MLB's Opening Night is getting underway as I type this. This is not to be confused with Opening Day, which is tomorrow, or the Opening Series, which was over a week ago.
Also if your team is not playing on Opening Day that means you're playing on Opening Day 2, which is on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, in the land of aluminum bats where kids are playing for a little bit less than $49,423 per at-bat, the Hoosiers stand at 16-10 (5-1 B1G) and are currently possess the most conference wins in the Big Ten. They were tied for first in the win column going into today with the Minnesota Golden Gophers and both teams had doubleheaders on the slate. Indiana swept Ohio State in Columbus and Minnesota lost both their games at home to Michigan State. Penn State is technically undefeated in the conference but have only played two games thanks to weather so I'm gonna make up a threshold that says they can't count in the league standings and declare:
INDIANA UNIVERSITY, YOUR HALFWAY-THROUGH-THE-REGULAR-SEASON BIG TEN CHAMPS.
The offense is starting to find its groove after a sluggish start, lead by the DeMuth, Travis, Schwarber Trifecta, who are all hitting at least .333 with OBP over .430. Transfer Casey Rodrigue has been a solid addition as well, giving IU a .305 / .342 / .390 triple slash. These four guys are carrying the burden on offense, especially as our designated hitter Scott Donley remains mired in a slump, batting .253 / .311 / .341 on the season so far. Thankfully, the offense isn't normally needing a ton of runs to win games, in part to an excellent pitching staff, which is my terribly manufactured segue into giving away this award:
The Joey DeNato Award for Best Pitcher at the Midpoint goes to ...
Joey DeNoDoubt has been sensational this season: 2.22 ERA, while leading the team in strikeouts with 32 and being the unquestioned workhorse of the staff, averaging over six innings per start. He also became the Hoosiers' all-time leader in strikeouts, cementing his legacy as one of the greatest pitchers to ever put on the uniform for Indiana. I was curious though, with 44.2 innings in the books, what his FIP was looking like and I was surprised to see it at 3.70, which suggests he isn't nearly as dominant as his ERA suggests.
For those who don't remember or never knew, FIP (fielding-independent pitching) is a sabermetric attempt to show a pitcher's true performance, independent of his defense and how good he is at controlling what he can control. FIP is scaled to be similar to ERA so that the statistics are easily comparable and when the FIP is higher, you can expect the ERA to regress to that number over time. When the FIP is lower, you can expect the ERA to regress to that number as well. Bear in mind that "regression" when discussing sabermetrics cuts both ways, positively and negatively.
So with the TorNato's FIP being as shocking as it was, I couldn't help but see how it looked for our other starters. The results were mildly surprising.
|Joey DeNato||2.22||3.70||+ 1.48|
|Christian Morris||2.23||2.35||+ .12|
|Kyle Hart||2.69||3.71||+ 1.02|
|Will Coursen-Carr||3.14||3.80||+ .66|
Every pitcher is currently dealing with a higher FIP but the difference for Christian Morris is negligible and no real cause for concern. However, C-C, Hart and especially DeNato could be facing some major regression in the second half of the season given the large differences in theirs. C-C's is the smallest of the three, but given his ERA is already the worst among the starters means his margin for error is thinner. I can't find a reliable source of BABIP for college baseball but I can guarantee that Kyle Hart is currently benefiting majorly from a low BABIP considering his Batting Average Against is a measly .16. For C-C, it's a lack of strikeouts and for Joey, he's walking too many people.
Unlike ERA, FIP is not going to give a pitcher credit that the balls his batters put into play just happen to get turned into outs at a greater-than-sustainable rate. Regression normally waits for no one, but it's important to remember that we're still dealing with a relatively small sample size, especially for C-C who has only thrown 28.2 this season. Regardless of the numbers, control is a huge part of DeNato's game and the amount of free passes is troubling.
My last caveat is that I calculated these FIPs by hand and so there could certainly be inconsistencies.
Overall, the team really seems to be rounding into form after less than successful campaigns out west to begin the year. They take on Miami (OH) at the Bart for a midweek game before a weekend series in Iowa City. The Hoosiers then return for a nine-game homestand, giving you a lot of time to get out to Bart Kaufman and see a game. If you have any questions about the team or topics you'd like me to write more about, just let me know in the comments.