The Game Inside the Numbers: WHIP
By Ben Gellman, Broadcasting Assistant
I’ve loved the statistical side of
baseball ever since I was a kid. And the
landscape of that side is changing precipitously. Teams are employing math whiz after math whiz
to help them get a leg up on the competition.
For a good background in how this can help a team, I recommend reading
Michael Lewis’s book Moneyball, in which he examines the rise of the
Oakland A’s when they started searching for undervalued assets.
Some of these recently-developed stats,
like VORP (Value Over Replacement Player), are complex and difficult to
grasp. Others, like OPS (On-Base Plus
Slugging), are the result of simple addition.
Today, I’ll take a look at a vital pitching statistic: WHIP.
WHIP is an acronym for “Walks plus
Hits per Inning Pitched.” It deals
with the ways a pitcher performs independent of his defense. Because walks are on the pitcher only (and
not on the defense behind him), it stands to reason that a pitcher who limits
his walks puts himself in a greater position to succeed. WHIP helps translate that concept into the
number of opponents a pitcher allows on-base per inning. Like ERA, the lower the number, the
better. It’s no surprise that the active
leaders in the stat include Mariano Rivera, Trevor Hoffman, Johan Santana and
Roy Halladay, all of whom have dominated for a number of years.
Take a look at last year’s WHIP leaders,
if you want to see how closely a solid WHIP corresponds to success on the
mound. Of the top 20 starting pitchers
in WHIP, only two (Jeremy Guthrie and Bronson Arroyo) had an ERA worse than
3.65, and a ******** nine had an ERA under 3.00. What’s more, all of the top ten had more than
160 strikeouts. In my next stats column,
I’ll consider the correlation between high strikeout numbers, low walk rates,
and pitching prowess.
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