With almost fifty games down, its time to ask: how are we doing?

Here is the breakdown for starters (For a refresher on FIP and xFIP, you can find Steve’s article here):

Johnny Cueto 83.2 9.14 2.15 0.178 1.83 2.9 2.87
Mike Leake 71 5.83 1.77 0.259 2.92 3.66 3.51
Homer Bailey 64.1 7.83 2.94 0.340 5.04 4.35 3.48
Tony Cingrani 44.1 8.73 4.67 0.282 4.06 4.72 4.22
Alfredo Simon 62 5.52 2.61 0.224 2.9 4.78 4.3

There are two types of stats here, retrospective (ERA) and predictive (xFIP and FIP). One documents what has happened (how many runs a player gave up) while the other can be used to predict how well a player will perform in the future. Both xFIP and FIP are imperfect predictors, but they are twice as good at predicting future performance than ERA.

Rocking the first 50 games:

Johnny Cueto, come on down. Like all things too good to be true things, however, this one looks like it won’t last. His 1.83 ERA is strongly influenced by a .178 BABIP, which is about .120 points below his career average. Cueto has been able to keep his K/9 up above his career average (7.69) for a quarter of the season, which is a great sign. Even better, his BB/9 is not way out of line with past years (2.67 in 2013; 2.03 in 2012).

Where it looks like he is going: Good, perhaps a great season if he is able to keep his K/9 up and gets some luck on defense. Great pitchers sometimes have lucky seasons (In 1998, Greg Maddux posted a .262 BABIP on his way to a 2.22 ERA and 7.4 WAR season. The following year his BABIP skyrocketed to .324 and his ERA was 3.57. The following year he had a .274 BABIP and a 3.00 ERA with 7.0 WAR). With our offense, let’s hope he is able to keep down his BABIP. Cueto has a legitimate shot at the Cy Young this year, but since many voters look at ERA, luck is going to play a large part in if he wins the award.

Alfredo Simon. His performance as a starter has gone well beyond what any of us expected. His 2.90 ERA has played a large part in keeping the Reds in the central while Mat Latos is recovering. Yet, as Radiohead has reminded us, gravity always wins. His BABIP is almost seventy points below his career average, his strand percentage (85.9%) is way ahead of his career average (72.4%). Due to his low K/9 and high HR/FB rate (1.31), the advanced stats see a serious regression in the future. It is anyone’s guess how quickly that future will get here.

Mike Leake. Amid all the noise and fury about Billy Hamilton’s speed, Joey Votto’s knee(s), and Alfredo Simon’s unexpected stretch of high-quality starts, Mike Leake has quietly had the best season of his major league career. Up to this point, Leake has had a gradual upward career trajectory (by fWAR), and now he could post a 2.0+ WAR season [for reference, his pre-season projections were 0.6, 1.4, 0.6, 1.3 WAR]. This season is fueled by his career-best 0.76 HR/FB rate and 1.77 BB/9. From due to these rate stats, his FIP doesn’t predict a strong regression as the season progresses. A fourth starter who puts up a 3.66 FIP? Yes, please.

Unlucky, etc.

Homer Bailey can’t buy a break. Going into his last start against the Dodgers, Homer had posted the following:

His 17.3% FB/HR rate is fourth worst in MLB.

His .354 BABIP is fourth worst in MLB.

It is well established that pitchers have very little control over these numbers.

Due to this, his retrospective number (ERA: 5.04) tells an uninspiring story, while his predictive numbers (4.35 FIP, 3.48 xFIP) tell another. The reason why those two numbers are so far apart is because FIP uses a pitcher’s actual HR/FB rate while xFIP keeps the HR/FB rate constant but weights it by the number of fly balls a pitcher gives up.

Outside of these luck stats, Homer is basically having the same year he had last year when he posted a 3.5 fWAR season. Eventually Homer will slay the luck dragons and go back to his old self.

Tony Cingrani. His K/9 and BB/9 are way above his career rate. This is probably driven by his injury and is not much of a concern moving forward.

Mat Latos is two rehab starts away from rejoining the big league club. This creates a logjam in the starting rotation, but we really shouldn’t complain about having too much good starting pitching. #RedlegProblems.