A veteran Red Sox pitcher now tops the FIP Leaderboard on this May 16th update. Also, the bad news is that the leader at our last update, Jose Fernandez, is done for the year.
As most of you probably know, conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are nice for water cooler conversations and for players’ agents when negotiating new contracts, but those numbers are not really predictive from a betting standpoint. That is why we feel that FIP is a better indicator of future performance as we now present our latest Major League FIP Leaderboard as of May 16th in an attempt to help you make better MLB picks.
Besides mainstream stats not really relating to future performance that well, another reason why FIP is preferable to those common stats is because it is next to impossible to beat the sportsbooks using simple things like ERA and WHIP, as oddsmakers have just as easy access to those numbers as bettors do and they have much more intricate computer driven algorithms to produce much sharper lines than probably 98 percent of bettors of the MLB odds can produce.
Remember also that ERA and WHIP are flawed as predictive tools because they include some components that are out of the pitcher’s control, ranging from the defensive range and ability of the team behind the pitcher to even the official scorer deciding if a play is a hit or an error, as that would has a direct impact on both of the aforementioned mainstream stats.
On the other hand, FIP is composed of factors that the pitcher can basically control on his own. FIP stands for Fielder Independent Pitching and it incorporates strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. The simple formula we use for FIP is (13xHR+3xBB-2xK)/IP + a constant, usually around 3.20. The constant puts FIP on the same scale as ERA, and since that constant is based on league-wide ERA, it usually fluctuates from year to year and even throughout the season.
Since pitchers have greater control over FIP, they tend to maintain it for much longer periods than ERA and WHIP, as those are often at the mercy of others, thus making FIP a better indicator of future performance. Naturally there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard that are usually big favorites on the MLB odds, but the more important use of FIP is in unearthing under-the-radar hidden gems, as those are the hurlers that are usually undervalued.
Since we have now in the middle of May, this leaderboard is starting to gain more reliability, which should only increase as the season goes on. Granted there are still a few pitchers in the top 10 that are not long for this list, but for the most part the leaderboard is starting to take shape nicely.
So without any further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, May 15, 2014. (FIP is in parenthesis).
Important note: Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins, who was the leader at our last update, is now second in the majors among qualifying pitchers with his 2.15 FIP, but he is about to have Tommy John surgery and is out for this season as well as part of next year. Therefore we have omitted Fernandez and have moved the pitchers behind him each up a spot.
1 - Jon Lester (Boston Red Sox, 2.13): Lester takes over the top spot despite owning just a 4-4 record as the Red Sox have simply not supported him all that well. That does not detract from the fact that Lester has a 2.75 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with a scintillating ratio of 66 strikeouts vs. just 13 walks in 55.2 innings. Those strikeouts are tied for second most in the American League behind only David Price, and Lester has yet to allow a home run in Fenway Park this season.
2 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.23): Kluber may not be a household name just yet, but he may be for years to come as the youngster actually made a sabremetric splash last year with a final 2.7 WAR, although he did not qualify to get ranked with his 147.1 innings. He currently has a 2.0 WAR, making him one of two pitchers in baseball along with Lester (2.2) with a WAR of at least 2.0. Kluber is a deceptive 4-3 with a 3.38 ERA, as he is tied with Lester with his 66 strikeouts and has also issued an identical 13 walks as Lester.
3 - Ervin Santana (Atlanta Braves, 2.28): Santana was signed him off the scrap heap by the Braves and continues to be one of the biggest surprises in baseball, having a revival at the age of 31 after several off seasons. Many thought that Santana was done, but he is 4-0 with a sparkling 1.99 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with an amazing ratio of 43 strikeouts vs. nine walks in 40.2 innings. Just when some thought he was about to return to planet earth, Santana bounced back from a mediocre start vs. Miami by hurling seven scoreless innings vs. the Cubs in his most recent start.
4 - Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals, 2.36): In the eyes of many, Strasburg has gone from being the next surefire Hall of Fame pitcher when he first broke into the Major Leagues just a few months after being drafted to now being just a part of the best first four starters in baseball along with Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister in Washington. However, while Strasburg’s 3-3 record and 3.46 ERA may allow him to blend in with the rest of the Nationals rotation, his 70 strikeouts vs. 15 walks set him apart from the rest of the staff, placing him second in the majors in strikeouts behind Johnny Cueto, and despite being a power pitcher, he has a very respectable 49.0 percent groundball rate.
5 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.48): Richards had shown just brief glimpses of brilliance since first coming up to the majors with the Angels in 2011, and he was primarily a reliever through the middle of last season. However, he is putting it all together this season as the soon-to-be 26-year-old is approaching his peak years. Richards has allowed three runs or less in seven of his eight starts while posting a 2.42 ERA and 1.06 WHIP while limiting opponents to a scant .186 batting average with 54 strikeouts vs. 20 walks in 52 innings.
6 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.49): In all honesty, the former Cy Young Award winner Hernandez has hit a lull right now while allowing 14 runs and 29 hits in 24 innings over his last four starts. However, King Felix is still 4-1 with a 3.03 ERA and 1.11 WHIP overall with an extraordinary ratio of 60 strikeouts vs. 12 walks in 59.1 innings, and he did strike out seven in his last start vs. Tampa Bay after an unusual outing where he did not strike out a single batter in 6.1 innings vs. Oakland. That last outing has us believing that Felix will be just fine.
7 - Aaron Harang (Atlanta Braves, 2.54): There must be something about the Braves that brings out the best in veteran retreads that could not stick with other organizations, as Harang joins Ervin Santana in that regard. Harang could barely break a pane of glass with his fastball these days, and yet he somehow has 52 strikeouts in 48.1 innings vs. only 17 walks while going 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. If you take away one horrific outing in Miami where he allowed nine runs on 10 hits in just 4.2 innings, Harang has allowed two earned runs of less in each of his other seven starts!
8 - Ian Kennedy (San Diego Padres, 2.57): The Padres’ general manger Josh Byrnes traded for Kennedy when he served in that same capacity with the Arizona Diamondbacks after Kennedy had a rocky season with the New York Yankees, and Kennedy rewarded Byrnes’s faith by going 21-4 for Arizona in 2011. Well, Byrnes then moved on to San Diego and Kennedy fell off the next two seasons with the Snakes, so Byrnes acquired him again. And now, while Kennedy is 2-5, it is no fault of his own while pitching for a team that has had a depleted lineup, as he has a 3.60 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 60 strikeouts in 55 innings vs. just 12 walks.
9 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 2.58): Darvish put up Cy Young numbers last year other than his 13-9 record, and he is at it again this season as he probably deserves a better fate than a 3-1 record. With that being said, he has now gotten wins in each of his last two starts and he had a no-hitter broken up with two outs in the ninth inning vs. the Red Sox last week. Yu has a 2.33 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a .218 batting average allowed with 54 strikeouts in 46.1 innings vs. 13 walks, and he has only allowed three home runs despite pitching half of his games in the wind tunnel of Globe Life Park in Arlington.
10 - Zach McAllister (Cleveland Indians, 2.62): The Indians could be set in the pitching department for a good long tine with McAllister joining his fellow youthful Cleveland starters Kluber and Danny Salazar. The 26-year-old McAllister posted a 3.75 ERA over 134.1 Major League innings last year and he is now ready to make his mark on the league. Do not be fooled by his 3-3 record this year as his nearly 3/1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (38-to-14) and his one lone home run allowed are the key components to this FIP, and he still figures to improve further as he is currently pitching to an unlucky .311 BABIP.