There’s a big difference between watching baseball and watching baseball with an understanding of what all the various letters and acronyms mean.
By understanding what the various acronyms stand for, you can gain a better appreciation of the game and the strategies behind various decisions.
One acronym that you might see a lot or hear about is FIP.
To help you understand the game better, here’s a guide on what FIP means in baseball.
What Is FIP In Baseball?
FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching.
It’s a stat you might see associated with a pitcher.
It refers to the pitcher’s abilities without factoring in defense.
When the defense gets included, through including hits, it becomes the ERA stat.
Fans and coaches can compare a pitcher’s FIP with their ERA to determine which abilities the pitcher is particularly good at and which need a bit of help.
You can think of an ERA as a stat that the pitcher should have.
A good FIP score is usually in the 2.0s or 3.0s.
Since FIP covers the things that pitchers have a good amount of control over, it can show fans and coaches what the pitcher is the most and least effective at doing.
Here are some of the things that get included when determining a pitcher’s FIP stat.
One major portion of the FIP stat comes from the number of strikeouts that a pitcher is able to perform in a game, a season, or their career.
A strikeout is when a batter gets three strikes.
After the third strike, the batter is out.
A pitcher needs three outs to end the inning.
If both teams have batted during that inning, then the top of the next inning begins.
One of the ways a player can improve their FIP score is to earn more strikeouts.
The more strikeouts they have, the better their performance.
The goal of any pitcher is to get as many outs as they can and as quickly as they can.
This reduces the number of chances that the batting team has to score runs.
A pitcher who strikes out batters often is going to have a decent FIP score.
How Does A Player Strike Out In Baseball?
A strikeout can occur in several ways.
One of the most common is when the batter swings but is unable to hit the ball.
The ball has to be fair and hittable.
It can’t be a ball that the pitcher throws out of the strike zone.
If the player doesn’t swing and the ball was outside of the strike zone, then it doesn’t count as a strike.
However, if the player does attempt to swing and misses the ball even though it was in the strike zone, then it’s a strike.
The player can also choose not to swing at the ball.
If the player doesn’t swing, and it’s in the strike zone, then it’s a strike.
If the ball isn’t in the strike zone and the player doesn’t, then it isn’t a strike but rather, it’s called a ball.
The final way that a player can get a strikeout is if they bunt the ball, but the ball ends up going into foul territory.
If the ball is fouled away on a full swing, it will never count as the third strike.
In order to get a strikeout with a bunted foul, the batter has to already have two strikes on them.
The bunted foul ball acts as their third strike for a strikeout.
That’s why performing a bunt, especially with two strikes, can sometimes be a risk.
There’s always a chance it might become a foul ball and strike the player out.
What Does “K” Mean On A Scorecard?
The letter “K” simply represents a strikeout.
It’s used in scorekeeping as a quick way to refer to a strikeout.
When looking at a player’s stats, you may see a “K” but also a backward “K” by their name.
They both mean that the player got struck out.
However, the orientation of the “K” explains how they got out.
For example, if the “K” is backward, this means that the player chose not to swing on the third strike.
Announcers will say the batter “struck out looking.”
If the “K” isn’t backward, then the player did swing on the third strike.
They “struck out swinging.”
This gives fans and spectators a bit more information that they can quickly refer to if needed.
Sometimes, scorekeepers will use “SO” instead of “K.”
This also means strikeout.
What Does “Struck Out The Side” Mean?
Another part of a strikeout is a term called “struck out the side.”
This occurs when a pitcher strikes out three players in a single inning.
If the pitcher manages to do so in a row, without allowing any runners to get on base, then it’s called “striking out the side in order.”
2. Unintentional Walks Or Hit-By-Pitch
Another factor that adds to a pitcher’s FIP score is unintentional walks.
They’re different from intentional walks because the pitcher usually doesn’t mean to give the batter a walk.
They tend to occur because the pitcher has thrown 4 pitches outside the strike zone at which the batter did not swing.
A batter also can walk to first base if the pitched ball makes contact with any part of the batter except the bat.
Again, this is provided the batter did not swing the bat.
That’s also called a hit-by-pitch.
An unintentional walk or a hit-by-pitch isn’t a good thing in most cases for the defensive team.
It automatically puts a player on first base.
If there were already players on each base, it also means that the offensive team scores a run.
An unintentional walk at the wrong time can put the defensive team behind by a point or a few points.
Since unintentional walks aren’t technically a good thing for pitchers, it negatively impacts their FIP.
What’s The Difference Between An Intentional Walk And An Unintentional Walk?
While an unintentional walk impacts a pitcher’s FIP, you may wonder how it differs from an intentional walk.
An intentional walk is different from an unintentional walk because it means the pitcher intends for the player to walk.
There was a rule change in 2017 that changed how intentional walks worked.
Before 2017, pitchers had to throw four balls outside of the strike zone to intentionally walk the batter.
While a batter could, technically, try to hit those balls, they were often too far outside the strike zone to make it worth the attempt.
A swing could count as a strike, after all.
In 2017, the MLB changed the rules by stating that the pitcher no longer needed to throw four balls outside of the strike zone to get an intentional walk.
Instead, the manager signals to the umpire that they want the batter to walk.
The umpire will then inform the batter who can then walk to first base.
The decision to change the rule was in an attempt to help speed up the game.
Throwing four balls out of the strike zone took up too much time and wasn’t always the most exciting thing to watch.
By just signaling the umpire about the intentional walk, the batter can just quickly walk to first base, and they can save a good amount of time.
Of course, that also means that MLB took some drama out of the game with the rule.
Before the new intentional walk rule, there was always a chance that the pitcher could mess up a throw.
By balking, there was a chance that the batter could make some big plays or that the runners could make a big play.
With the intentional walk rule, things are a bit staler.
The batter just walks and there’s no risk for pitchers.
That said, there’s a clear difference between an unintentional walk and an intentional one.
The unintentional one is usually done accidentally while the intentional walk is strategic.
Why Would A Team Choose To Intentionally Walk A Batter?
Since an intentional walk puts a player on base, and thus increases their chances of scoring a run, you may wonder why a team would do this.
It all comes down to strategy.
If the manager or pitcher knows that the current batter tends to hit a lot of home runs, then they might choose to intentionally walk him.
This is especially true if the bases are already loaded.
It’s better to have one person score a run and get one point than for the batter to score a home run and get four points.
There’s also a chance that the pitcher might be able to get a final out with the next batter to prevent the player from scoring in the first place.
If a player has a reputation for scoring home runs, then they might walk him.
Some pitchers might also know their opponent’s particular skills well.
They might know that they’re not the best matchup for them.
As such, they might choose to walk the player.
This is especially true if the next batter is someone the pitcher knows they’re a better match for.
They can get that batter out and potentially bring the inning to a close.
Finally, some pitchers and managers may be trying to get a force out.
To set one up, they need a batter to walk and get on first base.
Intentional walks all have to do with strategy.
While they might not be the most exciting things to watch, it sometimes means that the defensive team is setting up something interesting.
Does A Batter Have To Accept An Intentional Walk?
Yes, a batter has to accept an intentional walk.
They’re not able to say no.
Instead, they have to go to first base.
This can be frustrating for the batter, especially if they were hoping to hit a home run for their team.
Before the rule change, batters could always attempt to hit the balls that the pitcher was throwing.
It was always a risk since it could result in a strike, then a strikeout, but some batters who wanted to try and score some runs might take the risk.
With the new rule change, they’re not even given that chance.
Pitchers won’t throw a ball with the new rule because it’s aimed at speeding things up.
If they were to throw a ball, then it’d just ruin what the rule was trying to set up.
Another reason pitchers won’t throw a ball, besides the fact that they can’t, is that there’s also a chance that the batter might hit the ball.
It could ruin whatever strategy the team was trying to set up.
Thanks to the new intentional walk rule, batters have to walk and they don’t have an opportunity to hit any balls.
3. Home Runs
A final stat that impacts a pitcher’s FIP score is home runs.
In particular, it’s the number of home runs that batters can get off of the pitcher.
A home run is when a batter hits the ball outside of the outfield fence.
The ball moves at such a height or distance that a fielder can’t get it.
That said, the ball has to remain in bounds.
A foul ball, for example, isn’t a home run just because it flew into the stands.
For pitchers, home runs aren’t a good thing.
It basically earns the batter an automatic point.
If there are other runners on the bases, then it could add several points to the offensive team.
One of the worst situations for a pitcher is when a batter hits a home run with the bases fully loaded.
This is a grand slam.
The offensive team scores four runs.
Each runner scores and the batter gets the fourth run.
Because home runs positively impact the offensive team, they detract from a pitcher’s FIP score.
If the pitcher tends to give batters a lot of chances for home runs, then they’re not going to have a great FIP score.
Can A Home Run Occur With The Ball Inside The Park?
Yes, a home run can occur even if the ball is still inside the fence.
It’s rare, but it is possible if the batter is extremely fast.
For example, if the ball soars across the field but lands just in front of the fence, then it may still be a home run.
It all comes down to if the batter can make it through all the bases and to home plate before the ball catches up with them.
It also depends on how fast the defenders are and how well they can throw the ball.
If an outfielder can quickly get to the ball and throw it to another player, then it’s possible that the defender can either get the batter out or stop them from proceeding to home plate.
For example, if the batter makes it to second base and is on the way to third base, but the defender at third base gets the ball, then the batter might choose to remain at second base.
This isn’t a home run because the batter didn’t make it to home plate.
However, if the outfielder isn’t able to get the ball to the bases fast enough, then the batter might be able to run home.
This counts as a home run because the batter ran through all the bases and still made it to home plate in a single turn.
If there were other runners on the plate, then they can make it home and score points, too.
As such, a batted ball doesn’t need to leave the field to result in a home run.
What’s The Difference Between FIP And ERA?
Two of the biggest stats you’ll examine when looking at pitchers are their FIP and their ERA.
However, you may not be sure what the difference is between them.
An ERA is a stat or score that includes the earned runs given up by the pitcher.
This includes all the events that lead up to or involve that earned run.
The FIP is a stat or score that only measures the things that a pitcher has direct and complete control over.
Because of this, many people compare a pitcher’s FIP with their ERA to determine their performance outside of what the rest of the defensive team is doing to support them.
FIP is a helpful score that can help you distinguish good pitchers from mediocre pitchers.
Since it involves the things that a pitcher can control, it takes into consideration stats like strikeouts, unintentional walks, and home runs.
You can compare a pitcher’s FIP score with an ERA score to determine their quality and performance.