Baseball. It’s America’s pastime. A game that prides itself on being perfect in every way imaginable. It’s almost as much an individual sport as it is a team sport when you consider that in every game and in every inning, a pitcher faces one batter at a time, and whichever player wins that battle brings their team one step closer to victory.
Baseball as a sport seems so pure and simplistic, but any great baseball mind or handicapper will tell you it’s far from simple. Long gone are the days where starting pitchers used to pitch until their arms nearly fell off. It used to be expected of starting pitchers to go eight innings and throw more than 100 pitches to get their team the win. Long gone are the days when baseball was a game with just a handful of measurable stats that would help you determine whether a batter or pitcher was performing well or playing poorly.
Nowadays the game of baseball has become a game of analytics, and that’s all thanks to Billy Beane’s quest to field a winning team with far fewer resources than the richer clubs with more assets at their disposal. Because of this, baseball now has statistical categories that a new baseball bettor could never process. Things like BABIP, FIP, WAR and wRC+. All of these categories were created to help baseball minds really evaluate a player’s performance.
As a handicapper, we don’t have time to run the numbers of BABIP or wRC+ when there are 10+ games a day, and that’s not including other sports. Instead, baseball handicappers try to simplify as much as possible, and one way to do that is by looking at the starting pitching matchup. The basic pitching stats will give you a pitcher’s record, the number of innings pitched, the number of walks and strikeouts, his ERA (which is the most popular stat) and a category called WHIP, which most people don’t understand.
What is WHIP?
When you are trying to handicap the pitching matchup of any baseball game, a pitcher’s WHIP is crucial to know because it gives you a better indication of how a pitcher is performing. WHIP is an acronym that stands for “Walks + Hits per Innings Pitched”. This category is a better representation of why and how a pitcher could have such a good or bad ERA.
Side note: The E.R.A is determined by how many earned runs a pitcher gives up divided by how many innings he’s pitched. This format is based on a nine-inning game. Therefore, if a pitcher gave up one earned run over nine innings, his ERA would be 1.00. However, a pitcher’s ERA could be misleading. A pitcher could strike out the side or give up three hits and be the beneficiary of a double play and get out of the inning unscathed. Both scenarios would result in an ERA of 0.00, but that ERA is achieved in very different ways, which is why the WHIP statistic is so helpful.
How is WHIP Measured?
Unlike the majority of other statistics in baseball, WHIP is one of the easiest categories to measure. The WHIP can help us determine the effectiveness a pitcher has against each individual hitter. As the pitcher progresses through the lineup, his WHIP will either go up or down. If we look at the example in the paragraph above, the pitcher who struck out the side will have a WHIP of 0.00, while the other pitcher who gave up three hits and no runs will have a WHIP of 3.00.
What Does WHIP Tell Us?
When it comes to Major League-caliber pitchers a good WHIP is around 1.00. Anything below 1.00 is outstanding (potential Cy Young worthy) since it demonstrates how dominant a pitcher is. If a pitcher has a WHIP north of 1.75, the chances of that pitcher having a low ERA and, more importantly, a winning record, is very slim. If you told me a pitcher with a WHIP of 1.75+ allows nearly two baserunners to reach per inning then I would like my chances betting on the team that gets to constantly hit with runners on base.
WHIP vs ERA
In terms of comparing the two, both categories are similar but have glaring differences that good bettors can catch onto quickly. The ERA does not take into account runs given up after an error is made with two outs in any inning. When an error is made with two outs in any inning, the ERA is frozen, and it does not matter if the pitcher gives up five straight home runs afterwards as the ERA will not be affected since the pitcher should have been out of the inning.
The WHIP, on the other hand, considers any base runners that reach after the error. The ERA for that inning will stay at 0.00, but the WHIP increases and gives us an indication of just how ineffective the pitcher really is.
For the most part, a pitchers ERA and WHIP will correlate each other. You will not find too many pitchers with a WHIP around 2.00 and an ERA under 3.00. In the off chance that you come across a unicorn with these stats, you would be dealing with a pitcher that possesses a great strikeout ability. Allowing base runners is one thing, but having the ability to strike out the next couple batters without allowing the runner to advance into scoring position is key for the ERA but will not help the WHIP at all.
How to Use WHIP Appropriately
The WHIP is a very useful statistic that a bettor can utilize when handicapping games. The WHIP will tell you what to expect from your pitcher on a per-inning basis, and when used in conjunction with the ERA is a good indication of if a pitcher has the ability to get out of sticky situations.
However, like most stats and trends, anything can happen when the ball is in play. It’s crucial for a bettor to pay attention to recent form before placing a wager. If a pitcher has three straight quality starts with a low WHIP and ERA, maybe he’s caught on to something that’s working for him. If a pitcher who had a good WHIP/ERA has struggled and saw those stats rise over the last three games then something is off and I wouldn’t want to bet on him until he’s proven he can fix it and regain his form.
Furthermore, baseball is a very matchup-centric sport, so always due your due-diligence when picking your spots to lay down a wager.
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