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FIP. Fielding Independent. Really?

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Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average. Fangraphs relies on FIP to calculate WAR for pitchers.

Is FIP independent of the catcher?

The following table shows pitching performance by catcher over the last two seasons.

Catcher Inn K/BB FIP
Joe Mauer 1286 2.32 4.32
Ryan Doumit 865 1.65 4.78
Drew Butera 307 2.53 3.80
Chris Herrmann 228 2.18 4.44

Could this be random variation? Sample size? The number of innings for the catchers exceeds that expected of a starter in a full season.

Is it possible that Butera always caught the more talented pitchers? The Twins haven't had a starter really stand out to make this difference.

As the Twins make roster decisions for next year, can they move forward with any plan to play Doumit at catcher? Even if the difference between Butera and Doumit was half the the difference in FIPs, there is no way Doumit made up for that difference with the bat.

Successful teams are playing catchers that can't hit.

Drew Butera returns a real prospect in trade.

The Twins need to start paying attention.
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  1. Oldgoat_MN's Avatar
    Excellent post jorganswest!

    Very interesting how many teams seem to be ignoring a catcher's ability at the plate. If you believe in some of these newer ideas then it makes sense to me if:
    you spend millions for pitchers
    you consider pitching to be the most important position in a given game
    you want to give the pitcher every possible advantage to make your team successful

    This is still evolving, though some teams (as you point out) are embracing this approach to their catchers. Hitting is clearly secondary.

    I'm not saying Mauer isn't a good to excellent catcher. Butera's stats are skewed in that he caught Pavano when Pavano was our ace. More research required before I could manage to draw a conclusion.

    (and I bet other team fans are jealous when Mauer steps to the plate, too)
    Updated 10-19-2013 at 02:22 PM by Oldgoat_MN
  2. jorgenswest's Avatar
    I am not sure why a Butera is almost a run better than Doumit. It isn't Pavano though. Pavano pitched very poorly in 2012 in a injury shortened season.

    The Twins need to assess how much of that run and how much is due to the skill of the catcher. One run is huge. A half a run is huge. The difference between Minnesota and the top pitching and defense in the AL in 1.17 runs. They were .57 away from the average pitching and defense.

    Doumit caught around 100 games the last two seasons. He wasn't the cause of the poor pitching. His defense made a bad situation much worse. I think the a Twins would have been better off making a bad situation a little better.
    Updated 10-19-2013 at 06:14 PM by jorgenswest
  3. Willihammer's Avatar
    Last night was a case in point. Kershaw lost some calls on good pitches. Whereas Wacha, with one or two exceptions, didn't. Wacha also appears to have gotten a couple extra out of zone strike calls.

    Could have been home field advantage, hitter bias, etc. If you looked closely though, you could see Ellis did the exact same head ducking as Doumit. Wouldn't surprise me to see Butters taking over next year.
  4. The Wise One's Avatar
    Kershaw's pitches would appear to have much more movement than Wacha's which could lead to more balls being called. But umpires watch the catcher not the pitch.
  5. USAFChief's Avatar
    Updated 10-20-2013 at 03:42 PM by USAFChief (Faulty memory)
  6. jorgenswest's Avatar
    The Dodgers entered this season trading for Ramon Hernandez. At the time if his release, he was their best hitting catcher by OPS. He is also a historically poor receiver. Yeager referenced this skill as they changed from Hernandez to Federowicz.

    The Dodgers have shown with their Hernandez, Federowicz and Butera roster decisions that they have shifted in how they value defense at catcher. That shift happened after the start of this season.

    I am am not sure how Ellis measures up. There is some info in the link below


    Studying the art of pitch framing by catchers such as Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart, Jose Molina, and others - Grantland

    Back to the Twins...

    Do they need to make a similar shift?
    Updated 10-20-2013 at 07:34 PM by jorgenswest
  7. jtkoupal's Avatar
    These stats can be flukey with not much sample size. However, it is clear that Butera is a better catcher than anyone else that we have had recently. The point that you mentioned about Butera warranting a decent prospect in return is interesting. If we were to trade Doumit, we would get very little unless we sweetened the deal.

    To a point, I agree with your claim that teams are overlooking a catcher's hitting attributes and looking at their defense/game management. Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh are two very good examples. However, St. Louis has the best catcher in baseball, offensively and defensively, and they are in the World Series.
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