Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Seibu Lions rotation FIP Results: Young Lions Pass The Early Test

Results are as of August 11th.

For further explanation on Fielding Independent Pitching statistics, click here.

Today, we will be looking at how the Lions pitchers have performed this season in accordance with the Fielding Independent Pitching formula. FIP can be a great indicator of future performance, as well as true pitching performance concerning the factors that pitchers can truly control (BBs, Ks, HRs, HBPs are the main outcomes involved).

We'll go in the order of who has the most innings pitched.


Ryoma Nogami

FIP: 4.22

ERA: 3.82

The Lions leader in innings pitched has brought a stabilizing force to the Lions rotation that has been ravaged by injuries, growing pains, and poor performance. It's quite sad that the innings leader for the Lions only has 99.0 IP, while the Hawks and Fighters have multiple pitchers over the century mark. Let's make no mistake about it, Nogami has continued to be his usual average to below average self, he's just happened to be a bit luckier in 2016.

His strikeout rate is exactly the same as it was in 2015 (5.2), while his walk rate and hits per 9 have gone up a few ticks. Unfortunately, FIP has indicated that this trend will not continue, and his FIP over the since 2014 gives an even worse picture as that measures up to an abysmal 4.39 over a sample size of 353.2 IP. And since these calculations were made, Nogami had an awful outing of mop up duty against the Buffaloes, this past Saturday, giving up three runs in 2 IP.

He last started a game for the Lions on July 31st, where he was in-line for a win, but his bullpen let him down and he ended up with a no decision. Since then, Yusei Kikuchi has returned from injury and taken Nogami's place in the rotation, with Nogami heading to the bullpen. In two bullpen appearances, he has a 9.00 ERA.

Overall, Nogami's main value to the 2016 Lions has been his ability to eat innings when really no one else has been able to with the injuries. There's a value in doing just that, but come 2017, if the Lions give out anymore than 5 starts to Nogami, something is very wrong.


Kona Takahashi

FIP: 3.29

ERA: 3.66

The former Koshien golden boy has seemingly weathered the storm in his first real season as a professional. At 19, he's made considerable strides from 8 starts in 2015, where he walked more than he struck out. He now has 135.0 IP under his belt and even when you include the 8 starts from 2015, he still has a cumulative FIP of 3.74, but it would be hard to argue how relevant those 8 starts from last year were considering he was an 18 year old and is a completely different pitcher than what he was then.

He's improved his K/UIBB ratio by a full point and has improved his strikeout rate by over 2 points. We already knew that Kona had electric stuff and it was just a matter of whether or not he could control it and this year, he has gotten better and better at it. FIP has shown that he's been quite unlucky as his defense has clearly jipped him from earning several wins and his Runs Against average is much higher than his ERA at 5.04.

Impressively, the teenager has averaged just over 6 innings a start, showing that he's limited those disaster starts that are usually so prevalent in the careers of young pitchers. Part of that is because Norio Tanabe has tried to stretch his starts out because injuries and inconsistency in the bullpen, but it is still impressive nonetheless. Make no mistake about it, the success or failure of the Lions for the next 5-10 years will likely start at the hands of Kona and as of right now, Lions fans should be quite happy with his progress.


Yusei Kikuchi

FIP: 2.47

ERA: 2.51

Ever since I've started contributing to this blog, I've been Yusei Kikuchi's biggest fan. At this point in time, Kikuchi has the best stuff on the Lions staff and these numbers definitely reflect the type of dominance that Kikuchi has achieved when healthy. Many will be disappointed that he didn't reach the heights he was supposed to reach coming out of high school, where many pegged him to go straight to MLB, Due to injuries and inconsistency, he has instead looked to be a No. 2 starter with the ceiling of a No. 1, which is far from being a flop. However, there are some things that continue to keep him from being that number 1 guy he's capable of being.

Kikuchi has never thrown more than the 139.2 IP he threw in 2014, if he's going to be the guy, he needs to be that workhorse who throws over 170 IP a year. He'll also have a few games where his control is off and he has to take his chances with the 4th time through the order to get deep into the game, with all that said, his stats all look to be trending in the right direction.

His strikeout rate is the highest of his career (8.8), and his K/UIBB ratio is the best it's ever been at this amount of innings pitched (2.41). And he's only given up 4 home runs on the year. Even if you stretch out the sample size to since 2014, with a sample size of 362.1 IP, Kikuchi still finishes with an FIP of 3.32, when you see FIP marks from 2.47-3.32, it's a great sign for the future, just as long as he stays healthy.


Takayuki Kishi

FIP: 3.02

ERA: 2.10

The historical ace of the Lions staff has once again struggled with injuries for the second straight season, but has undoubtedly pitched the best out of all the Lions pitchers when healthy. Looking at the difference between Kishi's FIP and his ERA, that would suggest that Kishi is due for a little bit of a correction, I think some sort of correction will naturally occur as he throws more innings, but Kishi has shown that he's one of those rare pitchers who's more able to consistently outperform his FIP thanks to his consistent drawing of weak contact that has allowed him to continue to be successful even though his velocity isn't what it used to be. His strikeout rate is down this year, and his walk rate has increased, so currently his K/UIBB is at 2.50 which would be the lowest of Kishi's career if the season ended today.

That last point is a bit alarming, but it's really the only number that's cause for concern over Kishi's form. At this point, Kishi should be no worse than a solid number 2 starter going forward, but health concerns still will be a thing until he puts together another season over 170 IP.


Ken Togame

FIP: 3.97

ERA: 6.51

Last year at this time, I questioned whether or not my FIP results on Togame were anything to look at considering the weird seasons he had the last two years, unfortunately, with this season's results, it looks like the remarkably high FIP results from last year have confirmed that Togame was due for a run of awful form.

Now that we have more of a sample size, we can properly analyze Togame and really make a proper claim about his career as a starting pitcher. Togame's cumulative FIP from 2014-2016 ends up at 4.21  in 267.2 IP which makes him a well-below average pitcher. His K/UIBB ratio has gone down a half a point thanks to declining strikeout rate and a rising walk rate, the only good trend from Togame is that he's showing that the 19 home runs he allowed in 2015 were likely nothing more than an outlier because he's only given up 3 home runs this season.

Two weeks ago, when Kikuchi was returning to the rotation from injury, the Lions had to make a choice between Togame and Nogami on who to drop to the bullpen. The Lions sent Nogami to the bullpen and kept Togame as a once a week player and according to FIP, this was the right decision. Togame's H/9 have gone up 3 points this year which is definitely a symptom of poor BABIP and Togame seems to be due for a positive correction, while Nogami is most likely going to have a negative correction. At best, the two are probably a wash, since neither have much upside to really make a difference.

Come 2017, the hope is that Ken Togame will be the 6th starter and nothing more, since anything higher for him would be a bit alarming for the Lions.


Shinsaburo Tawata

FIP: 3.58

ERA: 4.87

The Lions rookie had just come off his first career, complete game, shutout against the Fighters in Sapporo at the time of these calculations and it's quite hard to make any claims after 61 innings, but the thought that comes to mind is so far so good.

It's been a rough situation for the 23 year old and he's certainly had to learn on the fly due to injuries to the staff, but it looks like Tawata is entering signs of improved form and so far, his FIP suggests that he's in good shape. Like many young pitchers, he has had issues with command, but his strikeout rate shows he's missing bats and it looks like the Lions have made a solid decision to draft this young man in last year's NPB Draft.


Andy Van Hekken

FIP: 3.99

ERA: 6.31

There's not much to say about this one, what I will say is what Christian and I have talked about a lot on the Lions OenDEN Podcast, the Lions longtime trend with foreign starting pitchers continues to be poor and that makes things quite tough on the rotation who struggle with finding a temporary helper.

Van Hekken's FIP suggests that he wasn't as bad as we originally thought, but the eye test clearly showed that he was getting lit up like a pinball machine, with that said, it's not fair to make any decision on someone based on 45.2 IP.  Van Hekken averaged only 4.5 innings per start and that really made Tanabe overwork his bullpen early on the season, and Van Hekken's extremely high walk rate of 5.1 BB/9 must've been what convinced the Lions that it was time to cut their losses on the former Detroit Tiger, who is remembered for a shutout as a September callup.


Felipe Paulino

FIP: 4.08

ERA: 3.89

I can honestly just copy and paste the analysis on Van Hekken and move it here and it would pretty much work. Paulino has been passable as a Lions starter but nothing to write home about. Let's not act like he's that much better than Van Hekken, in fact, his numbers are eerily the similar.

             Van Hekken            Paulino
K/UIBB    1.35                      1.24
K/9            6.9                        6.4
BB/9         5.1                         5.2
H/9           11.6                       8.2

The last category is the one separating the two pitchers and that's easily the difference between a 6.31 ERA and an ERA around 4, especially around 40-45 IP. The only thing that seems to separate the two from a value standpoint is that Paulino has gone deeper into games but at this point, I'm chalking that up to merely sequencing and Paulino's fortunate luck. Apples to apples.


Isamu Sato

FIP: 5.19

ERA: 5.76

Not good. Again, I don't want to judge anyone on 25.0 IP, but there's not much here. Drafted out of high school, Sato has made 4 starts for the Lions and all I can really say is that it looks like he has some strikeout potential with his 6.1 K/9, but that's where it ends. His command has been awful with his walk rate of 4.7, but he is 21 so if he ever figures it out, he can at least find some value in the bullpen with him being a lefty.



The rotation's revolving door has made the 2016 season an uphill battle that rivals Little Round Top, but the good news lies in the young kids who have so far passed their early tests and shown that their peripherals paint good pictures of their skills.

Come 2017, a top 5 of Kishi, Kikuchi, Tawata, Takahashi, and a possible Lions first round pick is sounds quite appetizing, but health will have to go the Lions way for that projection to come to life. There will another FIP post coming this week with the bullpen, and you want to miss that debacle!


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