look beyond the numbers when evaluating prospects and find out what factored in their FIP being so far off from their ERA numbers.
Solometo was the only pitcher in the system with at least 40 innings pitched to post a sub-3 ERA and FIP, showing just how hard it is. For someone like Tyler Samaniego, there is no denying the strong season he had, as he went an entire month without giving up a hit, but it’s hard to match an ERA of 2.45 when it comes to FIP. Even with that, a 3.46 FIP is still impressive for a reliever.
Sullivan, and Garcia both played in Greensboro, and posted the usual home/road splits you’d expect. Vieaux, Jacques, Umana, and Junker — even Flowers — are all relievers and you can live in between their ERA and FIP, even with the big jump on the other half.
Bubba Chandler’s big drop off isn’t as much of a surprise, pitching in Single-A as a 19-year-old.
FIP Differential – Good
Again, using stuff like this is tricky. Just because a player made this list doesn’t mean they are in line for a big jump going into next season. There is a good chance that none of these players are as bad as their numbers make them appear.
Certainly some interesting names on this list. Eddy Yean didn’t have a great 2022, but maybe it wasn’t as bad we originally thought? How much did playing in Greensboro factor into this?
A lot of the numbers still weren’t pretty even after the drop off, but two interesting names that made it on here are Carmen Mlodzinski and Po-Yu Chen (Luis Peralta potentially as a third).
Mlodzinski was up and down last year, never really finding his groove. He was bounced out of a few starts down the stretch without completing the first inning. He has good stuff, and the 3.77 FIP may play to that.
If you are a fan of spin rates, Chen is a guy for you. He got a little taste of Single-A at the end of 2021, before spending this past season with Bradenton. A FIP of under four furthers proof of his progress in his first full season of professional baseball.
While using FIP is a little bit different at the major league level, since there are more factors in the minors, it can still be a good gauge and give you some players to monitor going forward.
No type of analytic metric should be used as an end-all-be-all, especially when it comes to prospects. This is a small part of the bigger picture when looking at minor leaguers, but one that can also help point you in the right direction on where that specific player may be heading.
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Anthony began writing over 10 years ago, starting a personal blog to cover the 2011 MLB draft, where the Pirates selected first overall. After bouncing around many websites covering hockey, he refocused his attention to baseball, his first love when it comes to sports. He eventually found himself here at Pirates Prospects in late 2021, where he covers the team’s four full season minor league affiliates.