Stephen Fife Has Actually Been Pretty Reliable

fife_2013-06-14Stephen Fife got a no-decision as the Dodgers lost last night to the Padres, keeping Fife at 1-4 over his short career. But — say it with me now – pitcher wins are stupid, because Fife has somehow managed to be pretty consistent when he’s had an opportunity.

Rk Date Opp Rslt Inngs IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit
1 Jul 17 PHI L,2-3 GS-6 6.0 4 1 1 3 1 0 90
2 Jul 27 SFG W,5-3 GS-7 6.1 6 1 1 3 2 0 93
August Opp Rslt Inngs IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit
3 Aug 1 ARI L,0-4 GS-5 4.1 6 2 2 3 4 1 74
September Opp Rslt Inngs IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit
4 Sep 16 STL L,2-5 GS-5 5.0 4 2 2 1 9 0 88
5 Sep 22 CIN L,0-6 GS-5 5.0 5 2 2 2 4 1 76
26.2 25 8 8 12 20 2
Rk Date Opp Rslt Inngs IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit
1 Apr 21 BAL W,7-4 GS-5 4.2 7 4 4 1 5 1 80
June Opp Rslt Inngs IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit
2 Jun 3 SDP W,2-1 GS-6 5.1 5 1 1 2 5 0 76
3 Jun 8 ATL L,1-2 GS-7 6.2 9 2 2 1 7 2 86
4 Jun 14 PIT L,0-3 GS-5 5.0 6 2 2 3 4 0 93
5 Jun 20 SDP L,3-6 GS-6 6.0 4 2 1 1 6 0 89
27.2 31 11 10 8 27 3

That’s 10 starts over 2012 (top) and 2013 (bottom). Eight times he’s gone at least five innings, nine times he’s allowed two runs or fewer. Obviously, raw “runs allowed” isn’t really the greatest metric in the world because it’s so opponent-, fielding-, bullpen-, and ballpark-dependent, but for a guy we had zero expectations for, that’s a pretty good run. Honestly, the only really lousy start he’s had was in his first of this year when he was a last-second replacement flown to Baltimore when Chad Billingsley‘s elbow gave out, and even then I can’t really kill a guy for having a hard time facing Chris Davis & Manny Machado.

What’s interesting here is that I really have no idea how he’s doing it, though. Fife has increased his strikeouts all the way up to 8.78 this year, which is solid, but he’s somehow done this despite missing fewer bats overall – his swinging-strike rate is down from 7.8% to 6.8%, and overall contact rate has increased from 80.7% to 84.7%. Where there’s a change in that regard is that even though he’s been missing fewer bats within the zone — up from 86.5% to 94.9% — he’s getting more swing-and-miss on balls outside the zone, dropping the contact rate from 66.0% to 59.3%.

Obviously, a guy like Fife isn’t going to blow anyone away with fastballs down the middle, and to survive he needs to get weak contact on low & outside pitches. As you’d expect, he’s getting 59% grounders, though with a .359 BABIP, the sub-par Dodger defense isn’t doing him any favors in turning balls into outs. What Fife has been able to do is avoid the walk, cutting his BB rate nearly in half this year.

Now let’s be clear: Fife isn’t suddenly some prospect find. 54.1 career innings is hardly enough to base a real opinion on, and those stats could easily change in a heartbeat as teams get a report on a guy who very rarely even touches 90. To be honest, I like him just fine as an extra guy, but I would never want to go into a season planning on him as one of your five starters.

But if the question is, “do I believe in Fife more than I do Matt Magill?” Right now, yes. “More than Ted Lilly?” Oh hell yes, you better believe I do. For a guy included in a trade that we absolutely destroyed Ned Colletti on — the Trayvon Robinson-for-Tim Federowicz deal, and while I hate to give Colletti any more credit than truly necessary, he was absolutely right on that one, and we were all wrong — he’s proven himself, so far, to be a pretty nice guy to have around. In a season of disappointment, we’ll take what nice surprises we can find.

290 comments
Mike Petriello
Mike Petriello moderator

have i mentioned that i hate my job yet? i did? okay.

JackedNate
JackedNate

Did anyone else see the Pimparoo on the Futurama season premiere?

itfdbb
itfdbb

I scrolled back to the beginning; someone wrote they give credit to Logan White, De Jon Watson, and scouts for Fife.

Logan White is in charge of amateur scouting so I doubt he played any role with Fife. I mean world-wide amateur scouting seems like a job that would keep you very busy. 

Fife has pitched far better in MLB than at any lower level except below AA. His BAA was 270 in 2011 before the trade and 270 after both at AA. After the season he was sent to the more elite Arizona Fall League where he was completely out of his depth. He was 1-6 on a 22-16 team which was therefore 21-10 when he didn't get a decision. His WHIP was 2.14, his ERA over 8. As of now I give all the credit for his coming back from that AFL disaster to Fife since I have not seen an article  giving credit for his relative success in MLB to anyone else. In 2012 his BAA for Alb. was 290 for the Dodgers 255. This year 328 and 292, 276 without the Baltimore game.

Jobu
Jobu

How many errors will the Dodgers commit tonight over/under 3?

JackedNate
JackedNate

Murrieta sucks. I had to go there to help design my fiancées ring, not sure why I was there, all I did was nod and pay. But back Murrieta being terrible, it's terrible.

JackedNate
JackedNate

I've always felt defense was over rated, I'm glad to see Don and Colletti agree. We are legion.

Jobu
Jobu

P.S. "Baseball is overrated"

- Ned Colletti

DBrim
DBrim moderator

You also are wrong.

Jobu
Jobu

Glad to see Don and Colletti agree that offense is overrated too.

Dave! (but probably Justin Turner, maybe)
Dave! (but probably Justin Turner, maybe)

@LA_Woman @Lobo Fat is a little different than, say, making fun of someone's skin color, though. There are a lot of personal choices that go into a person's weight. Trust me, I know, I've struggled with my weight since I stopped playing sports in high school, and I come from a very obese family.

LA_Woman
LA_Woman

@Lobo @LA_Woman  I'm not fat myself, but I know people who are, and they suffer a lot from people's perceptions based on how they look.

Lobo
Lobo

@LA_Woman @Lobo To be clear, I am now totally a Uribe fan, but you have to admit he is portly