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Baseball WHIP

What is Baseball WHIP?

By Loot, Sports Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

For many of us growing up watching baseball, there were certain stats that almost became a part of our DNA. We grow up knowing baseball stats up and down and it didn’t change. Maybe on-base percentage became a bigger concern as time went on, but things stayed basically the same. We knew how to make sense of the stats. A .300 average is good. An E.R.A. under 4 is pretty good. And so on.

But we found that some stats aren’t as thorough as we’d like. A batting average fails to take into account how a player performs when he’s counted on most. A guy might be hitting .300, but you notice he rarely gets a hit in a clutch situation. Or you might see a pitcher with a good won-loss record, who benefitted from tremendous run support in the games he started. So while most baseball stats are useful, they sometimes leave stuff out.

The same goes for pitchers. This is not to imply there is something wrong about taking E.R.A. into account. It is still a worthwhile stat--perhaps the best in determining how much damage opposing hitters do to pitchers. As you probably know, a pitcher’s earned-run average is how many earned runs a pitcher allowed divided by how many innings he pitched. It’s based on 9 innings. So if a pitcher gives up 2 runs in 9 innings, his E.R.A. is naturally 2.00.

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Look at how a batting average can be misleading. A batter can get 4 at-bats in a game. Twice he singled with two outs and no one on base. The other two times he batted, he grounded into double plays to put an end to his team rallies. Nevertheless, he was 2-4 and his batting average is .500 for that game. But his performance bears no resemblance in terms of quality to the guy who went 2-4, but came through in clutch situations, as opposed to non-urgent scenarios.

E.R.A. can also be misleading. A pitcher can get out an inning with just a handful of pitches and his E.R.A. for that inning will be 0.00. But that same E.R.A. can be achieved if a pitcher gives up a few hits and gets bailed out by a double play or base-running error Both pitchers end up with the same E.R.A. from that sequence, though the difference in how they got there is quite vast. WHIP tries to account for those differences.

WHIP is walks plus hits per innings pitched. Whereas E.R.A. is determined after the scorer determines that 3 outs should have been registered, WHIP takes every batter into account, with the WHIP either rising or falling with each batter faced. So when a pitcher blows through three batters with no problem, his WHIP is zero. The pitcher who gave up two hits, but was bailed out by a double play will have a WHIP of 2.00, even though both pitcher’s E.R.A. for that inning is zero. WHIP helps account not so much for the bottom line that the E.R.A. statistic takes care of, but it describes more how a pitcher arrived at that bottom line.

When using WHIP, a pitcher is not off the hook in the case of a fielding error. With E.R.A., there could be an error and two registered outs, but the pitcher doesn’t get credited for anything that happens after that. If the scorer determines that 3 outs should have been made, his E.R.A. numbers are safe. But if an error and two outs take place and the pitcher then gives up hits or walks, it is accounted for with WHIP.

WHIP fails to make accommodations for pitchers who throw better in crisis situations. Sometimes, pitchers don’t feel the urgency until a man or two is on base, only to buckle down and get out of the inning unscathed. A pitcher can give up three homers in an inning and will have the same WHIP as a pitcher who walked two guys and gave up an infield single.

At the same time, it is unusual to see a pitcher have a good E.R.A. with a poor WHIP number. Sure, there are pitchers who can get out of jams and strike out the side after giving up two singles. For the most part, however, the WHIP is a reliable statistic. When used with the E.R.A., it can provide a more complete view of a pitcher.

A great WHIP is anything hovering around 1.00. Pitchers able to get their WHIP this low are almost invariably the best pitchers in the game. Those who are under this number are usually killing it. Only a little over 200 times has anyone posted a WHIP under 1.00 and that list reads like a who’s-who among legendary pitchers in baseball history. 1.00 to 1.10 is really good. 1.10 to 1.20 is good. 1.20 to 1.30 is pretty decent. 1.30 to 1.40 is average at best. 1.40 to 1.50 is really starting to push it. And 1.50 and over is a guy whose MLB career is in big jeopardy.

Relying solely on WHIP can form an incomplete picture. But when used with other pitching statistics, it can help you gain a better understanding of what to expect from a thrower on an inning-to-inning basis. More base-runners leads to more runs and knowing that number can help us hone in on finding some good value in MLB bets.

Related: How to Calculate a Pitcher's Earned Run Average.

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