The Seven Sub-2.00 FIP Seasons

For my first post on High Heat Stats, I’m taking a shortcut and recycling something I wrote for Replacement Level back in April.  It’s no more or less relevant today, but I think it’s worth a little more discussion than it got in my dark corner of the blogosphere.

Bonds 73, McGwire 70, Sosa 66…
Gibson 1.12, Gooden 1.53, Maddux 1.56…
Hornsby .424, Sisler .420, Williams .406

There are single season numbers like the home run totals listed above that the average baseball fan has committed to memory (even if some fans would prefer to remember Maris 61, Ruth 60, Ruth 59…). There are others, like Gibson’s 1.12 ERA and Williams’s .406 batting average, that may not actually be all-time records, but if we look past the deadball era, they stand out so far above more recent accomplishments that we can’t forget them.

Read the rest to see the numbers you should really know.

One thing we as fans seem to have lost during the SABR revolution is the ability to memorize truly meaningful numbers. Sure, Gibson has an amazing ERA, but how much of that came from pitching from a high mound in a cavernous stadium in a pitcher’s era? Williams hit .406, but why do we care so much about a number that ignores walks (for the record, his OBP that year was an absurd .553).

Perhaps this is all for the best. There’s nothing wrong with memorizing numbers that blew our minds decades ago and recognizing at the same time that those numbers don’t evaluate those players’ true abilities as well as metrics developed since.

Still, it seems to me there are a few numbers that modern fans should pass down to our kids the way .406 and 1.12 and 61* were passed on to us. Fielding-Independent Pitching is a better way to evaluate a pitcher’s true talent than ERA. By including only strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed, it focuses on the outcomes most within a pitcher’s control, ignoring all the variables that can happen once a ball is put in play.

Who had the best single season FIP of all time? It seems to me that we should all know that. Even without memorizing leaderboards, you might guess correctly, as the season and the pitcher who accomplished it are equally legendary in SABR circles. You may be surprised, though, to know that, since 1920, when Babe Ruth essentially invented the home run, and today, there have been just seven seasons in which a pitcher has qualified for an ERA title and kept his FIP under 2. Here they are, in ascending order of greatness:

Hal Newhouser, 1946 (1.96)
This was the second of Newhouser’s consecutive MVP seasons. His 1.94 ERA didn’t match the 1.81 he put up in ’45, but in 292 2/3 innings, he did strike out 275, while walking just 98 and giving up only ten homers.

By today’s standards, Newhouser was quite the workhorse in ’46, starting 34 games and appearing in relief in three others, but those numbers were in line with many of his prime seasons and far shy of the 313+ innings he pitched in 40 games (36 starts) the prior year. Based on volume, one can make a solid case that Newhouser was better in ’45, when he struck out fewer and walked more, but gave up just five homers and, thanks in part to a .259 BABiP (batting average on balls in play), yielded the same number of earned runs and four fewer runs in total.

We should note that Newhouser’s 1945 numbers were compiled during wartime, when many of the great players were overseas. In ’46, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, and others returned to action, but Newhouser kept mowing them down as if they were scabs crossing the picket line.

Tom Seaver, 1971 (1.93)
Another Hall of Famer in his prime (Seaver was 26, Newhouser was 25), Seaver was utterly dominant for the ’71 Mets. In 286 1/3 innings, Seaver struck out 289 and walked just 61. He did give up 18 home runs, but they came in a more homer-friendly environment than Newhouser’s. Seaver wouldn’t match that .57 HR/9 again until ’75, by which time his strikeout rate had plummeted.

Remarkably, hitters fared even worse against Seaver when they put the ball in play, averaging just .263 and being stranded almost 86% of the time when they did reach base. His 1.76 ERA was the second best in the decade.

Sandy Koufax, 1965 (1.93)
At least until the late ’90s, Koufax’s run from 1962 until he retired after the ’66 season was the most dominant in the game’s history. In ’65, he threw a stunning 335 2/3 innings (he started 41 games and appeared twice more; any guesses why he retired at 30 a year later?). His 382 strikeouts are one short of Nolan Ryan’s 20th century record. He walked just 71 hitters, which at 1.9 per nine innings was the second lowest of his career. Had he not given up 26 home runs, this might be the best season of all time.

I’d be remiss not to mention that the National League batted just .246 as a whole in ’65, ten points lower than Newhouser’s AL in ’46 and three points lower than Seaver’s NL in ’71. Koufax also pitched in a ballpark that suppressed scoring by eight percent, so the odds were in his favor.

Sandy Koufax, 1963 (1.85)
In ’63, Koufax pitched 311 innings, averaging nearly eight innings per start. He struck out 306 and walked just 58, an even better walk rate than he’d have in ’65, and gave up eight fewer home runs. The league batting average and Dodger Stadium’s park factor were the same as in ’65. His 1.88 ERA was right in line with his FIP and well ahead of his 2.04 mark in ’65. This was less a factor of his BABiP (a fantastic .238, but still worse than ’65′s .234) and more a factor of his strand rate. He left 82.9% of baserunners on the bases in 1963, scattering what few hitters he allowed on base more effectively then he would two years later.

Bob Gibson, 1968 (1.77)
This one is commonly cited as the greatest pitching season ever. Everything went right for Gibson in ’68. He pitched 304 2/3 innings despite making “just” 34 starts (in case you don’t have a calculator handy, that rounds up to nine innings per start). He struck out 268, which is not quite Koufaxian, but does represent nearly eight batters per nine innings, and walked just 62. Only 11 batters, or less than one every three games, made home run trots against Gibson in ’68. Furthermore, luck was on his side, as the league hit just .230 on balls in play against him, which helps explain the .65 difference between his ERA and his FIP.

This time, we can’t help but note that the National League hit just .237 in 1968, the lowest mark for either league in baseball history. Scoring was so hard to come by that the mound would be lowered after the season and has never been raised to the pre-’69 height since. Gibson was truly remarkable in ’68, but his 1.12 ERA could not have been accomplished at any other time.

Dwight Gooden, 1984 (1.69)
Here’s the first guy on our list who isn’t in the Hall of Fame and likely never will be. Try telling someone in 1984, though, that the best pitcher they’d ever seen would have no compelling Hall case almost 30 years later. Gooden was a 19-year-old rookie in ’84, and made just 31 starts, but he pitched 218 innings and struck out 276 helpless hitters. His 11.39 K/9 are better than anyone we’ve seen on this list so far. His walk rate, at 3.01/9, is also the highest yet, but he gave up just seven homers in a more challenging run scoring environment (the league hit .260 in ’84 and Shea Stadium played neutrally).

Batters hit .296 on balls in play against Gooden, a truly average mark, but he struggled to strand runners (72.5% left on base). This, combined with the highest walk rate in the early part of his career, left him with a still-impressive, but perhaps not legendary 2.60 ERA. In the following year, Gooden shaved more than a point off his ERA, despite a 25% reduction in his strikeout rate and six more home runs allowed. He did this by walking four fewer hitters in almost 60 more innings. He also cut his BABiP by 27 points and increased his strand rate to a historic level (86.9%). One might argue that the reduced strand rate shows growth from a player who had finally entered his 20s, and that his much improved ERA was not all a factor of luck. Either way, both seasons were historically great (his FIP in ’85 was 2.13, and his 9.0 fWAR in ’85 tops his 8.6 in ’84).

Pedro Martinez, 1999 (1.39)
Have I mentioned that FIP is not park- or era-adjusted? Think about this for a minute. Pitching in Fenway Park in 1999, Pedro Martinez was .30 points better in FIP than any other pitcher in the history of the game. Even before we adjust for his home park and the hitters he faced, Martinez’s FIP in 1999 probably exceeded the next best season ever by a more impressive margin than any other single season record in any stat.

Let’s get to the numbers.
213 1/3 innings.
313 strikeouts (13.2/9)
37 walks (1.6/9)
9 home runs (0.36/9)

Batters hit .323 when they put the ball in play against Martinez that year. That’s a combination of horrible luck and a field that inflates batting average like few others (it played nearly run-neutral in ’99, due in large part to suppressing homers, but it still ranks tied with Tiger Stadium in ’46 as the friendliest offensive environment on our list). Despite the bad luck, bad fielding, and tough park to pitch in, he led the majors with a 2.07 ERA.

It gets better. In 1999, the American League hit .268, the highest average since 1937. Manny Ramirez hit .333/.442/.663 for the Indians. Edgar Martinez hit .337/.447/.554. Even John Jaha hit .276/.414/.556. Twelve American Leaguers hit 35 or more home runs. Yet, in this environment, Pedro Martinez struck out 8 1/2 batters for every one he walked and 35 for every one who homered off him.

After Pedro’s 1.39, the next best FIP in the American League was Mike Mussina’s 3.25. Aaron Sele was third at 3.85.

The following year, Pedro saw his strikeout rate dip by a batter and a half per inning, while walking just five fewer hitters. He gave up almost double the home runs in just four more innings. Despite all this regression, he turned in a 1.74 ERA.

I urge you all to commit the number 1.39 to memory. I guarantee you you’ll never have to replace it.

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115 Comments on "The Seven Sub-2.00 FIP Seasons"

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James Smyth
Guest

Great post!

That 1.39 FIP is INSANE

Also, with Bob Gibson’s 304 2/3 innings in 34 starts, he was only four outs shy of averaging nine innings per start

Ed
Guest

Welcome Bryan! Nice first post!

I’m going to use this as an opportunity to ask a very tangentially related question:

In 1968 the Cleveland Indians had two starting pitchers (Tiant and McDowell) with sub 2.00 ERAs. Does anyone know if any other post deadball era teams have accomplished this feat?

Phil
Guest

Not that I can see, just scrolling through league leaders. It’s rare enough when there are two pitchers in the entire league sub-2.00.

Richard Chester
Guest

The PI shows that Tiant and McDowell in 1968 represent the only occasion of two pitchers from the same team with sub-2.00 ERA.
Here are the years in which there were two or more pitchers in the majors with sub-2.00 ERA.
1985: Gooden, Tudor
1972; Tiant, G.Perry, Nolan, Carlton
1971: Blue, Wood, Seaver
1968: Bolin, Gibson, John, McDowell, Tiant, McClain, McNally
1966: Koufax, Peters
1964: Chance,Horlen, Koufax
1943: Lanier, Chandler
1933: Hubbell, WEarneke

Ed
Guest

Thanks Phil and Richard! It’s amazing that this feat isn’t talked about more. I’m an Indians fan and even I wasn’t aware of it until a few weeks ago when I stumbled upon it.

Hartvig
Guest

RC- Obviously you are talking about post 1919, correct? Because in 1908 you wouldn’t even crack the top 10 with an ERA of 1.702.

Richard Chester
Guest

Yes, it’s post 1919 because the list of the seven pitchers in the blog is post-1919.

Howard
Guest

Does Warneke’s 1933 ERA round down to 1.99. Because it’s officially listed at 2.00.

Howard
Guest

According to my quick and very basic calculations Warneke’s 1933 ERA is actually a tiny tick above 2.00 so he would come off the list. Someone better at math may well find that I’m wrong.

Richard Chester
Guest

Warneke’s ERA was 2.00466 which rounds off to 2.00. When I ran the PI I incorrectly set ERA =< 2.00 instead of 1.99. Sorry about that.

Perhaps I should have realized something was wrong when I mis-typed his name.:-)

bstar
Guest

Richard, what is Warneke’s first name?

Richard Chester
Guest

Warneke’s first name is Lon. He became an NL umpire after his playing career ended.

bstar
Guest

It’s even rarer for one pitcher to post two consecutive seasons of sub-2.00 ERA. In fact, past the deadball era, there are only 3 pitchers to do it:

Hal Newhouser 1945-46
Sandy Koufax 1963-64
Greg Maddux 1994-95

The first two are on Bryan’s FIP list but Maddux is not due to his non-extreme strikeout totals.

JDGentile
Guest

This was a wonderful read. Thanks for this, Bryan

At some point in the near future Fangraphs is likely to remove IBB from their FIP formula and create constants for the two separate leagues, considering one has pitchers hit and the other doesn’t. At this point, Pedro’s FIP will actually go lower. So commit to 1.39… for now.

RJ
Guest

So essentially Adam Dunn is a walking litmus test of pitching excellence?

PS Good read, but wouldn’t have minded a quick explanation of how FIP is calculated. Easy enough to google, but still.

John Nacca
Guest

“Martinez’s FIP in 1999 probably exceeded the next best season ever by a more impressive margin than any other single season record in any stat.”

The single season record for most wild pitches is 83 by Mark Baldwin in 1889. The next highest total is 63 by Tony Mullane in 1884.

Yeah I am grasping at straws a little!!!!

Hartvig
Guest

Depending on where you put the cutoff, Chief Wilson’s 36 triples in 1912 is 10 more than anyone since two league play began. If you move the cutoff point back to putting the pitchers mound at 60′ 6″ it’s still a substantial lead of 5.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

If I ever get the opportunity to be a General Manager, the triples and stolen base records will be broken.

Jonas Gumby
Guest

Not if I get there first. AND, the wild pitch record will also fall, as my first order of business will be to acquire Ankiel, and reconvert him.

no statistician but
Guest
Deciding that FIP is a better way to discover a pitcher’s “true talent” seems rather arbitrary, but well in line with the way the game has evolved from a multi-dimensional pastime into one that is obsessed with the Three True Outcomes. What if a pitcher’s talent lies in getting batters to hit slow ground balls or lazy flies? I realize that, yes, fielding those BIPs is usually up to other players, but does this mean that the only capability worth having or caring about is that which is played out in a head to head confrontation? I can’t buy it,… Read more »
Voomo Zanzibar
Guest

Greg Maddux might agree.
But so would Fausto Carmona.

bstar
Guest

So would Tim Hudson and Tom Glavine.
And R.A. Dickey and Phil Niekro.
And Gaylord Perry and Jim Palmer.
And Billy Wagner and Joe Nathan.
And just about every deadball pitcher who toed the rubber.
And most sinkerballers, Vaseline-ballers, and sandpaper-ballers.
Or basically anyone who’s m.o. is inducing weak contact.

The biggest outlier of all is Mariano Rivera. A 2.21 career ERA, but only a 2.75 FIP. Are we supposed to believe that Mo’s true talent level is that of a 2.75 ERA pitcher? I just can’t buy that.

Voomo Zanzibar
Guest
I agree, bstar. The 7 seasons above are certainly among the all-time greats. But I can’t buy into FIP as the definitive pitcher’s stat. A definitive pitcher’s stat cannot show preference to a specific pitching style. Pitching is an art as well as a science, and every man has his own approach to bettering the man with the bat. And pitchers are not victim or beneficiary of their defense or ballpark. They are an aspect of it. Baseball is about adjustments, and part of what makes an excellent, well-rounded pitcher is the understanding of what is behind him and the… Read more »
JDGentile
Guest

Maybe I accidentally skipped over the part where the author said “FIP is all that makes them great” and “the only capability worth having or caring about”?

no statistician but
Guest

JDG:

And where do I say that I’m attributing these points of view to Bryan O’Connor? I’m arguing against the view that it’s a mistake to focus excessively on, let’s call it, the One True Stat, whether it is WAR, ERA+, OPS+, HR, BA, or the National GDP. I don’t believe in the philosopher’s stone, either.

birtelcom
Editor
The problem, nsb, is that there is little evidence of a consistent “talent” for getting hitters to hit slow ground balls and lazy flies. The great knuckleballers have been able to do it, and a very, very few pitchers, but for the vast majority of pitchers, it’s the FIP that tends to be more constant from year to year and from team to team as opposed to he non-FIP elements of ERA. Those non-FIP elements tend to jump around from year to year in a way that suggests they are heavily reliant on the whims of chance and varying defensive… Read more »
Hartvig
Guest

Robin Roberts was remarkably successful at inducing F-8’s for a number of years but he also led the league in strikeouts a couple of times during that stretch as well.

birtelcom
Editor
Koufax, Gooden and Newhouser all burned out quite early, and Pedro was done somewhat early too. Is it possible that super-extreme FIP performance is unusually risky for a pitcher’s long-term health? Is it possible that a pitcher may survive longer if he lets his fielders pick up more of the burden (albeit running the risk that those balls in play will sometimes fall in for hits?). Certainly we’re looking at an extremely small sample of players here, and I’m not reaching conclusions or advocating any position here, just throwing out an hypothesis. It’s undoubtedly true that pitching itself is an… Read more »
nightfly
Guest

That theory is part of why Doc Gooden talked, in spring training 1987, of changing his approach and pitching more to contact… he wanted to save the wear and tear on his arm by getting guys earlier in the count.

Jason Z
Guest
Great read Bryan. Thanks. In regards to Koufax retiring young, I recall some scenes from Ken Burns’ documentary on Baseball that were of Koufax’s retirement press conference. He said that he didn’t know the long term effects of cortisone shots and pain killers. But that he had a long time to live and wanted to be healthy. Koufax had to undergo a grueling routine that involved icing that arthritic elbow after every start. He said that he was high much of the time he pitched those last couple of years and just didn’t want to continue. Roger Clemens possible comeback… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

A wonderful debut, Mr. O. I’m trying to come up with words for Pedro. I’m just not sure we realized what we were actually seeing at the time.

Ed
Guest

Criminal that Pedro didn’t win the MVP that year.

Ed
Guest

A few near misses:

Steve Carlton: 2.01 in 1972

Luis Tiant 2.04 in 1968

Those were the two closest misses I could find. Anyone got others?

Ed
Guest

Here’s an interesting article from Beyond the Boxscore that computes a “normalized FIP” based on league averages. If you weren’t in awe of Pedro before, you will be now:

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2006/5/23/143235/740

bstar
Guest
“Fielding-Independent Pitching is a better way to evaluate a pitcher’s true talent than ERA.” But is it better than ERA+, or RA9 after adjusting for team defense and strength of opponent? Here’s Rally(Sean Smith) summarizing why he doesn’t bother with FIP: “…Here’s the way I look at it: Take a pitcher, let’s call him Ricky. I know what league, park, opponents faced, and in front of what defense Ricky pitches in. Taking all of that into account, I estimate that a replacement level pitcher would give up 5.5 runs per game. If Ricky allows 5.25 per game, then he performed… Read more »
Adam Darowski
Guest

In other words, Rally sees FIP as a predictive tool for the future but not a useful one for evaluating seasonal performance.

Exactly the way I feel about it. Since I’m mostly interested in baseball history, I only use br/rWAR. I’ll peek at Fangraphs if I see my team just acquired someone.

Andy
Admin

How the hell did you get that box around the quote?

Adam Darowski
Guest

The blockquote HTML tag, sir. It is a wonderfully semantic thing.

bstar
Guest

Really? I’m surprised by your agreeing with me, Adam. I thought everyone at Beyond the Box Score was drinking FIP Kool-Aid.

Adam Darowski
Admin

I’m kind of the odd duck there. I’m the anti-McGwire. I’m here to talk about the past. That;s why I prever rWAR.

Dan McCloskey
Editor

I agree. From a historical perspective, runs allowed are more important to me, especially since over time luck tends to even out.

deal
Guest

How much of the 1999 Red Sox defensive issues were due to Nomar Garciaparra?

I doubt it was due to him. A look at their roster and it is hard to see that team in the playoffs, yet they won 92 games.

What was the FIP for Saberhagen?

Dan McCloskey
Editor

Great first post, Bryan. I only hope I can be nearly as good in my debut.

It’s pretty much unquestionable to me that Pedro had the greatest peak of any pitcher in history. In fact, Mariano Rivera is the all-time leader in ERA+ at 206, and of course, he racked up that incredible number by pitching 1200+ innings over one and two-inning stints.

From 1997 to 2003, Pedro’s ERA+ was 213 over 1400+ innings (199 starts, 2 relief appearances). Amazing.

Dan McCloskey
Editor

By the way, Sandy Koufax’s best one-season ERA+ was 190, in 1966, his final year.

bstar
Guest
Good luck with your debut, Dan. I think it’s also pretty clear Greg Maddux has the second greatest peak in history. Over a seven-year period(same as Pedro) from 1992-1998, Maddux’ ERA+ was 190 over 1675 IP. The similarities between these two peaks continue. Right in the middle of those seven-year periods, in years 3 and 4, Pedro and Maddog had their two best seasons. The ERA+’s over those two years are bizarre in their similarity: Pedro 1999-2000 265 ERA+ Maddux 1994-1995 265 ERA+ Among those 14 player seasons, you’ve got 9 ERA titles, 10 ERA+ titles, 9 WHIP titles, 7… Read more »
Dan McCloskey
Editor

That’s pretty amazing too, bstar. I guess we probably shouldn’t overlook Walter Johnson’s 185 ERA+ from 1912-1919 (8 seasons). Not that ERA+ should be the only criterion, but it’s a nice snapshot.

I was expecting Randy Johnson to be in the discussion, but not when we’re looking at 7-8 year runs. Same goes for Koufax.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest
How few years can “peak” be – two? three? four? five? Without looking anything up, here are some other great peaks through the 20th century: – Cy Young: 1901-03 – Christy Mathewson: 1903-05 – Walter Johnson: 1910-1918 (or 1911-12 within that) – Grover Cleveland Alexander: 1915-17 – Lefty Grove: 1928-1932 (or 1929-1931 within that) – Carl Hubbell: 1933-36 – Bob Feller: 1938-1940 – Robin Roberts: 1950-55 – Sandy Koufax: 1962-66 – Bob Gibson: 1967-70 – Tom Seaver: 1969-71 – Dwight Gooden: 1984-84 – Roger Clemens: 1986-87, 1990-92 – Greg Maddux: 1993-96 – Pedro Martinez: 1997-2003 (or 1999-00 within that) Brett… Read more »
Phil Gaskill
Guest

> the National League hit just .237 in 1968, the lowest mark for either league in baseball history

Not quite, sorry. (a) The NL’s BA was .243 in 1968, BTW. (b) The AL’s BA the same year was .230, which I *think* might have been the lowest in history. (c) The AL’s BA each of the two *previous* years (1966 and ’67) was less than .237. I didn’t have time to look up a lot more seasons; I did try 1908, but both leagues hit .239 that year, as did the AL in 1972..

Richard Chester
Guest

That .230 BA in 1968 is the lowest. It’s easy to find. Go to BR, click on seasons, locate League Index at the top, click on American League Batting and then click on BA twice to sort in ascending order.

Andy
Admin

This is a pretty awesome debut post, Bryan. Great work.

Brent
Guest
OK, so I have a question about FIP that I am sure this community can answer, one that has always bothered me. In some ballparks in MLB there are places a ball can be hit that a fielder could never field it, yet it is not a HR. I am not talking about screaming liners in the gap or right down the line here, I am talking about balls that are not reachable by any human being, no matter where they play. We exclude HRs from FIP because no one can catch them, why not exclude what I will describe… Read more »
JDGentile
Guest

HR’s are included in FIP. Monster Balls, and any other type of Ball in Play, are not. Maybe you mean BABIP?

Brent
Guest

I guess I wasn’t clear. A ball that hits 35 feet up on the Green Monster (or 20 feet up, for that matter), is just as “out of play” for purposes of recording an out as a HR, and, logically, in any formula trying to calculate that, should be treated the same way, shouldn’t it?

JDGentile
Guest

Ok, I understand now. You wouldn’t want to charge the pitcher the run value of a HR for those Monster Balls, though, but the run value of a double? Interesting idea…

It would be largely insignificant, I imagine, but for pitchers who spent half their IP at Fenway it could be meaningful.

Dan McCloskey
Editor

Yeah, but some of those balls would be flyball outs in other parks. Isn’t xFIP about as close as it gets to park-adjusted FIP? Well, at least, in that it adjusts the pitcher’s home runs allowed based on fly ball rate.

JDGentile
Guest

If that’s your concern, Dan, then just use FIP- or FIP+ which would adjust for park (and league incidentally which plain FIP doesn’t do).

bstar
Guest

But xFIP is even more faulty than FIP, because it assumes that no pitcher has HR-suppression skills. Matt Cain has proven that wrong, much to the chagrin of many a Fangraphs writer.

Even Tom Tango has said, paraphrasing, “After a few years, you can basically throw xFIP out the window”.

birtelcom
Editor

Hitters facing Pedro in 2000 had an overall slash line of .167 BA/.213 OBP/.259 SLG/.473 OPS (an OPS+ of 18!). Compare that slash line to that produced thus far in 2012 by the ninth spot in the batting order in the NL (mostly pitchers and pinch-hitters): .176 BA/.226 OBP/.248 SLG/.474 OPS. So a team facing Pedro in 2000 was producing on offense what an entire lineup, top to bottom, of NL ninth-spot batters would produce today.

Dan McCloskey
Editor

Wow!

nightfly
Guest

It’s sick, isn’t it? Pedro was not playing the same game as the rest of the earth in ’99 or 2000.

PP
Guest

When you put it that way, does anyone else remember James paraphrasing Stephen Jay Gould by saying the reason Pedro might be so good is due a few minor things that add up exponentially (or something like that)? There has to be some explanation for a year like 2000, and the others.

Lawrence Azrin
Guest

PP,

Yes, I do. Was it in the NBJHA?

e pluribus munu
Guest

p. 865
(That’s all I have to say, but the site won’t let me submit a reply that short – what encouragement to old windbags like myself!)

bstar
Guest

That’s currently in storage for me, can you quote a few pertinent passages if you’ve got the time, epm or somebody else?

PP
Guest

Right, found it in vol 2 (still pissed I threw away vol 1). The analogy was based on Gould’s saying the reason the human mind was so much more complex than a monkey’s was due to some small advantages in their brains that makes humans capable of doing “vastly more.”

e pluribus munu
Guest
My edition is just one volume (2001): (More or less quoting): “7 factorial is 5040; 10 factorial is 3.6 million. . . Stephen Jay Gould once expressed the thought that, when we finally understand the difference between the mind of man and the mind of a monkey, it will turn out to be something simple like this – that man’s mind is not vastly different . . . but is capable of vastly more because some small advantages create enormous differences by making combinations with one another and with other parts of the mind. I think of that in connection… Read more »
Jim Bouldin
Guest

egads

Methinks James should scrounge around for another analogy, preferably from someone other than Gould.

One that actually works for example.

Nick Pain
Guest

I don’t imagine pitchers like Pedro and Maddux will have any trouble getting into Cooperstown. It seems to me pitchers have been seriously underappreciated in recent balloting. The only predominantly starting pitcher inducted this millenium was Bert Blyleven, and we all know what an effort that was. Guys like Kevin Brown, David Cone, Orel Hershiser, and Brad Radke haven’t even sniffed The Hall with pretty stellar numbers.

Howard
Guest

Three of those guys don’t have overwhelming #s and the fourth, Brown, is suspected to be a PED user. Had they avoided injury there is no doubt Cone and Hershiser would be in and if he hadn’t retired early and there were enough sabermetric guys voting Radke would have had a shot.

Jacob
Guest

Great post, loved the tension of the countdown (even though I kinda knew the answer).

Just wanted to say here that I remember every game of Pedro’s ’99 season like yesterday. I was such a huge fan of that man, I’ve never rooted for anybody like I rooted for him back then.

Howard
Guest

I know what you mean. I still remember Ron Guidry’s 1978 season like that. I saw every one of his starts that year except for the two weeks my mom and dad forced me to go to Italy with them. Parents……

e pluribus munu
Guest
I love this post, but I don’t agree with placing undue weight on FIP. It isolates a certain type of capability, one which is extraordinary, but I don’t believe that great pitching should be understood in this way. So I’m with nsb and birtelcom in my general thoughts. The rules of the game give pitchers a set of tools; fielders are among the most useful. Measuring a pitcher according to his ability to achieve success by excluding those tools celebrates one model of pitching at the expense of others, and, as noted, the model has too often been self-consuming. Maddux… Read more »
bstar
Guest

Regarding Maddux, this is why I’ve never taken much stock in Game Scores. It too heavily weighs strikeouts but does not capture the efficiency of pitching a two-hit shutout on less than 85 pitches but only a few K’s. There needs to be some sort of efficiency rating added to Game Scores to fix this.

e pluribus munu
Guest

That’s a good point, bstar. On the other hand, I’ve always liked Game Scores because unearned runs count. I think ERA, for all its virtues, is probably a less accurate reflection of pitching quality than RA, for all its injustice. The Game Score formula of two virtue points for every injustice seems a Solomonic balance – but, as I assume you’d agree, only a fool would submit to an injustice just to put a couple of K’s in the bank.

John Autin
Editor
Bryan — Welcome, and congrats on your first HHS post! Although I am not entirely aboard the FIP bandwagon, I enjoyed this post because I, too, mourn the fact that sabermetrics has yet to generate any iconic numbers. One thing that’s not clear to me about FIP is illustrated by Hal Newhouser’s 1945-46 seasons. The latter one made your list — even though Prince Hal’s ERA (and RA) were better in ’45, and his HR/9 was much better — mainly due to his 8.5 SO/9 in ’46, almost 40% higher than his 6.1 in ’45. However, the AL K rate… Read more »
birtelcom
Guest
According to fangraphs, while Dazzy’s ERA went from 2.16 in 1924 to 3.53 in 1925, his FIP was a much more consistent 2.64 in ’24 and 2.69 in ’25. He led the majors in FIP by a large margin in both seasons (Carl Mays was second in 1924 at 3.19 and Pete Donahue was second with 3.23 in 1925), but was 17th in the majors in ERA in 1925. For the two seasons combined, Vance just ekes out a lead for best ERA in the majors (with a 2.79 to Eppa Rixey’s 2.82 for the combined 1924-25), but is dominant… Read more »
bstar
Guest
JA, yes the constant in the FIP equation is figured so that league average FIP = league average ERA every year. Since scoring dipped from 1945 to 1946, ’46 was a better year to put up a good FIP. In fact, if you weed out the dead-ball era years, I find 5 of Bryan’s 7 seasons listed to be in the top 9 all-time lowest FIP years in history: Here’s the 9 lowest FIP seasons after 1919 based on league average: 1. 1968 (Gibson is third on Bryan’s list) 2. 1972 3. 1967 4. 1943 5. 1946 (Newhouser is seventh)… Read more »
tag
Guest
I think the reason few know iconic SABR numbers is because, basically, they’re derivatives. I mean, a good chunk of the general population can tell you what Apple’s stock is trading at (or near), but only an options trader can tell you what AAPL December 13 calls are going for. Even though SABR numbers may represent a closer estimation of player performance and are “better,” they remain esoteric because they are calculated from more common and familiar stats that retain their hold on the public mind. My question with regard to FIP is a logical one. If missing bats is… Read more »
Brooklyn Mick
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In 2012 no starter comes close to sub-2.00 FIP. The search criteria needs to be narrowed to a minimum 60 innings pitched to find a sub-2.00, and there lies Aroldis Chapman with a 1.41 FIP.

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