Cleat Geeks

Saber-Metrics Sunday: Is it Cool to use WHIP?

MaxScherzer2Baseball fans and analysts often use the term, “bailed (insert player(s)) out.” The context of said term is used in several situations in a baseball game; one in particular is when a pitcher puts a lot of guys on base, but escapes with minimal or no run damage. It can happen in several ways: a pitcher can make great pitches to escape, a great defensive play can be made or the opposing offense can make bad decisions at the plate.

When a pitcher does that often, their pitching abilities are questioned as to how good they really are. As good as say FIP or xFIP is, it still may not tell the complete story of how efficient a pitcher is at keeping guys off the base paths. Not sure what FIP is here is our article on that. Pitchers may be able to prevent runs, but do they allow a lot of base runners? If they do, it can lead to more pitches, which not only makes them labor more it also obviously decreases their efficiency.

This leads to the statistic known as WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched). This stat simply measures how many runners pitchers put on base. Runs are not measured in any way in this stat, it only sticks to base runners. It is not considered a traditional statistic, however it is used and more well known than other advanced stats. Many baseball broadcasts include WHIP on their stat graphics as do MLB ballparks these days.

Formula:

WHIP = (BB + H)/IP

RK Player Team W L ERA G GS SV SVO IP H R ER HR BB SO AVG WHIP
1  Scherzer, M WSH 14 7 2.92 27 27 0 0 182.0 125 61 59 25 44 227 .191 0.93
2  Hendricks, K CHC 12 7 2.19 25 24 0 0 152.0 114 45 37 13 38 135 .207 1.00
3  Sale, C CWS 15 7 3.14 25 25 0 0 177.2 140 64 62 19 38 179 .216 1.00
4  Verlander, J DET 14 7 3.33 27 27 0 0 181.0 138 71 67 23 46 189 .209 1.02
5  Teheran, J ATL 3 9 3.15 23 23 0 0 145.2 118 54 51 18 32 128 .219 1.03
6  Arrieta, J CHC 16 5 2.62 25 25 0 0 161.2 106 49 47 11 62 158 .183 1.04
7  Lackey, J CHC 9 7 3.41 24 24 0 0 158.1 122 63 60 19 43 156 .217 1.04
8  Bumgarner, M SF 12 8 2.44 27 27 0 0 180.2 142 59 49 20 47 202 .212 1.05
9  Kluber, C CLE 14 8 3.07 26 26 0 0 175.2 140 66 60 16 44 178 .218 1.05
10  Porcello, R BOS 17 3 3.23 26 26 0 0 172.2 153 69 62 20 28 145 .234 1.05

KyleHendricksThe main question is though, how reliable is this stat? Well, there are pros and cons.

The Cons:

-Though it gives you an idea of how often a pitcher gives up base runners, the hits part of the equation goes back to the BABIP aspect of baseball. And if you need a refresher course on the concept of BABIP read our article explaining it here. A pitcher can give up hits but it could be because of defensive shifts or ballpark configuration. Things that are generally out of the pitchers control.

-WHIP doesn’t include how many batter they have faced, just innings pitched which can cause one to ask some questions.

-Errors are not included in this stat…which again relates to BABIP.

The Pros:

ChrisSale2-Even though the hits can be inflated, it can indicate how efficient a pitcher is with walks, which is on the pitcher without any BABIP issues.

-It may not be the most reliable stat, but the ratio can often accurately match up with a pitcher’s traditional stats. I.E. a pitcher with a high ERA or FIP has a high WHIP because giving up a lot of runs comes from giving up a lot of base runners.

So to put it together, WHIP is a flawed stat no doubt and it would not make it into hardcore saber-metric discussions without it being broken down using BABIP or walk rate. However, it is a stat that one can look at and get a basic idea of how a pitcher keeps runners on or off even if it is inflated or deflated a bit. I don’t think it is worth criticizing someone for looking at WHIP but it is important to bring up the individual stats of it and question its flaws.

Just for fun, what is considered a good or bad WHIP? Well here is a list to give you an idea. (Ratios based on Fangraphs estimation)

Outstanding: Below 1.10

Above Average: 1.25 – 1.10

Average: 1.35-1.26

Mediocre: 1.40-1.45

Bad: 1.50-1.60

Garbage: 1.60 or above

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