Sunday, July 19, 2015

Lessons From FIP: Lions' Rotation Mid-Season Report

Ken Togame's first half gave him a spot on the All-Star team, is the success legit?

Through this entire first half of the season I've been waiting to be able to craft this post. If you remember from the early part of the season, I started with this post which talked about our early findings from calculating the early Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) stats of Lions pitchers. Give that a read if you need a bit of introduction into this process and a bit of background on how to interpret these numbers.

In this post, you're gonna find some numbers that are going to call into question some of your opinions on Lions starting pitchers but also at the same time reinforce them. Earned Run Average (ERA) is at many times a flawed statistic that just doesn't tell the full the story of a pitcher's body of work. So without further a due, let's get the verdict on who's for real and who's fool's gold in the Lions Rotation.

Stats from 2015 are reflective of games completed after July 15.  

Yusei Kikuchi

As you can see from the chart and graph, Kikuchi's FIP/ERA relationship has been closely proportionate throughout his young career and with the exception of his rough 2014 season, his numbers have been solid and spit out a conclusion that Kikuchi is among the best pitchers in the entire Pacific League. That's a hard one to argue against. Track record is the only thing that's standing in his way, but there's no reason to think that Kikuchi will continue this pace for the rest of the 2015 season. His home runs given up are in line with the rate that he's given up throughout his career, while his walk rate has gone down to a level not seen since 2012. And on top of that good news is that his strikeout rate is at a career level, everything about Kikuchi's year screams, "CAREER YEAR." Let's just hope that injuries don't get in the way. This first half of the season has allowed us to all but ensure that his 2014 season was nothing more than an outlier and a season that has no statistical purpose in looking at.

Ryoma Nogami






Pitchers like Nogami were not expected to do much of anything when it came to helping the Lions get to contention. And when you look at his peripheral numbers, nothing exactly stands out, so what's the true verdict on Ryoma Nogami? His WHIP is at a career low of 1.047 and his H/9 is also at a career low mark, his walk rate has gone down considerably (2.3, down from 3.1) since last season and is now more in line with the walk rate seen in 2013 (2.4). Now why exactly are his H/9 down so low? This could have something to do with his defense, with the amount of home runs he gives up a year, the solid outfield defense of the Lions could have a lot to do with that number, but I believe luck also plays some sort of factor. Now I don't expect Nogami to go back to the poor numbers of 2014, since I believe this is a classic bounce back season, but I still think Nogami will end the year with an ERA around 3.75 and 3.80. As a back end of the rotation guy, Nogami is a solid contributor and is critical to the Lions success in the second half.

Kazuhisa Makita

For the last several minutes, I've been glued to the numbers above, and quite frankly, it's difficult to say other than it's puzzling. I will say this though, Kazuhisa Makita has proven to find a lot of success at frustrating opposing batters by creating weak contact. What would help accompany this information would be a groundball percentage that would showcase the amount of weak contact that Makita is creating from his odd sidearm delivery. I believe the last couple years of the graph is more indicative of what we're going to get going forward. Who knows whether or not his FIP will reflect his ERA since we had one year where there was almost no difference in 2014 and then in 2013 we had a ridiculous difference in the two measurements. The jury is out on Makita but as the Lions leader in innings pitched, I have confidence in him when it comes to the eye test.

Ken Togame

Sometimes when you look deeper into the numbers, you just end up getting more and more confused. Part of the problem with Togame is the lack of a real sample size. It's hard to put any stock into 2014 because of his hip issues and 2012 was more of a bullpen year for him. So 2013 is the only year to take a whole lot of stock into and even that year doesn't help out a whole lot. The incredible thing about the graph is seeing the major discrepancy in FIP to ERA in the year 2015 and this all due to the ballooning home run rate of Togame. He's already given up a career high amount of home runs, and that will certainly create a high FIP. It looks like those home runs haven't bothered his ERA which begs the question, are the home run rates a moot point? He's walking guys at a respectable rate and his strikeout rate is at a career high, so it sounds like he's giving up a lot of solo home runs which can skew certain numbers but really not matter much in the grand scheme. I expect Togame's ERA to go up to around 3.50 but I still like what I see from Togame regardless of his skyrocketed FIP.

Takayuki Kishi

He's only had 6 starts so it's hard to make any real declarations but from what I see, I'm gonna keep it real short and simple: He's got this. His rate numbers are identical to the ones he's put out his entire career so I expect his FIP to stay around 3.00 and his ERA to come way back down and accompany its sabermetric brother. He's definitely still Ace Kishi.

Chun-Lin "Kaku" Kuo


ERA: 4.53, FIP: 4.98

The young Taiwanese pitcher with braces has had an inconsistent first half of his career in Japan and the jury is still out on who he is as a pitcher. First and foremost his command must improve if he is to improve his numbers. This is his first season playing professional baseball as he was an amateur before the Lions signed him.

Wade LeBlanc


ERA: 4.23, FIP: 4.62

Who knows when LeBlanc's next opportunities will come but his start to his new life in Japan has not been a good one. He's extremely lucky and having watched a few of his starts, I can definitely support the numbers with what I've seen. The only thing good I can see from Wade LeBlanc is that he's left-handed, he is pitching well with the ni-gun so let's hope his command will be cleaned up in his next opportunity and then he can contribute to the team.

Stay tuned, a post on the bullpen will be up soon! 


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