click to enlarge
Following up on part I and part II of my look into the changing run environment, I decided to map the 2011 data onto the existing charts to see if these year's crop of young pitchers is responsible for the further decline in scoring this year.
My initial conclusion is no. The chart above maps the Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) for pitchers in 2011 that logged <=40 innings last year. Once again, pitchers in this category this year have improved their FIP over their counterparts last year.
However, the movement is in line with FIP for returning pitchers as well:
Here are some numbers to further illustrate the point:
If we bundle pitchers by FIP ranges we see that the most drastic improvement of "new" pitchers relative to returning pitchers took place between 2009 and 2010.
There are certainly some great, new pitchers in the league this year. However, if you look at the rest of the league the "improvement" maps onto a more general decline. The jump from 7% to 20% in elite (FIP <= 3.20) new pitchers last year far outpaced the 5% increase from returning pitchers. This year, the 9% improvement is the same as the 9% improvement for returning pitchers. And that 9% improvement for returning pitchers is the largest improvement over the past four years.
Now, part of what is likely driving down the returning pitchers FIP this year is the fact that all those great new pitchers from 2010 are now classified as returning.
Bottom line: the league is flush with great, young pitching. The 2011 class looks pretty good, don't get me wrong. It's just that these numbers suggest that the 2010 crop was just as good, maybe even better.