Well, we again have the same FIP leader as our last update with some shuffling underneath. In fact, there is only one new face on our FIP Top 10 Leaderboard July 18th update.
As we have always mentioned at the beginning of these updates, conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are best left for water-cooler conversations and agent negotiations because 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 are now back to present our Major League FIP Leaderboard as of July 18th as we try to assist you with your MLB picks.
Besides ERA and WHIP not really relating to future performance very well, another reason why FIP is preferable is because it is basically impossible to beat the sportsbooks by using those simple common stats, as oddsmakers have just as easy access to those numbers as everyone else does 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 public.
And that is not to mention that 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 him to even the official scorer deciding if a play is a hit or an error, which of course has a direct impact on both of those mainstream stats.
On the other hand, FIP is composed of factors that the pitcher basically controls 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.
Since pitchers have better control of their FIP, they tend to maintain it for longer periods than they do ERA and WHIP, stats oftentimes at the mercy of others, thus making FIP the better predictive stat. Naturally there will be some superstars on this 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 by the general betting population.
We are just now coming out of the All-Star break, so as you would expect, this leaderboard is starting to stabilize. In fact, we have the same leader for the third straight update and while there is some shuffling behind him, the top nine pitchers on this update of all been on this list in recent updates, with the only fresh face reporting home 10th.
So with no further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Sunday, July 13, 2014, the last game before the All-Star break. (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.04): King Felix has apparently taken over permanent residency of this top spot, and he may be hard to pass given the wide 0.48 FIP margin between he and the second spot right now! It is no coincidence that Hernandez started the All-Star Game for the American League as he has now allowed two ruins or less in 11 consecutive starts, leaving him at 11-2 with a 2.12 ERA and 0.90 WHIP overall, and he has a scintillating ratio of 154 strikeouts vs. just 25 walks in 144.1 innings with only four home runs allowed in 20 starts. As of this moment, Hernandez looks to be on his way to a second Cy Young Award, as he is putting up better numbers than when he first accomplished that feat in 2010.
2 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.52): If you want further proof as to the validity of this leaderboard, look no further than the fact that the top two leaders this week just happened to be the two All-Star Game starters with Wainwright starting for the National League! Wainwright has nearly matched Hernandez by allowed two runs or less in 11 of his last 12 starts, and the only bad outing in this span came when he was bothered by an elbow injury that turned out to be nothing more than tennis elbow. “Waino” is a National League Cy Young candidate at 12-4 with a 1.83 ERA and a tiny 0.91 WHIP to go along with a terrific ratio of 115 strikeouts vs. 27 walks and just four home runs allowed in 138 innings.
3 - Jon Lester (Boston Red Sox, 2.61): Lester was actually the only member of the defending World Champion Red Sox to be originally named to the All-Star Game, although closer Koji Uehara did ultimately join him as an injury replacement. Lester will be a free agent after this season and he has done nothing but increase his market value so far. Do not be fooled by the 9-7 record as Lester has a spiffy 2.65 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, and he is back to striking out more than one batter per inning again like he did in his early years, with 134 punch-outs in 129 innings against just 29 walks! He has also allowed only eight home runs in 19 starts.
4 - Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins, 2.62): Hughes has had a resurgent season for the most part this year at 10-5 with a 3.92 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, although that ERA was much lower until some rough outings lately such as allowing five earned runs in five innings at Colorado last time out and seven earned runs in 6.1 innings vs. his former team, the Yankees, three starts back. Still, his peripherals remain strong, especially his fantastic ratio of 108 strikeouts vs. just 11 walks in 121.2 innings! Apparently getting away from the new Yankee Stadium and now calling more spacious Target Field home has given Hughes the confidence to pound the strike zone with regularity, and the results have been quite good for the most part.
5 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.69): The Angels always knew that Richards had ability, but after splitting his time between the rotation and the bullpen in recent seasons, he has finally put everything together in 2014. Ever since suffering his worst outing of the year in Oakland on May 30th where he was ripped for five earned runs in just two-thirds of an inning, Richards has responded with eight straight Quality Starts since then, allowing two runs or less in seven of those outings. All of this leaves Richards at 11-2 with a 2.55 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and a miniscule .196 batting average allowed with 127 strikeouts and 43 walks in 123.1 innings. Furthermore, Richards allowed exactly one home run each month in April, May and June before allowing just his fourth home run of the year on July 1st. Can he avoid allowing a dinger the rest of the month to make it four homers allowed in four months?
6 - Stephen Strasburg (Washington Nationals, 2.72): For whatever reason, there has always been a disconnect between Strasburg’s great sabremetric numbers and his mainstream numbers, which have never been as good as many expected when he was supposed to be the next big thing coming out of college. Even this season, Strasburg’s great FIP is fueled by his 149 strikeouts in 125 innings vs. just 26 walks, and yet he is somehow just 7-6 with a 3.46 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. However, “Stras” is on a roll right now having allowed a total of just five runs in 20.1 innings over his last three starts with 26 strikeouts vs. three walks, and if that regression to he sabre numbers continues over the second half of the season, it would be bad news for the rest of the league.
7 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 2.76): Last season, Darvish put up Cy Young worthy numbers except for his record, as he mysteriously received very little run support from a Texas offense that supported the rest of the Rangers’ pitchers fairly well. This year he is pitching with a much worse offense supporting him, and yet has managed to go 8-5 for a team flirting with last place in the American League West with a 2.97 ERA and 1.21 WHIP to go along with an amazing 142 strikeouts vs. 39 walks in 115.1 innings with a reasonable nine home runs allowed. Those numbers are just slightly off of his 2013 numbers, so Darvish remains one of the top pitchers in the American League even with his team beset by injuries, leading the majors in manpower games lost on the Disabled List.
8 - Jordan Zimmermann (Washington Nationals, 2.77): Stephen Strasburg is no longer the undisputed ace of the Washington staff as Zimmerman is blossoming into the superstar the Nationals envisioned while nursing him along over his first couple of seasons, continuously limiting his annual innings until last year. Zimmermann showed no ill effects from the additional workload last season and he is an unlucky 6-5 this year considering his 3.03 ERA and 101 strikeouts vs. only 20 walks in 113 innings to go along with only seven home runs allowed in 19 starts.
9 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.79): Kluber would have qualified as one of the aforementioned hidden gems earlier this season, but now he has gone from a relative unknown to begin this year to a pitcher that some have referred to as an All-Star Game snub. Sabremetricians were alerted to what Kluber is capable off by his 2.7 WAR in limited innings last season, and now that potential has come to fruition. Do not be fooled by the 9-6 record as Kluber has a 3.01 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 131.2 innings vs. just 32 walks, an indication that he has been much better than the record. Even more impressive is the fact that Kluber is currently fifth in the majors with his 3.4 WAR while keeping very good company, trailing only Hernandez, Lester, Darvish and Hughes.
10 - Jose Quintana (Chicago White Sox, 2.85): Finally, as we reach the 10th place pitcher on this Top 10 update, we get a brand new face as Quintana enters the leaderboard for the first time in 2014. Truth be told, Quintana was a very good year under the radar last season pitching for a terrible White Sox team, going 9-7 in 33 stats as a dreadful Chicago offense ran up his no-decisions, with a 3.51 ERA and 164 strikeouts vs. 56 walks. Well, Quintana’s bad luck has continued this year with his 5-7 record in 19 starts, but he has a 3.24 ERA and 107 strikeouts vs. 34 walks in 119.1 innings with six home runs allowed in 19 starts. Jose also ended the first half on a major roll allowing six earned runs in 35.2 innings over his last five starts with 38 strikeouts.