Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, Kenley Jansen did something spectacular. He threw nine pitches in the ninth inning, all strikes, and picked up his eighth save of the year.
To throw nine pitches to get three outs is called an immaculate inning, and there are some who think that they are just as impressive as a perfect game.
That might be a big stretch — Jansen's immaculate inning was the 84th in baseball history (and the 13th since 2014) — but the impressive feat is just the latest in the Dodgers' closer's incredible start to the season.
Jansen is throwing so well that he's breaking advanced statistics.
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In 16 appearances and 16 innings this season, Jansen has posted an ERA of 1.13, hasn't walked a single batter, and has struck out 32.
Even in this era of great relief pitching, those numbers are jaw-dropping.
Those who wondered how he would respond to his new five-year, $80 million deal — how he would top a 47-save season with a 1.83 ERA — have their answer. This is among the best starts to a season from a reliever in baseball history.
How good is it?
According to Fangraphs, Jansen has a Fielding Independent Pitching number of -0.96.
Yes, that's negative zero point nine six.
Baseball Prospectus, which calculates FIP a bit differently, has Jansen at minus-0.90.
So according to that stat, the Dodgers pitcher is taking away runs.
Of course, that's not the case — you probably would have noticed if a pitcher found a way to reverse the rules of baseball — but the reality of the situation is only marginally less incredible.
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FIP — Fielding Independent Pitching — is a metric that was created in an effort to determine how successful a pitcher is while judging him only on the things he controls. It efforts to take out "defense, luck, and sequencing" by normalizing it for all pitchers.
A team with a terrible defense can give up runs that really should have been unearned, but because they don't register errors for being a slow outfielder, those kinds of runs hurt pitchers' ERAs.
If a pitcher has a high FIP but a low ERA, they're benefitting from great play behind them. Nothing wrong with that, just don't give them too much credit.
If a pitcher has a high ERA but a low FIP, they're being hurt by poor luck, poor defense, or both. They deserve better.
So far this year, Jansen has allowed 11 hits and given up three runs — two earned. He hasn't blown a save, but he's not perfect.
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FIP is calculated against a constant. This year, that constant is 3.03. You can see how Fangraphs came to that number here.
The formula for FIP, other than that, is fairly simple — multiply the number of homers by 13, add the number of walks and hit by pitches multiplied by three, and then subtract two times the pitcher's number of strikeouts. Divide all of that by innings pitched and add the FIP constant to that quotient.
You might have noticed in the breakdown why Jansen has a negative FIP — he's yet to allow a homer or walk anyone this year. You can't multiply zero, and so his 32 strikeouts, times two, is being subtracted from nothing and then being divided by his 16 innings thrown.
Since he's striking out two batters every inning this season, that minus-4, plus the FIP constant (3.03) brings us to minus 0.96.
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Two walks or a homer in his next outing would mess this all up and send his FIP back into a positive range, so this statistical quirk is fleeting, but still — this is incredible. (If he can strike out three more batters before issuing a walk, he'll set a Major League record.)
The two best FIP seasons this decade (the era of specialists and high strikeouts) are 0.89 by Aroldis Chapman in 2014 and Craig Kimbrel's 0.78 mark in 2012.
There's a long way to go, and one would imagine that Jansen will walk someone or give up a homer eventually, but those marks could be in jeopardy.