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Alexi Ogando: One More Reason To Be Excited

Spend a little time browsing the stats of Alexi Ogando, and you'll see a disagreement in how well he's pitching, primarily in his ERA vs. his FIP. FIP (Fielding Indpendent Pitching) takes a pitchers strikeouts, home runs, and walks -- three things which are solely his responsibility -- to estimate what a pitcher's ERA likely would be without the influence of luck and defense. Generally, it does a good job. Over time, a pitcher's ERA and FIP will usually (not always, especially with relievers) end up pretty close.

In the case of Ogando, his ERA sits at an incredible 2.20, but his FIP is merely a still-very-good 3.55 (especially good considering he pitchers in a hitters' park). The difference is made primarily by stranding a lot more runners than a pitcher can be expected to do, as well as getting a lot more outs on balls hit in play than even the best pitchers are capable of. Over time, those numbers are likely to come closer together, and, so far, he's been no exception. The ERA and the FIP are getting closer. However that's partly due to regression (ERA going up) and actual improvement in his skills (FIP going down). Over his time as a starter, Ogando has steadily improved at avoiding walks and getting strikeouts, which gives great statistical support to what people already know/want to believe: Ogando is not just lucky, he's legit, and looking more so with every start.

Most exciting of all, there's a good suggestion that Ogando has been partly unlucky to have his FIP that high. How is that? Well, the average right handed pitcher faces a platoon disadvantage -- a lefty -- 53% of the time in 2011. In 2010, it was around 50%. Alexi Ogando, meanwhile, has faced lefties 63% of the time. That 50% expectation is skewed by the odd Righty One Out Guy, but not so much that Ogando's split is likely typical for a starter. In his short career, Ogando's FIP is 1.82 runs better against righties (4.27 to 2.45). Given a normal split, even that quality -- and improving -- FIP would be even better for Ogando, think something around 2.90 to 3.35 given the Rangers defense, and that's with Rangers Ballpark in Arlington as the home park. So, even when (or if, for the optimistic of us) his ERA starts reflecting his peripherals more closely, he still might just be one of the best pitchers in baseball and an awesomely unexpected contribution to the Rangers' rotation.

So if someone shows you some evidence to suggest Ogando is getting lucky and his ERA isn't likely to stay this good, he's right. You, meanwhile, can bring up how his evidence is missing the ways Ogando is not quite so lucky. The truth, as with so many things, is somewhere in the middle.

Hat tip to Lone Star Ball poster Keynes for bringing this to folks' attention.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.