Advanced Metrics Tutorial

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP):
FIP is a statistic that measures a pitcher’s performance on an ERA like basis. FIP attempts to take defense out of the equation for a pitcher’s statistics, as it only considers a pitcher’s walks allowed, hit batters, strikeouts, and home runs allowed. FIP sets out to remove defense from the evaluation of a pitcher because it only examines things that the pitcher can control. FIP is a great statistic for predicting future performance of pitchers because the statistics it measures correlate more strongly year-to-year than balls in play, because pitchers have little control over what happens once the ball is in play.
Fangraphs provides a rule-of-thumb chart for looking at FIP:

Excellent: 2.90

Great: 3.25

Above Average: 3.75

Average: 4.00

Below Average: 4.20

Poor: 4.50

Awful: 5.00

FIP is more effective in predicting a pitcher’s future performance than it is in measuring present performance. FIP can be inaccurate in measuring a pitcher’s single game performance, but it usually evens out over the course of a season. FIP and other advanced metrics are the main reason Zach Greinke signed with the Dodgers for $147 Million/6 years. Since 2008, Greinke is 5th in the MLB among starting pitchers with a 3.05 FIP, despite a 3.41 ERA in that span, which ranked 26th.

Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR):
UZR is a defensive statistic that gives a run value to an individual’s defensive play. It attempts to measure how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding abilities. UZR measures the runs above or below average that a fielder is compared to other players at the position, so the same UZR for a second basemen compared to a shortstop does not suggest they are equal defensively. UZR takes into account the amount of runs an outfielder saves with his arm, the amount of runs an infielder saves with double plays turned, the amount of runs a fielder saves because of his range, and the runs he saves or costs because of the number of errors he made.
Defensive statistics as a whole are not going to be 100% accurate, so to receive the most accurate understanding of a player’s defensive ability, it is best to use large sample sizes; Fangraphs recommends 3 years worth of data. UZR is like RBI and Home Runs in that it is a counting statistic, so it is not a good statistic for comparing players with different amounts of playing time.
Fangraphs provides a rule-of-thumb chart for looking at UZR:

Gold Glove Caliber: +15 UZR

Great: +10 UZR

Above Average: +5 UZR

Average: 0 UZR

Below Average: -5 UZR

Poor: -10 UZR

Awful: -15 UZR

Wins Above Replacement (WAR):
WAR is an all-encompassing statistic that attempts to summarize a player’s contributions to his team. Fangraphs.com describes it as intended to answer the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com have an established baseline for what a replacement level player is. Also, since WAR is adjusted for context, league and ballparks, it allows players to be compared between years, leagues and teams.
-Offensive Players: WAR for offensive players takes into account offensive, base running and defensive value in runs above average. There is also a positional adjustment because some positions (i.e. Shortstop and Catcher) are harder to play than others. The total amount of runs above replacement level is then converted to wins; 10 runs equates to 1 win.
-Pitchers: WAR for pitchers is calculated by taking into account a pitcher’s innings pitched as well as his FIP. The pitcher’s FIP is then converted to a runs value and, just as for offensive players, 10 runs equates to 1 win.

Fangraphs suggests that average starters and average starting pitchers are around +2 WAR. A bench player or quality reliever is usually around +1 WAR.
Fangraphs provides a rule-of-thumb chart for position players and starting pitchers:

Scrub: 0-1 WAR

Role Player: 1-2 WAR

Solid Starter: 2-3 WAR

Good Player: 3-4 WAR

All-Star: 4-5 WAR

Superstar: 5-6 WAR

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