WHIP-pies: Unite! (AKA, Liza Talks about Sabermetrics)
March 1, 2008
Junior of Fire Joe Morgan wrote earlier this week about how Jon Heyman of Sports Illustrated called him, and other stats geeks, “VORPies”. For those who don’t know, VORP is a statistic that stands for Value Over Replacement Player. It measures how many more runs a player should score than a backup at that same position would (Baseball Prospectus and Stathead explain it pretty well).
Now, I like VORP just fine. But I have a confession to make.
If Junior & Co. are VORPies, I’m a WHIP-py. (I promise, this is about baseball.)
Personally, I like pitching stats more than hitting or fielding stats. It’s just more interesting to me. Hitting is both hard to do and hard to quantify. Fielding is really, really hard to quantify. Pitching can be looked at in a lot of ways, and there are so many stats that give different dimensions. A strikeout pitcher has an impressive K/9IP ratio, while a finesse pitcher will have a good K/BB and a workhorse starter will have a high IP/GS (FWIW, I also like ratios).
In my opinion, though, WHIP is the best measure of any pitcher.
A pitcher’s job is to get outs as quickly and efficiently as possible. A pitcher also has to not let up a lot of runs. A pitcher then has to not allow a lot of baserunners. How do you measure how many baserunners a pitcher allows? Walks and hits. What’s one general measurement of how much any pitcher–a starter or a reliever–throws? Per inning. So that’d be walks and hits per innings pitched.
Also known as WHIP.
Let’s take a look at some of the 2007 WHIPs of some top starters in the AL, huh?
So, looking at this, there’s a bit of surprise–but not much. Santana comes out on top, which I wouldn’t have really expected (I would’ve guessed he’d be in the top five, but not number one). Bedard is a strange case. He won 13 games with a team that won 69 all together last season. Beckett and Sabathia tie exactly, which isn’t surprising at all.* Haren is just a hair ahead of Carmona and Lackey, which I wouldn’t have guessed, but isn’t really all that unexpected. Wang, on the other hand, is the odd one out. I’ve never thought he was a true ace, and not just because he was on the Yankees. (I’m glad he isn’t one.)
What does this mean for the ’08 Red Sox? Good news, mostly. Santana’s in the other league now, and unless the Sox and Mets both make it to the World Series, we’ll never have to play against him. Bedard is in Seattle now. The Mariners won 88 last year, but finished 6 games behind the Angels. They could compete for the AL West, though, this time around. Beckett is good. That’s all there really is to it. Sabathia is good, too, and there’ll most likely be a fierce division battle between the Indians and Tigers (unless one or the other gets lots and lots of freak injuries). As for Haren, he’s in the NL as well, and Carmona’s in the same situation as Sabathia. Lackey and his Angels are good, and that’s all there is to it. They’ll have to defend against the Mariners to keep their division this year. As for Wang… well, let’s just say that he’s hoping Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy come up big.
*By the way, Beckett’s postseason WHIP was 0.700. Sabathia’s was 2.217.