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Fielding Dependent Pitching And Atlanta Braves Starting Pitchers (Part 1 of 3)

SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 13:  Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at AT&T Park on June 13, 2010 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO - JUNE 13: Matt Cain #18 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at AT&T Park on June 13, 2010 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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At the end of last month, FanGraphs rolled out a new pitcher valuation metric: Fielding Dependent Pitching (or FDP). Today's article is the start of a three-pronged approach. In the first part, I'll do my best to provide an Eddie Gaedel-sized recap of what FDP is and how it's used. In the second and third parts, I'll use it to examine the careers of several starting pitchers who've worn the uniform of the Atlanta Braves. The Braves are a great team to use when talking about FIP / FDP, because they have a number of easily-recognizable all-time-great starters whose fWAR and FDP-Wins (I'll get to it in a second) metrics speak to in an interesting way. But first, let's talk about FDP (and specifically FDP-Wins) as a tool.

What Is FDP?

FDP is another tool for your statistical toolbox, and it provides another way to look at overall pitcher value. In short, it provides a counterpart for Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which is FanGraphs's way to measure pitcher value based on the things a pitcher can control: home runs, walks, strikeouts, etc. FIP is used to build fWAR (FanGraphs' version of Wins Above Replacement), which provides a holistic value of how many wins a pitcher is worth based on the things the pitcher did, rather than the things his team did.

So if that's what FIP is, then think of FDP as an attempt to provide the same win value for everything else that happened that isn't captured in FIP. Those "things" are represented in two forms: BIP-Wins and LOB-Wins. BIP-Wins is a value metric based on hit prevention, when talking about batted balls in play. LOB-Wins is a value metric based on runner stranding. If you combine BIP-Wins and LOB-Wins, you get FDP-Wins, which accounts for all the value that a pitcher can be credited with (or hurt by) that isn't captured in FIP, and it sits on the same scale as fWAR. And if you combine fWAR with FDP-Wins, you get RA9-Wins, which relates everything the pitcher did (whether through his own doing, his team's, or luck) into one value number.

Let's take Matt Cain, of the San Francisco Giants, as an example. (If you came here looking for Braves information, sorry for the bait-and-switch. Wait until tomorrow and Wednesday!) Matt Cain consistently out-performs his FIP, meaning that his ERA is almost always a touch (or more) lower than his FIP (and especially his xFIP, or Expected FIP). By fWAR, Cain seems to be a very good pitcher, but not elite. His fWAR tends to hover in the 3-5 range, which is almost All-Star level, but not epic. However, when you look at BIP-Wins, again, which attempts to quantify runs saved via hit prevention, Cain has a very consistent track record of adding value. He's racked up 11.2 BIP-Wins in his 1511.2 career innings. That's a lot! Even better, he's been consistent, adding substantive value (approx. 1 or more win) in each season, save his 2008 campaign.

In addition, if you look at a few of his contemporaries who pitched in the same home park ... say Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez, you can see that they don't have the same track record of BIP-Wins success as Cain does.This tells us that there's a shot that he's doing something that is purposeful and consistent, that limits runs scored on balls in play. And it may not entirely be reflected in the work of the defense or the contours of the ballpark.

That's really the short-and-not-so-sweet breakdown of what FDP is. If you hate my explanation of this metric, or find it confusing, take a look at these two articles on FanGraphs by Dave Cameron: Introducing Fielding Dependent Pitching and FDP and Pitcher WAR. The comments section is especially insightful, as you can see where people are asking questions about FDP, and how Dave has managed to address those comments. It's an awesome read.

...but I bet you care more about how I'm going to relate this new stat to the Braves. And honestly, I can do a better job of speaking to FDP when working with examples. So, tomorrow, I'll post the second part of this piece, examining the "Big Three" of Atlanta starting pitching. And then, on Wednesday, I'll take a look at three more Atlanta starters of great historical significance. In the meantime, if you've got any questions or comments about FDP, please drop them into the comments below.

Note: Part 2 can be found here. Part 3 can be found here.