A Cy Young winner that could be on his way to second award tops our FIP Leaderboard. We are reaching the point where this list is taking shape nicely, so here is the June 13th update.
As most of you should know by now, conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are best left for casual conversation, as they are not very predictive numbers from a betting standpoint. For that reason, we have always felt that FIP is a better indicator of future performance, and we thus now present another Major League FIP Leaderboard as of June 13th in our continued quest to help you with your MLB picks.
Not only do mainstream stats not really relate to future performance very well, but another reason why FIP is preferable is because it is almost impossible to beat the sportsbooks by using the simple common stats such as ERA and WHIP, as oddsmakers have just as easy access to those numbers as bettors do and believe us when we tell you they have much more intricate computer driven algorithms to produce the sharpest numbers imaginable.
Besides, ERA and WHIP are inherently 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 has a direct impact on both ERA and WHIP.
On the other hand, FIP is composed of factors that the pitcher can basically take control of 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 fluctuates from year to year and even throughout the season.
Because pitchers can control their FIP better, they tend to maintain it for longer periods than ERA and WHIP, stats oftentimes at the mercy of others, therefore making FIP a better predictive stat. Of course there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard at all times, but the more important use of FIP is in finding those under-the-radar hidden gems, as those are the pitchers that are so often undervalued.
We have now reached the middle of June, meaning that this leaderboard is starting to stabilize, and theoretically it should only become more reliable as the season goes on. So without any further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, June 12, 2014. (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 1.93): King Felix could very well be on his way to a second Cy Young Award this season after first winning it in 2010. Hernandez took home the hardware with just a 13-12 record that season as his other dominant stats were just too much for the voters to ignore, but is may be much easier to vote for him this year as he is a sparkling 8-1 so far while posting a 2.39 ERA and 1.01 WHIP, and he has an unbelievable ratio of 106 strikeouts vs. just 17 walks in 98 innings! On top of all that, Felix has surrendered only three home runs in 14 starts.
2 - Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals, 2.29): Do not be fooled by Strasburg’s 6-4 record this season as he has been one of the best pitchers in the National League and this ranking is not a fluke. Besides, Strasburg has now won his last three starts, so his record is starting to jive with his fine form, and he has now recorded 10 straight Quality Starts as of this writing. Stras has a 2.99 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, and he leads the Major Leagues with his 11.13 strikeouts per nine innings as he has 108 of them vs. just 19 walks in 87.1 innings along with only six home runs allowed. And the scariest part about Strasburg is that he has actually been pitching in tough luck to this point, yielding an abnormal .354 BABIP!
3 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.44): Wainwright actually had a bit of a health scare earlier in the week when he has an MRI taken of his elbow, but Redbird Nation was able to exhale when it was discovered that there is no ligament damage whatsoever to the UCL and that the discomfort is on the outside of the elbow, similar to tennis elbow. And what a relief it was as Wainwright already underwent Tommy John surgery and he has been one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball since having the procedure. Wainwright is a National League Cy Young candidate this year at 9-3 as he has a 2.15 ERA and a microscopic 0.93 WHIP to go along with his customarily great ratio of 91 strikeouts vs. 21 walks and just four home runs allowed in 100.1 innings.
4 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 2.50): Darvish recently missed 10 days of action with some neck stiffness, but you would not know it based on his three performances since returning that have included two scoreless outings and a Complete Game, six-hit, 10-strikeout shutout gem vs. Miami his last out. That brings Yu to 7-2 for the season with a 2.11 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 101 strikeouts vs. 27 walks in 85.1 innings. Darvish may throw his hat in the American League Cy Young ring after posting numbers good enough to win the award last season but not getting much run support while going 13-9.
5 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.62): Kluber is the epitome of the under-the-radar gem we described earlier as he has been a regular on this list all year while not getting much if any national recognition. He has now allowed three earned runs or less in 11 of his last 13 starts while accumulating strikeouts at a rapid rate, raising his strikeout rate for the season to 10.25 per nine innings. He is 6-4 but deserves better considering his 3.35 ERA and 104 strikeouts vs. only 22 walks in 91.1 innings with a reasonable seven home runs allowed. Further validity of Kluber’s numbers is his 2.6 WAR, which is currently fourth best in the majors, and do not forget that this did not come totally out of nowhere as Kluber finished with a 2.7 WAR last season when his 147.1 innings pitched were not enough to qualify.
6 - Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies, 2.64): Lee is still on the Disabled List with an elbow injury, but he did throw the ball for the first time in three weeks a few days ago and reported just minimal soreness, so he is progressing as expected and should be back in the Philadelphia rotation in a couple of weeks. Hopefully he will immediately return to the form he had when he went down on May 19th, as he is a very deceptive 4-4 considering his 3.16 ERA and sensational 61 strikeouts vs. nine walks in 68 innings. That ratio is nothing new for a control freak like Lee, as he has 1813 strikeouts vs. only 461 walks over a career that began way back in 2002.
7 - Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees, 2.64): Ironically, a Chicago Cubs team that has the worst record in the National League is all that stands between Tanaka being unbeaten since 2012, as he went an unconscionable 24-0 in his final season in Japan last year and he is now 10-1 in his first season stateside with the Yankees, losing only to that Cub team that was also in the bidding for him during the off-season until the Bronx Bombers swooped in! Besides that 10-1 mark, Tanaka also owns a tiny 2.02 ERA and 0.94 WHIP to go along with a terrific ratio of 103 strikeouts vs. 14 walks in 93.2 innings.
8 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.65): Richards has shown some glimpses of greatness in the past, but he has put things all together this season while gaining the consistency that has allowed him to maintain his fine form. After spending part of last season in the bullpen, the 26-year-old now looks like a fixture in the staring rotation for years to come as he is 6-2 with a 3.09 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a miniscule .211 batting average allowed with 77 strikeouts and 27 walks in 81.2 innings. To give you an idea of his newfound maturity and resiliency, Richards lasted only two-thirds of an inning vs. the Oakland A’s on May 30th when he was roughed up for five earned runs on five hits plus three walks, and all that he has done in his two starts since then is allow one run in 15 innings!
9 - Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants, 2.67): Bumgarner is the only new face on the FIP Leaderboard this week, but it is a well-deserving new face given his stature as one of the best left-handed pitchers in the National League, and he is a key reason why the Giants have the best record in all of baseball. Bumgarner is 8-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 95 strikeouts vs. 19 walks in 87.2 innings, and most impressively he has allowed two runs or less in six of his last eight starts while going 6-1 with one no-decision during this span.
10 - Johnny Cueto (Cincinnati Reds, 2.76): If you look at the pitching leaders in all of baseball, you well see Cueto’s name sprinkled across several stats including ranking second in the Major Leagues in ERA at 1.85 behind only Tim Hudson and second in strikeouts with 109 behind only David Price. Cueto has pitched far superior to his lackluster 6-5 record, as besides the 1.85 ERA, he has a microscopic 0.77 WHIP and a .160 batting average allowed, and his 109 punch-outs have come across 102 innings against 22 walks.