They Are Who We Thought They Were--Pitchers With Equal ERAs and FIPs

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Yesterday, when I was reviewing the Aaron Laffey trade, I noticed the lefty had a career ERA of 4.41, and a career FIP of 4.41.

That is, of course, rather convenient for evaluation purposes–whether one believes in FIP or not, there’s a consensus on how good of a pitcher Laffey is. Nobody’s going to argue he’s deserved an ERA of 5.00 or 3.80 thus far in his career.

I decided to see what other pitchers also have equal ERAs and FIPs.

As far as the 2010 season goes, three pitchers accomplished this feat: Jake Westbrook, Dontrelle Willis, and Joel Pineiro.

Westbrook had a 4.22 mark in both metrics, which makes sense, given that he had slightly better-than-average walk and home run rates and a slightly below-average strikeout rate. Add in a very average strand rate (71.7%) and a BABIP in the normal range (.288) and it makes sense as to why his defense-dependent and defense-independent stats are similar. Interestingly, in his last full season, Westbrook had a 4.32 ERA and 4.33 FIP.

Willis had a 5.62 ERA and FIP, and even his xFIP was stuck on that number. It seems surprising that he appears that competent (-0.1 WAR) given how lost he seemed at times in 2010. After all a 47/56 K/BB in 65 2/3 innings isn’t exactly a big indicator of competence. But Dontrelle kept the ball down, and lefties couldn’t touch him, so he wasn’t as bad as you’d think–13 pitchers with at least 50 innings last year had equal or worse FIPs, and 22 had worse ERAs.

Pineiro had a 3.84 ERA and FIP. The only difference between him and Westbrook was slightly fewer strikeouts and a smaller amount of walks–they had identical homer rates and similar groundball ability.

But how about active pitchers with equal ERAs and FIPs for their entire MLB career? That expands the list slightly, to seven pitchers, including the aforementioned Aaron Laffey.

Laffey, like the others I’ve mentioned, is a groundball-oriented pitcher who doesn’t get lots of strikeouts. He’s actually pretty stingy with the long ball, more so than either Pineiro or Westbrook were in 2010, but a career 155/128 K/BB is nothing to write home about. Still, he’s a useful arm with a 4.41 ERA and 4.41 FIP.

Another AL Central lefty, Glen Perkins is a flyball pitcher, and actually has a fair bit of a home run problem, with a career 1.28 HR/9. However, he doesn’t walk many (2.34 BB/9), allowing him to post a K/BB slightly better than 2/1 in his career. That makes him a competent back-end starter, reflected by his 4.81 ERA and FIP.

Longtime major league hurler Elmer Dessens has a 4.44 ERA and 4.44 FIP in a whopping 1174 1/3 career innings. Interestingly, the last four seasons have had two years in which his FIP was much better than his ERA, and two seasons where the opposite was the case. Like Perkins, Dessens is a pitch-to-contact flyballer with a moderate homer problem and a K/BB around 2/1.

Edwar Ramirez is an interesting case. He’s easily the best strikeout pitcher we’ve come across on this list thus far (10.37 K/9 career), but his FIP and ERA are very poor, at 5.19 (although his xFIP is 4.57). That just goes to show that strikeouts are but one aspect of FIP; Ramirez’s 5.43 BB/9 and 1.65 HR/9 don’t do him any favors. The extreme flyballer, of course, relies heavily on a changeup, and he can’t afford to pitch up in the zone or behind in counts anywhere near as frequently as he does with his lack of velocity or a breaking pitch.

Santiago Casilla is another erratic flamethrower, but he is more of a groundball pitcher, which helps immensely. He gets a fair amount of strikeouts and issues a fair amount of walks as well, but not having homer problems really distances him from guys like Ramirez. He has a 4.30 ERA and FIP in his career.

Mitch Talbot, like Perkins, is a decent fifth starter, with a 4.79 ERA and FIP. Unlike Perkins, he walks far too many (4.26 BB/9) given his modest strikeout ability (4.95 K/9), but does a solid job keeping the ball down (0.85 HR/9). He’s the sort of pitcher who really relies on his defense, and thus far his defenses have given him exactly the results he’s deserved.

Eric Stults is another guy who makes for a competent fifth starter, with a 4.84 ERA and FIP in his career. He actually gets more strikeouts than most of the pitchers on this list, even with just a modest 6.08 K/9, but the flyball pitcher has a troublesome 1.12 HR/9 and doesn’t exactly have precise command.

Anyway, at least we know that this group of pitchers isn’t going to be starting any huge sabermetric arguments anytime soon–they are who we think they are.

Tags: Aaron Laffey Dontrelle Willis Edwar Ramirez Elmer Dessens Eric Stults Glen Perkins Jake Westbrook Joel Pineiro Mitch Talbot Santiago Casilla

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