Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Monday I talked about what a great season Cory Lidle is having, despite the near-universal opinion from pundits that the Phillies are struggling in their pitching department. As I said, Lidle isn’t the only Phillies pitcher to being playing unfairly under a cloud. Jon Lieber, Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson are all under a cloud too. The only pitcher getting by with praise is Brett Myers and no wonder: his 3.11 ERA is easily the best of the starters.
Is Myers really pitching well? (He certainly did last night in the Phils win.) Are Lieber and Flody and Madson really stuggling? Let’s look:
Jon Lieber. Conventional stats: 2-4, 6.60 ERA
Throw those numbers out the window. Don’t believe them. Jon Lieber is doing exactly what the Phillies paid him to do when they signed him from the Yankees in the fall of 2004: keep the ball in the park, don’t allow walks, and throw ground balls:
FIP ERA: 3.63
FIP variance: -2.69
Confused about what I’m talking about? Here are the stats I refer to defined:
ERA – Earned Run Average: (Earned Runs * 9) / IP = ERA
FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed).
DER – Defense Efficiency Ratio: (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs.
Hr/9 – Home Runs allowed per nine innings.
K/9 – Strikeouts per nine innings.
BB/9 – Walks per nine innings.
Lieber has allowed the same number of home runs as walks (5) in just forty-three and two-thirds innings. That is a phenomenal performance so far, but it is what the Phillies have expected from him. In 2004, with the Yankees, he gave up just 18 walks in 176 innings, as compared to 20 home runs.
Look at the contrast between the two halves of Lieber’s season last year:
Pre-All Star / Post
Record: 8-8 / 9-5
HR/9: 1.86 / 0.84
K/9: 5.58 / 6.72
BB/9: 2.10 / 1.26
It looks like Liber took the strong finish he had to the 2005 season and kept it going for 2006. The problem is that the Phillies haven’t played well for Lieber:
They simply aren’t converting the balls put into play into outs. That is what’s killing Lieber. Bottom-line: Lieber is pitching well. Let’s move on …
Gavin Floyd. Conventional stats: 3-2, 6.16 ERA
I am much less inclined to defend Gavin Floyd. You have to worry about a Rick Ankiel factor at work here. Gavin Floyd is a talented pitcher and I think we all assumed great things were in the offing for him when he blanked the Cards last year, but he’s really, really struggled and continues to struggle.
FIP ERA: 6.17
FIP variance: +0.01
Aside from his first start of the year, against the Dodgers, Gavin has surrendered at least one home run in all of his starts. Even in the Dodgers game he pitched poorly, being driven from the game in the third inning. There really is nothing good to say here: the walks are horrifically bad, as are the home runs. He really isn’t getting many strikeouts either, because he’s running behind Jon Lieber in that department and Lieber isn’t a strikeout pitcher. Gavin’s struggles are a big reason why the Phillies are leaving Cole Hamels in the minors until he’s good and ready. I think that’s a wise decision.
Ryan Madson. Conventional stats: 3-1, 6.82 ERA
Like Floyd, I am less inclined to defend Ryan Madson than Jon Lieber.
FIP ERA: 5.38
FIP variance: -1.44
In two of Madson’s three victories the Phillies scored nine and ten runs, and in one of his no-decisions, the Phillies scored seven runs late to erase a 5-1 deficit against the Marlins and win 8-5.
I am very disappointed in Ryan’s performance, but I hold out hope that he’ll pull things together. It blows my mind that he’s given up more walks than he’s gotten strikeouts (16 vs. 15), but I think it is a good sign that he’s only given up four home runs in thirty and two-thirds innings.
Ryan will pitch better. We need to hope that Gavin pulls things together.
In the final analysis, I’d state that the conventional wisdom on the Phillies pitching staff is (mostly) wrong: yes, Gavin Floyd and Ryan Madson are struggling. But Jon Liber and Cory Lidle are pitching well and are helping Brett Myers out (more on Brett tomorrow). It is a mild surprise that the Phillies have turned in such a nice performance on the mound thus far this season: we are above the league average in FIP and are out-pitching the vaunted Braves by a half run: 4.05 to 4.56 … So much for the conventional wisdom that the Phillies are struggling in their starting pitching…
That was a great game last night between the Mets and Phillies. Sure, Tom Gordon nearly blew it and doesn't deserve that "W" next to his name, but a win is a win, particularly against a good team sending its ace pitcher to the mound. I expect tonight's game between Tom Glavine and Cory Lidle will be a pitchers duel. These are the No.1 and No.3 FIP pitchers in the NL. I expect the game to be decided 2-1 or so. Hopefully the Phils can run the winning streak to ten.