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August 22, 2014 6:00 am

Fantasy Freestyle: Adjusting for Era


Craig Goldstein

We all have our own idea of what constitutes a good ERA, FIP, or xFIP, but it's important to make sure that our benchmarks keep up with the times.

While some of us have come to use plus-or-minus stats that adjust to league average to make our determinations on where a player lands within his ranks, it’s clear that many people still use the standard ERA to evaluate a pitcher or batting average to evaluate a hitter. There’s no issue with that, especially when those are the relevant categories in a fantasy league—but there’s something of a collective benchmark that we have for what determines a good, great, or elite ERA or batting average. Even more advanced stats like FIP or xFIP fall prey to this collective benchmark and to our failure to adjust for context.

Focusing on the pitching side of the equation, based on the era I grew up in a 3.00 ERA was/is my benchmark for whether someone is a good pitcher. There are shades of gray of course—a mediocre pitcher can have a fluky season—but everything revolves around that 3.00. A 3.30 was pretty good and a 3.50 was solid. A 4.00 was fit for a fifth starter/long-man type. Reality, of course, is a different story. We all know that we’re in a down offensive period in baseball, but I do wonder if enough of us have adjusted to what that means on the pitching side of the equation. This is an effort to show just how dramatically things have changed over the last few years, so that we can recalibrate what an elite or good pitcher is, and then use that as a new frame of reference.

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Ben and Sam discuss whether we should care about pitch counts in no-hitters, then talk about the gap between Joe Blanton's actual and estimated ERA.

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December 21, 2012 5:00 am

Overthinking It: The Mike Minor Mystery


Ben Lindbergh

How can we tell whether a player's performance improved because he did something different or because he had better luck?

Through his first four starts and 26 1/3 innings of 2012, Braves starter Mike Minor allowed one home run, striking out 21 and walking five. He had a 3.42 ERA, and the Braves were 3-1 when he pitched.

Then came his next six starts. In those six starts (four of which Atlanta lost) and 31 2/3 innings, Minor still struck out 30, but he walked 16 and gave up 12 home runs—as many as Tim Hudson allowed all season. Minor’s outings got so ugly that on May 21st, after the fifth of those sixth starts, Fredi Gonzalez defended him—sort of—by saying, “he only gave up four solo home runs.”

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Things people said that look less smart in retrospect (and probably didn't sound that smart at the time).

Elsewhere on the site today, I have an article up about Braves starter Mike Minor, who was awful early in the season and excellent (at least in terms of preventing runs) after May. In that article, I referred to a May 22nd post by Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who cited Minor's respectable xFIP and dared to raise the idea—without ever officially endorsing it, mind you—that he might not continue to allow home runs quite as often as he had to that point. That post got 107 comments. These are the best 15.

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