Greinke learns from the nerds?

November, 18, 2009
11/18/09
2:51
AM ET
In a blog post trumpeting the accomplishments of Brett Anderson, I mentioned Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in passing, and a couple of commenters weren't exactly impressed.

First, from Williamnyy:

    The whole notion of stripping away lucky is very slippery. For starters, FIP completely ignores the fact that a pitcher might have control over how well a batted ball is struck. Intuitively, I think we all know that premise is nonsense. The fact that batters hit so many line drives off Sergio Mitre, but always seem to weakly put the ball in play against Mariano Rivera is not a factor of luck. While the concept of FIP does have some predictive value, it is but a minor tool. Using it as the basis of an assessment is lazy at best. Using statistics sloppily does more to hurt the field of Sabermetrics than ignoring them altogether.

And then, Jimbo3772:

    Another "luck" argument from Neyer ... shocker. He doesn't know a thing about baseball. Just another stats geek. He thinks the difference between a guy getting jammed with a good pitch inside which breaks a bat and induces a weak grounder to the pitcher versus a guy who throws a meatball over the plate that gets roped into the gap is "luck". FIP is another one of those biased, made-up combo statistics which rewards certain stats that it favors and doesn't reward other stats which it disfavors.

It's true that I'm a geek (or at best, a nerd). I suppose I do know a few things about baseball, having made a fairly close study of various aspects of the game over the past 30-some years. But there are definitely a lot of things I don't know. So many things, in fact, that I'm racked by self-doubt (even if I generally hide it pretty well, because nobody likes a writer who's not confident in his opinions). Gosh, maybe this Fielding Independent Pitching is half a crock, of little use to anyone but the pointy-headed goofballs like me who never played a varsity sport.

And then, somehow, maybe even magically (or at least Tyler Kepner-y), I found this:

    “David DeJesus had our best zone rating,” Bannister said, referring to the Royals’ left fielder. “So a lot of times, Zack [Greinke] would pitch for a fly ball at our park instead of a ground ball, just because the zone rating was better in our outfield and it was a big park.”

    To that end, Bannister introduced Greinke to FIP, or Fielding Independent Pitching, the statistic Greinke named Tuesday as his favorite. It is a formula that measures how well a pitcher performed, regardless of his fielders. According to fangraphs.com, Greinke had the best FIP in the majors.

    “That’s pretty much how I pitch, to try to keep my FIP as low as possible,” Greinke said.

    Not many pitchers think that way. But then, Greinke, 26, is not like other pitchers.

No, he's not. He's probably the first supremely talented pitcher to believe that nerds like me -- or rather, truly brilliant nerds like Bill James and Voros McCracken and Tom Tango -- might actually have something to teach a supremely talented pitcher.

It's actually happening, right now, and we're here to enjoy it.

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