Spreading the Gospel of Context Fielding Independent Pitching (cFIP)

It’s been fun to evolve as someone that has been talking about baseball on the internet since 2006 and with anyone that would listen for as long as I can remember prior to then. Anyone that grew up collecting baseball cards could probably tell you some of the more interesting statistics listed for their favorite players. For pitchers this was almost surely strikeouts or wins or Earned Run Average (ERA) functioning as a sort of triple crown for those that toe the rubber. ERA, in particular, was great because it felt like a solid way to compare guys all the way back to the Deadball Era and asserted the pecking order for who was better than whom. Then we found a better way.

It started with Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) which focused on the things that pitchers could control. As someone that pitched in high school this made some sense. After all, I wanted the credit if I sat a guy down and if a guy couldn’t convert a two-hopper, well, then how should I bare the blame. Of course, on the other hand it’s hard for me to fault the other guys when I gave up a screamer to the gap so I felt like it all kind of came out in the wash. It also seemed like bull when you’d face a team that didn’t have a fence because what would normally be a double might easily turn into a homer. That’s not fair. So we can agree that things like opponent or the place where you’re playing matter quite a bit when it comes to expectations of performance.

Progress continued with further refinements to FIP like xFIP neutralizing home run luck or SIERA attempting to incorporate batted ball affects. These systems were stronger and another step forward, but while neutralizing certain things it had to make certain assumptions like where the pitcher pitched or that he always faced a league average batter. Things that we know are unrealistic, but we accept them because better is preferable to worse. Then you see the next step taken and you just want to shake the inventor’s hand.

Jonathan Judge ran the numbers (go read this, seriously) for all these things creating the headline-referencing cFIP that accounts for many of the issues above. He adjusts for the batter, pitcher and umpire. He adjusts for the actual park where the play occurred as well as the league when that’s relevant. By getting super granular we’re able to give the finger to sample size issues leading to not only better results for evaluative reasons, but even better we can have a high degree of confidence in cFIPs ability to predict what the future might look like bereft of injuries or luck. This is as close as we’ve ever been to predicting true talent so you’ll have to forgive my excitement.

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Tim Beckham’s Ceiling Part 2

Yesterday I showed one organization’s opinion of Brandon Phillips over the course of his career. He started out as a shortstop in the low levels before his fringy range caught up to him necessitating a shift over to second base. The flaws were clear, but there were postives, as well. The guy lacked all semblance of discipline at the plate, but his plus bat speed made up for some of that allowing him to spray the ball all over and show surprising pop most years.

It took many years and his third organization before Phillips really took off as a 25 year old in Cincinnati. After years of people picking apart the things he couldn’t do he was able to show that a plus glove and an ability to hit around league average with some pop could turn into a 3-4 win player perennially. In fact, after his one and a half WAR season at 25 he put up another 19 wins over what would have been the rest of his team control years. A late bloomer, sure, but one that became a key cog at an important position.

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Tim Beckham’s Ceiling Part 1

Update 2:24 PM: We have a winner. Congratulations to @matthewpgates for correctly guessing that the player discussed below is Brandon Phillips. I hope that doesn’t detract you from reading these blurbs and you should definitely come back tomorrow to see why Dat Dude BP makes such an interesting comparison to Tim Beckham.

From the 2001 BP Annual:

The (team) like to talk about their depth at shortstop, but the guys who could turn out well are both in A ball: (nobody) and (our guy). A tools guy who generates power through great bat speed, (our guy) spent most of the year hitting third in the lineup. That says a lot about the state of (team) prospectdom. Afield, he’s got decent range, good hands, and a lot of work to do…

From the 2002 BP Annual:

This is the reason teams continue to draft raw athletes. If, like (our guy) they can translate their tools into skills, it makes for a potentially dominating player. When the organization challenged (our guy) to walk more than he struck out, he made the intelligent choice — he decided to be more patient at the plate rather than cut down on his swing. Though he found Eastern League competition tougher, he followed up with a dynamite stint in the Arizona Fall League, playing mostly third base. The defensive switch was made only so that he could participate; he projects to be an above-average shortstop, with plus range, soft hands, and a strong arm. (Our guy) is coming like a freight train and could be in the (team’s) 2003 Opening Day lineup.

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Rays Top-30 Prospects*

*If I’m wrong you can feel justified asking for your money back as I’ve seen few of these guys. I try to stay away from other people’s lists to avoid bias so this one probably will seem a little out of left field compared to the rest of the Rays blogosphere. Age is for the upcoming season and level is a guess at where they will spend the majority of their season. As always, #flameon

Honorable Mentions

36: Andrew Toles, 23, AA, CF

Legit athlete needs to channel energy into the game. Bat is a question mark, but has wheels and a glove. High volatility, but I didn’t want to leave him off #CYA

35: Burch Smith, 25, AAA, RHRP

Still a starter, but all signs point to a future in the pen where his deception will help and his stuff will play up. He looks like a busted prospect that will be going under the knife soon. Maybe that will help get him back to what he was a few years ago when he had some shine.

34: Nolan Gannon, 22, A-, RHSP

Remains a starter until he shows he can’t handle the load. Gannon is coming off a quietly nice season in Hudson Valley, albeit, at a park that slightly favors pitchers overall and very much so when it comes to limiting dingers. Keep an eye on him, but I don’t see a huge ceiling.

33: Tyler Goeddel, 22, AA, 3B

Position is pretty barren in the system which makes some sense with the big guy atop the pile in Tampa Bay. Goeddel is projectable, but needs to make strides across the board to turn those tools into skills. Someone handing him a sandwich could only help.

32: Johnny Field, 23, A+, CF 

Gamer. Gritmonster. Hustle. Loyalty. Respect. Field is a classic “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight” guy which is really easy for most fans to pull for. Speed is good, not great. Bat to ball skills are good, not great. Probably not a CF, but if he can stay on the position he’ll have a chance to climb lists.

31: C.J. Riefenhauser, 25, AAA, LHRP

Riefer is this high simply because I think he’s going to have an impact in the Show this year. He’s a lefty one out guy, but every single team has a need for that. While I don’t think he’s the best iteration in the system (Beliveau, Montgomery?) I think Mr. Charles has a really high floor and is ready to contribute.

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Estimating Rays Farm Rotations

This will be kind of a quick hitter. More of a sharing of findings than any sort of bold claim of fact. I’m currently putting together my top-30 prospect list which I alluded to in yesterday’s piece looking at the positional player side of things. To go about looking at pitchers I first wanted to get a good idea of how guys performed last year relative to their league. Luckily, Minor League Central makes this relatively easy.

I pretty much followed what I did in July when I similarly wanted to get a snapshot of the livestock situation. Basically, we establish league averages and then compare are players to that. For this instance I’m using MLC’s “Siera” calculation and then adjusting up or down based on the players age compared to the average of the league. Finally, I account for usage because a really good player for 5 innings isn’t as hot as a guy that puts up 150. In the following tables I call this “Score”.

The next step was to group guys by where I think they will play this year and whether or not I think that guy will be a starter or a reliever. Note that I’m merely listing all of the guys that pitched at least 10 innings last year (sorry Guerrieri) so I also won’t be including guys that were acquired over the offseason. That also means that I’m including guys that might not be with the club anymore though I did remove everyone that I know has been traded or released. This is meant to be a quick comparison so let’s not get too uptight about it. Let’s start with Low-A.

Hudson Valley Renegades

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Some of These Things Are Not Like the Others & Positional Depth Charts

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