Article courtesy of Alex Smart, A Professional Baseball Handicapper featured on Touthouse.com. If you are betting on baseball this season or just looking for solid baseball handicapping advice, don’t miss out on Alex’s expert analysis each day.
When handicapping baseball, bettors have a vast array of statistics. The first thing that jumps out at a bettor is either a player’s batting average or a pitcher’s ERA. The public has great knowledge of these statistics and can determine a platform of a player’s success by looking at them. The modern day benchmark for a good batting average is over .300 while most pitchers would be well satisfied if they had a sub 4.00 ERA.
But like anything, when evaluating statistics there are two sides to every story. 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, 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.
The same precaution must be used when evaluating a pitcher’s effectiveness. Looking at his ERA was once the most valuable tool to determine the success of a pitcher. The ERA 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 ERA would be 1.00. If he pitches six innings and gives up two runs his ERA would be 3.00. Unearned runs do not affect a pitcher’s ERA and once the official scorer deems that three outs should have been made his ERA 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 ERA 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 ERA.
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 pitchers ERA 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 ERA and WHIP.
Like the ERA 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 and home run. Giving up a bases loaded walk is much better than giving up a grand slam, yet the WHIP for each situation will go up the same.
One aspect that the WHIP can catch that the ERA is unable 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 ERA is frozen and can only go down once the final out is made. The next five men could hit a home run yet the ERA 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 ERA 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 ERA and WHIP will correlate with each other. One will not find too many pitchers with a WHIP around 2.00 and an ERA under 3.00. Most likely it is a high strikeout pitcher who can afford to give up a base hit or a walk because of his ability to strike batters out. Strikeouts do not allow for runner advancement and thus cheap runs cannot score on ground outs or fly outs.
The WHIP is one of the few useful statistics a bettor should look at when making their selections and should be real high on any gamblers agenda before paying their money and taking their chance. It tells one what to expect each innings while their pitcher is on the mound. The WHIP in conjunction with the ERA 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.
And that last paragraph doesn’t just apply to the starter. Look at bullpen stats as the truly savvy handicappers have come to realize that bullpens can be as much or more influential than the starters. Without fully diminishing the role of the starting pitcher, make sure to not overemphasize his role. They represent only two-thirds of the game’s pitching, and with so many games decided in the late innings, the bullpens have to be accounted for. In fact, if you looked at the top 25 starting pitchers from last season, only C.C. Sabathia (Cleveland) averaged more than 7 innings pitched per start. Meanwhile, looking closely at the money line units won and lost for all of the teams in the major leagues, only two of the top 10 teams in bullpen WHIP appeared in the negative units column for the 2007 season while only one of the bottom 10 teams in bullpen WHIP had positive units for the season.