When to use WHIP in Baseball Handicapping
by Max Gundlach
When handicapping a baseball game, a bettor can look through a variety of statistics. The first thing that jumps out at a bettor is either a player's batting average or a pitcher's E.R.A. The public has great knowledge of these statistics and can determine a platform of a player's success by looking at them. The benchmark for a good batting average is .300 and most pitchers are satisfied if they have an E.R.A. under 4.00. Players that can reach these levels will stay in the league for some time and they will consequently receive enormous contracts.
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But like anything, there are two sides to every story. Evaluating statistics also falls under this umbrella. A player may have a high batting average but how many runs has he batted in or what is his average with runners in scoring position? These are called clutch hits that help out the team as well as the individual. There is a big difference when a hitter strikes out with the bases loaded and then with his next at bat he singles with two outs and nobody on. It is still a one for two .500 average but he did not help his team out be delivering a key hit that would have scored a couple of runs.
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The same precaution must be used when evaluating a pitcher's effectiveness. Looking at his E.R.A. is still the most valuable tool to determine the success of a pitcher. The E.R.A. is determined by how many earned runs a pitcher has given up divided by how innings he has pitched. This format is based on a nine innings game. So if a pitcher gives up one run and pitchers nine innings his E.R.A. would be 1.00. If he pitches six innings and gives up two runs his E.R.A would be 3.00. Unearned runs do not affect a pitcher's E.R.A. and once the official scorer deems that three outs should have been made his E.R.A. cannot go up for that inning.
That is one of the ways a pitcher's statistics can be misleading. A pitcher could strikeout the side or he could give up three hits and be the beneficiary of a key double play and give up zero runs. Both pitchers' E.R.A. for that inning is 0.00 but they achieved that in completely different ways. One pitcher dominated the other team while one pitcher received good fortune. This creates the need for another statistic to be used in conjunction with the E.R.A.
That statistic happens to be the WHIP. The WHIP stands for walks and hits per innings pitched. It is used to determine the effectiveness the pitcher has against each individual hitter. After each hitter faced the pitcher's WHIP will either go up or down. Taking the same situation in the preceding paragraph one pitcher will have a WHIP of 0.00. The other pitcher who gave up three hits and no runs will have a WHIP of 3.00. Yet both pitcher's E.R.A. for that inning is 0.00.
A good WHIP for a pitcher is around 1.00. Anything below 1.00 is outstanding and demonstrates the domination of a pitcher. A poor WHIP is anything over 1.75. That means for each innings pitched there is a good chance two or more runners will reach base. If at least two base runners are reaching every innings one would believe that sooner or later a bases clearing shot will be delivered by the offense. That will raise a pitchers' E.R.A. and WHIP.
Like the E.R.A. the WHIP is not without flaws and should not be the only determining factor when making a selection. The WHIP does not measure a pitcher's ability to pitch out of jams or distinguish between a walk or a home run. Giving up a bases loaded walk is much better giving up a grand slam, yet the WHIP for each situation will go up the same.
One thing that the WHIP can catch that the E.R.A does not catch is what happens to a pitcher after an error was made. If there are two outs in an inning and an error is made, the E.R.A. is frozen and can only go down once the final out is made. The next five men could hit a home run yet the E.R.A. will remain the same. However, the WHIP will catch this. If the next five men reach bases after the error the WHIP for that inning will be 5.00 and the E.R.A. will stay at 0.00. Yes, the pitcher should have been out of the innings unharmed but giving up that many more hits demonstrates his ineffectiveness.
For the most part a pitcher's E.R.A. and WHIP will correlate with each other. One will not find too many pitchers with a WHIP around 2.00 and an E.R.A under 3.00. But when they do take notice to the type of pitcher who posses the odd characteristic. Most likely it is a strikeout pitcher such as Randy Johnson who can afford to give up a base hit or a walk because of his ability strike batters out. Strikeouts do not allow for runner advancement and thus cheap runs cannot score on groundouts or fly outs.
The WHIP is one of the few useful statistics a bettor should look at when making his selections. It tells one what to expect each innings while their pitcher is on the mound. This with conjunction with the E.R.A. is the key ingredient when deciding which team to bet on. Looking at the WHIP can give you an advantage when deciding which team to bet on.