We have the same FIP leader as our last update, but there is much movement behind him. Our FIP Leaderboard is still stabilizing for the most part though, so here is the June 27th update.
As those of you that have followed us in the past have probably gathered, conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are best left for water-cooler conversations and agent negotiations, as they are not very predictive numbers from a betting standpoint. Thus, we have always felt that FIP is a better indicator of future performance, and we now present our Major League FIP Leaderboard as of June 27th to help you with your MLB picks.
Besides the aforementioned mainstream stats not really relating to future performance very well, another reason why FIP is preferable is because it is practically impossible to beat the sportsbooks by using the simple common stats, 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 much sharper numbers than most of the betting population.
Besides, ERA and WHIP are inherently flawed because they include many 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, which of course impacts on both ERA and WHIP.
Conversely, FIP is composed of factors that the pitcher basically has control over 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 are now almost at July so, as you would expect, this leaderboard is starting to stabilize. While there is quite a bit of movement behind the leader this week, most of that movement was between pitchers that were already in the Top 10 anyway and not due to new faces. So with no further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, June 26, 2014. (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 1.95): The top spot is the only unchanged spot from out last update as Hernandez has continued to roll along by allowing a grand total of four runs in three starts covering 22.1 innings since then! King Felix is now is a sparkling 9-2 with a 2.24 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, and he has an almost unheard of ratio of 128 strikeouts vs. just 19 walks in 120.1 innings with only four home runs allowed in 17 starts. Hernandez could be well on his way to a second Cy Young Award, duplicating his feat from 2010.
2 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.36): Wainwright had a bit of a health scare two weeks ago when he had an MRI taken of his painful throwing elbow, but luckily the injury turned out to be on the outside of the elbow similar to tennis elbow and there was no damage to the UCL, which was the immediate concern for a pitcher that already had Tommy John surgery. Wainwright missed just one start and has been just fine in his two starts since returning, allowing exactly one run in eight innings on each occasion, and he is a National League Cy Young candidate this year at 10-4 with a 2.01 ERA and a microscopic 0.90 WHIP to go along with his ordinarily great ratio of 105 strikeouts vs. 22 walks and just four home runs allowed in 116.1 innings.
3 - Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins, 2.65): Apparently, Hughes could not wait to get away from the new Yankee Stadium! It is easy to forget that Hughes was an All-Star for the Yankees when he went 18-8 in 2010, as he was then dreadful in his final thee seasons in pinstripes. Apparently though, getting rid of the pinstripe and pitching his home games in the much more pitcher-friendly Target Field have agreed with him as Hughes is 8-3 with an unexpected 3.40 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and an amazing 82 strikeouts vs. nine walks in 95.1 innings. He has returned to pounding the strike zone with confidence, no longer afraid of seemingly routine fly balls carrying out of the ballpark in the Bronx.
4 - Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers, 2.66): On a Tiger staff that includes former two-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, it was Sanchez that led the American League in ERA last season while tying for second in the majors in FIP, and he is at it this year. Sanchez missed nearly a month this season with a lacerated finger, but he now qualifies to be ranked and is 5-2 with a 2.64 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 64 strikeouts vs. 21 walks in 75 innings. Perhaps most amazingly, Sanchez has allowed just two home runs in 13 starts.
5 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.67): Kluber would qualify as one of the hidden gems that we described earlier, although that may soon no longer be the case if he continues to pitch as well as he has. Do not be fooled by the 7-5 record as Kluber has a 3.09 ERA and 122 strikeouts in 110.2 innings vs. just 28 walks. This was not totally unexpected from Sabremetricians that took note of his 2.7 WAR last season when he was short of qualifying to be ranked with 147.1 innings, and he has already raised that WAR to 3.0 in the fairly early going this season, which is tied for fourth in the majors!
6 - Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals, 2.76): There seems to be a love-hate relationship between bettors and Strasburg as his record almost never coincides with how well he pitches, and he we good again as his is just 6-6 this season. However, he even has a 3.70 ERA this year, so can it be that his skills are declining at a young age? We think not as he still has his great ratio of 123 strikeouts vs. 23 walks in 104.2 innings, his numbers are skewed from allowing a .356 BABIP and he recently had a streak of 11 consecutive Quality Starts snapped.
7 - Madison Bumgarner (San Francisco Giants, 2.77): In case you have not noticed, Bumgarner is the only southpaw on the FIP Leaderboard as he may have a legitimate claim to being the best left-hander in baseball right now! One thing that is not indisputable is that he currently owns the lowest ERA of any left-hander in the National League at 2.63, combining that with a 9-4 record, 1.14 WHIP and 111 strikeouts in 102.2 innings against only 25 walks. Bumgarner has also allowed two runs or less in eight of his last 11 starts while going 7-2 with two no-decisions during this span.
8 - Masahiro Tanaka (New York Yankees, 2.77): After going 24-0 in his final season in Japan last year, Tanaka just recently tasted defeat for the second time stateside, although he still recorded a Quality Start while allowing three runs on six hits in seven innings vs. Baltimore. This still leaves Tanaka at 11-2 with a 2.11 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP to go along with an amazing 119 strikeouts vs. 17 walks in 106.2 innings. There were more than a few skeptics when the Yankees outbid several other teams for Tanaka’s services, but those skeptics have now been silenced as he continues to display his true worth.
9 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.77): After splitting his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen last year, Richards is another hidden gem that does not need to worry about being removed from the rotation anytime soon! In fact Richards has now allowed two runs or less in each of his last five starts as of this writing, leaving the 26-year-old at 8-2 with a 2.76 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a miniscule .203 batting average allowed with 99 strikeouts and 38 walks in 101 innings. His FIP gets an even further boost from allowing only three home runs in 16 starts as he literally allowed one home run per month in April, May and June!
10 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 2.78): Probably the most disappointing part of this leaderboard is Darvish dropping all the way down to 10th after uncharacteristically posting back-to-back non-quality outings since our last update allowing eight earned runs in 11 innings over those outings. There is probably no cause for alarm though as he still had 17 strikeouts in those 11 innings, leaving his with 118 of them in just 96.1 innings this season vs. 36 walks. Yu to 7-4 but with a 2.62 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and a .228 batting average allowed overall.