MLB Betting: FIP Leaderboard as of 5/2

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, May 2, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Friday, May. 2, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

A fresh face tops our latest FIP Leaderboard update as two Marlins man the top three spots! The top 10 is an interesting combination of promising youngsters and crafty veterans.

As you probably know by now, conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are nice for water cooler talk around the office and for players’ agents when negotiating contracts, but those numbers are not really predictive from a betting viewpoint. We have always subscribed that FIP is a better indicator of future performance, so we are now presenting our latest Major League FIP Leaderboard as of May 2nd in an attempt to help you make more informed MLB picks.

Aside from not really relating to future performance, another reason why FIP is preferable to conventional stats is because it is just about impossible to beat the sportsbooks using the latter, as oddsmakers have just as easy access to those numbers as bettors do and they have much more intricate algorithms powered by computers to produce sharper lines than probably 98 percent of bettors can produce.

Remember too 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 pitcher’s team’s defensive range and ability to even the official scorer deciding if a play is a hit or an error, which has a direct impact on both of those 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 more control over FIP, they tend to maintain it more long-term than ERA and WHIP, which are often at the mercy of others, making FIP a better indicator of future performance. Of course there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard that are usually huge favorites on the MLB odds, but the more important use of FIP is in unearthing under-the-radar hidden gems, as those underrated pitchers are the ones usually offering good line value.

Since we have now hit the month of May, this leaderboard is starting to become more reliable and that reliability should only get better as the season goes on. Sure there are still one or two pitchers in the top 10 that are not long for this list, but for the most part the leaderboard is starting to take shape with some old reliable names joining the ranks with this update, although perhaps the best young pitcher in baseball tops the list.

So without any further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, May 1, 2014. (FIP is in parenthesis).

1 - Jose Fernandez (Miami Marlins, 1.61): We said last season during his rookie year that Fernandez is probably a future Cy Young Award winner, and now we are starting to think that future could be this year! Fernandez has allowed a grand total of seven earned runs in six starts covering 39.2 innings this season and six of those earned runs came in one game. He just dominated the Atlanta Braves twice in his last two starts not allowing a run in 16 innings, leaving him at 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA and 0.83 WHIP, and he leads the Major Leagues with 55 strikeouts against just eight walks.

2 - Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies, 2.10): We go from the young to the old as the cagey veteran Lee just continues to roll along. Things looked bleak when Lee was roughed up for eight runs on opening day by the Texas Rangers, but he has lowered his ERA all the way down to 3.29 since then by allowing a total of seven earned runs in 36 innings over his last five outings, and Lee has had his usual impeccable control with 40 strikeouts against a measly four walks in 40 innings. He has also allowed just two home runs to help his FIP along.

3 –Nathan Eovaldi (Miami Marlins, 2.18): The Marlins may be surpassing expectations by being a .500 club right now, and one of the reasons is that Fernandez is not their only starter pitching lights-out, as the less heralded Eovaldi has been doing the same! Granted we thought that Eovaldi would drop from these ranks after our first update, but all he has done since then is allow one earned run in 13 innings with 12 strikeouts vs. two walks in his last two starts. Eovaldi has always struggled with inconsistency in the past, but he has always had a live arm and could it be that he has figured things out? He is 2-1 in six starts but with a spiffy 2.58 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and a nice ratio of 35 strikeouts vs. five walks in 38.1 innings with only one home run allowed.

4 – Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals, 2.30): The Nationals may have the best first four starters in baseball in Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Doug Fister, although some have considered Strasburg to be a disappointment after all the hype that surrounded him when he was first called up. Well, while his 4.24 ERA so far may fuel those beliefs further, the reason for that lofty number is really one bad start in Miami where he was charged with six earned runs in four innings. He has allowed two runs in two starts since then and his 53 strikeouts this season are second to Fernandez, with Strasburg accumulating those strikeouts over only 34 innings.

5 – Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.34): Speaking of old familiar faces, Wainwright was a regular near the top of this leaderboard last season when he ended up fourth in the majors in FIP, and he now debuts for 2014 after not being in the Top 10 in our last update. Waino has not allowed a run while allowing nine hits in 24 innings over his last three starts, leaving him 5-1 with a 1.20 ERA, a miniscule 0.78 WHIP and his usual great ratio of 42 strikeouts vs. 11 walks in 45 innings. Granted his walk rate is up after issuing a superb 1.30 walks per nine innings last season, but he has corrected that with five walks in 31 innings his last four starts.

6 - Scott Kazmir (Oakland Athletics, 2.42): Kazmir is one pitcher we are fairly confident will drop off this leaderboard soon despite being a nice early-season story that has seen him turn back the clock to his glory years with the Rays. Sure, he has hung in by going 4-0 with a 2.11 ERA, a 0.94 WHIP and 35 strikeouts vs. seven walks in 38.1 innings with only one home run allowed, but he may have started his descent back to earth last time out despite getting a win in Texas as he allowed three earned runs on seven hits in five innings.

7 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.44): Hernandez is a former Cy Young winner that also made a habit of turning up on this list last season and here we go again he is off to another hot start! After finishing fifth in the majors in FIP last year, Hernandez is off to a 3-1 start in 2014 that would be 5-1 with better support from the offense in one start and from closer Fernando Rodney in another. Through it all, King Felix has a 2.40 ERA and 0.90 WHIP with an amazing ratio of 47 strikeouts vs. seven walks in 41.1 innings.

8 – Ervin Santana (Atlanta Braves, 2.47): Santana is another great story after the Braves signed him off the scrap heap after their starting rotation was decimated by injuries. Atlanta was able to sign Santana late in spring training after he had no other takers, and Ervin has made those other teams look foolish so far in his first season in the National League, going 3-0 with a 2.41 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 36 strikeouts vs. eight walks in 33.2 innings. Alas the wheels may be starting to come off though as Santana has allowed seven earned runs in 12.2 innings over his last two outings.

9 – Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers, 2.47): Sanchez is another pitcher that was near the top of this leaderboard often last season when he finished third in the majors in FIP behind only the two Cy Young Award winners from each league with Clayton Kershaw finishing first and Max Scherzer finishing second. The good news for Sanchez is that he has yet to allow more than three runs in any of his five starts this year while posting a 3.31 ERA and 1.13 WHIP with 24 strikeouts in 23 innings. The bad news is that he was forced from his last start after 2.2 scoreless innings due to a laceration on his right (throwing) index figure and was placed on the 15-day Disabled List. He should be ready to go as soon as he is eligible to come off of the DL around May 11th though.

10 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 2.48): Darvish has slipped since leading our first FIP Leaderboard of 2014, but make no mistake as he is still one of the best pitchers in baseball. He dropped down the list because of one rough start vs. Oakland last time out where he allowed four earned runs on six hits plus two walks while lasting just 3.1 innings for the shortest start of his Major League career. That still leaves him with a 2.59 ERA and a nice ratio of 33 strikeouts vs. 10 walks in 31 innings and he has allowed just one home run, so Yu should be just fine.

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