One of the most unlikely pitchers ever tops our FIP Leaderboard for this May 30th update. And he is not the only surprising name in the Top 10 right now.
If you have been paying attention to us in the past, you probably know that conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are nice for casual conversation, but they are not very predictive numbers from a betting standpoint. That is why we have always felt that FIP is a better indicator of future performance, and we now present another Major League FIP Leaderboard as of May 30th in our attempt to help you with your MLB picks.
Besides the mainstream stats not really relating to future performance very well, another reason why FIP is preferable is because it is virtually impossible to beat the sportsbooks using simple common stats 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 sharper lines than a good 98 percent of MLB odds bettors are capable of producing.
Keep in mind also that ERA and WHIP are flawed as predictive tools because they include some components that are out of the pitcher’s control, with those 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 have a direct impact on both ERA and WHIP.
Conversely, 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, which is usually around 3.20. The constant puts FIP on the same scale as ERA, and since it is based on league-wide ERA, it usually fluctuates from year to year and even throughout the season.
Since pitchers can control their FIP better, they tend to maintain it for much longer periods than ERA and WHIP, which are oftentimes at the mercy of others, therefore making FIP a better indicator of future performance. Naturally there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard that will continue to be big favorites on the MLB odds, but the more important use of FIP is in finding those under-the-radar hidden gems, as those are the pitchers that are often undervalued.
We have now almost reached the month of June, which means that this leaderboard is starting to stabilize and it should theoretically become more reliable as the season goes on. So with no further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, May 29, 2014. (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Aaron Harang (Atlanta Braves, 2.20): Harang just posted his ninth Quality Start out of 11 total starts this season by holding. Red Sox to two runs in seven innings, leaving him at 4-4 but with a 3.29 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and a sensational ratio of 71 strikeouts vs. 19 walks in 65.2 innings. And this is after the soft-tossing 36-year-old appeared to be nearing the end of his career when he went 5-11 with a 5.76 ERA and only 87 strikeouts in 120.1 innings last season for the Seattle Mariners! We are still not sure that we believe our eyes here but Harang has continued to defy the experts.
2 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.22): The former Cy Young winner had hit a lull around the time of our latest FIP Leaderboard update two weeks ago, but he has regained his typical form since then by allowing two runs or less while going eight innings or more in each of his last three starts, allowing a grand total of four runs and 16 hits in 24.2 innings over this span with 23 strikeouts vs. four walks. That leaves King Felix at 7-1 for the season with a 2.57 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 83 strikeouts vs. just 16 walks in 84 innings. Furthermore he has allowed only three home runs in 12 starts.
3 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.22): Kluber is not a household name yet, but he may very well be one soon and remain one for many years to come. Kluber has now allowed three earned runs or less in nine of his last 10 starts while raising his strikeout rate to 10.28 per game for the year! He is 5-3 pitching for a last place Cleveland team with a 3.10 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and 83 strikeouts vs. 17 walks in 72.2 innings with just four home runs allowed. Remarkably, his 2.6 WAR is currently second in the majors behind only Hernandez. This is not a complete surprise either as Kluber actually finished with a 2.7 WAR last season, but his 147.1 innings were not enough to qualify.
4 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.26): Few pitchers have been as consistently great as Wainwright has been over the last three years including this one, as he is further testament to pitchers getting better following Tommy John surgery. Wainwright is a National League Cy Young candidate right now at 8-2 while leading the Major Leagues with a 1.67 ERA to go along with his microscopic 0.85 WHIP and amazing ratio of 77 strikeouts vs. 16 walks and three home runs allowed in 81 innings. He is currently working on a streak of 17 scoreless innings over his last two starts.
5 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 2.40): Darvish has not pitched since May 22nd due to neck stiffness but his MRI came back clean and he will make is next start Sunday. Yu held the Tigers to two runs on six hits in seven innings in that last start, marking his third straight outing of allowing two runs or less, and he is now 4-2 for the year but with a 2.35 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 71strikeouts vs. 19 walks in 61.1 innings. Remember that Darvish put up Cy Young caliber numbers last season except for his 13-9 record due to a lack of run support, and it appears to be more of the same so far in 2014.
6 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.50): Richards is having his best season this year after showing just some brief glimpses of brilliance since first coming up to the Angels in 2011, and remember that he actually started least season in the bullpen! The Angels were apparently shrewd in putting him back in the starting rotation though as he is 4-1 with a 3.00 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a .209 batting average allowed with 62 strikeouts and 24 walks in 66 innings. He even showed some resiliency by bouncing back from his worst outing of the season two starts ago by allowing just three runs on five hits with seven strikeouts last time out.
7 - Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals, 2.60): Strasburg may be only 3-4 this season, but that is no fault of his own as he has a 3.42 ERA and 81 strikeouts in only 68.1 innings vs. just 18 walks, with those 10.67 strikeouts per nine innings leading the Major Leagues! He has been pitching in some tough luck as he has yielded a .357 BABIP, so the wins should start to pile up once that starts stabilizing. Despite the record, he now has seven straight Quality Starts as of this writing.
8 - Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies, 2.61): Lee is currently on the Disabled List with an elbow injury and he is about a week away from being allowed to resume throwing activities. He should still be back by mid-to-late June however, and hopefully he will hold the form that has seen him go 4-4 but with a 3.16 ERA and a scintillating 61 strikeouts vs. nine walks in 68 innings. Then again, Lee has had comparable stats like that seemingly forever, as he has 1813 strikeouts vs. only 461 walks in his career, so there is no reason to expect negative regression as long as he is fully healed.
9 - Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins, 2.61): This one is a real surprise seemingly, but is it really? Yes, Hughes has stunk out the joint for the New York Yankees the last three years, making people forget that he was once an All-Star pitcher while going 18-8 in 2010, but a change of scenery and now pitching in a pitchers’ park in Minnesota seems to have done the trick. Hughes is 5-1 with a 3.23 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, and he has an unbelievable ratio of 50 strikeouts vs. six walks in 61.1 innings!
10 - Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees, 2.61): Stop the presses, as Tanaka recently lost a baseball game! Why is that news, you ask? Well, Tanaka finished at 24-0 in his last season in Japan last year, and he began his Yankees’ career stateside 6-0 before losing to the team with the worst record in baseball of all teams, the Chicago Cubs, on May 20th. He then improved to 7-1 in his next start and has a 2.29 ERA and a tiny 0.98 WHIP with a terrific 79 strikeouts vs. 10 walks in 70.2 innings.