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Using FIP to Win More Baseball Wagers

Using FIP to Win More Baseball WagersWinning more baseball wagers might be easier than you think. There is a wealth of data available for baseball bettors. In addition to the traditional statistics, there is a whole other set of data available. These advanced analytics include a measurement called FIP or Field Independent Pitching. In this post, we identify FIP and how bettors can use it to win more bets.

Key Points

– Understanding the difference between ERA and FIP can help you win more baseball wagers.

– FIP is just one of many metrics bettors can use to handicap baseball games.

What Is FIP?

FIP was developed by Voros McCracken to distinguish between the aspects of a game that a pitcher can control and those that he can’t.  FIP aids in predicting each pitcher's likely future performances when it comes to betting. It's useful for determining pitchers who are probably overvalued by more conventional metrics.

A pitcher may have a respectable 2.79 ERA, but his FIP is 4.34. This suggests that he has been getting lucky. It is likely that pitcher will see an increase in his earned runs in his next few games.


Explaining FIP & Baseball Wagers

FIP only considers circumstances that a pitcher can influence. These include home runs, hit-by-pitch incidents, unintentional walks, and strikeouts. The effects of balls hit into the field of play are entirely eliminated from the FIP calculation. This is, of course, how Fielding Independent Pitching got its name.

A pitcher's FIP will typically be higher than their earned run average (ERA) if they tend to give up more balls in play while they are on the mound. A pitcher has little control over the results of times when the ball is hit into the field of play. 

A ball can be hit on the ground to the shortstop, but he could misplay it and the result is a runner on first base. Should that runner score, that’s not on the pitcher. This is why balls in play are removed from the FIP formula. The only ball in play that does count is if the pitcher fields the ball.

Calculating FIP

It is helpful to know where the FIP formula comes from and how to use it. The following is the fielding independent pitching formula:

[13*HR + 3*(HBP + BB) - 2*K]/IP + C

C is a constant that is used to bring FIP in line with ERA. The number is typically somewhere around 3.10. The earned-run average (ERA) and overall FIP of the entire league are used to calculate the FIP constant in this equation. For each pitcher, the FIP constant will always be the same value.

ERA vs. FIP & Baseball Wagers

On the surface, FIP and ERA numbers typically look similar. The difference between the two numbers is generally very small for pitchers.

Greg Maddux, a member of the Hall of Fame and a four-time Cy Young Award winner, had a career ERA and FIP of 3.16 and 3.26, respectively. Justin Verlander has a career ERA and FIP of 3.33 and 3.41, respectively. 

About three-quarters of big-league pitchers with at least 1,000 innings of experience have an ERA and FIP that are in line with each other. Pitchers should have an ERA and FIP that are within 0.20 of one another.

FIP and ERA metrics can generally be compared similarly when evaluating pitchers. Poor pitchers are those with a FIP of 5.00 or higher. A pitcher with a FIP of 4.00 is considered average. Moundmen with a FIP of around 3.00 are regarded as above average. A pitcher is considered an elite Cy Young Award contender if they can lower their FIP below 3.00.

Although they appear to be similar on the surface, FIP is a much better predictor of a pitcher's true worth than ERA. FIP won’t necessarily help you wager on MLB props.

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Spotting Regression and Baseball Wagers

A correction is probably due for pitchers whose ERA is significantly lower than their FIP. If a pitcher has a 2.35 ERA but a 3.58 FIP, it is likely that their ERA value is greatly influenced by their teammates' excellent fielding efforts.

However, relying solely on your team's fielding skills is not a long-term defensive tactic. Those balls will eventually begin to drop. When the pitcher has runners on base, the opposition will start to hit the ball better. You can find the players and teams most likely to experience this fate by looking for pitchers with low ERAs and higher FIPs. When you find those situations, bet against that pitcher. This is a strategy that can help you grow your bankroll.

Consider a pitcher at the other end of the spectrum who has a 4.48 ERA but a 3.68 FIP. The pitcher is outperforming his team in this instance. This needs to be corrected in a good way. His ERA will eventually drop closer to his FIP. In this case, you’ll want to bet on that pitcher.

FIP as a Tool for the Under Bettor

Pitchers with high ERAs but low FIPs are ones to target when betting game totals. As is well known, a pitcher with a low FIP value is more likely to have a strong outing and give up fewer runs than the average pitcher. A bettor can play the First Five Innings (F5) Under in a situation like that.

With a strong bullpen, bettors can make a play on the game’s Under as well. Keep in mind that sportsbooks will base their totals on pitcher’s ERA and will often set the Over higher than it should be. 

A pitcher with a lower FIP can be used as a safe under bet until his ERA trends in the right direction.  

Indicators like FIP are helpful when betting on underdogs. A wager on a pitcher with a low FIP who is starting for a weaker team often pays off for the bettor. 

When to Avoid FIP

The way that FIP penalizes pitchers who lack power has a flaw. A few of the best pitchers don't strike out many hitters. Instead, they frequently make pitches that lead to soft hits that can be easily fielded for outs. Despite their obvious defensive value, such plays don't help the pitcher's FIP rating because they need a fielder's assistance.

Don’t make the mistake of simply betting on a pitcher because of a low FIP-to-ERA. For more on common betting mistakes, click HERE

In 2019, for example, Dakota Hudson of the St. Louis Cardinals had a 4.93 FIP but had a 3.35 ERA. He didn’t give up many baserunners and he was second in the majors with 258 ground ball outs. He also allowed just seven hits per nine innings.

Find Additional Baseball Betting Tips

FIP is a useful tool that, in the vast majority of situations, provides an accurate picture of how a pitcher is faring. Paying attention can help you place profitable baseball wagers.

Keep in mind that there are a variety of metrics and methods you can employ to increase your return on investment when betting on baseball. FIP is just one of them.

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