There is only one new face on our FIP Top 10 Leaderboard update, but it happens to be at #1! That is only because out new leader just became qualified after missing time though.
Those of you that have followed us in the past should be well aware that conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are not very predictive numbers from a betting standpoint. That is precisely why we turn to sabremetric stats, or more precisely FIP, which we feel is a better indicator of future performance than mainstream numbers. We are now back to present our Major League FIP Leaderboard as of August 1st in our attempt to assist you with MLB picks.
Not only do ERA and WHIP not relate to future performance very well, but another reason FIP is preferable is because it is virtually impossible to beat the sportsbooks by using those simple common stats. After all, oddsmakers have just as easy access to those readily available numbers as everyone else does and they have much more intricate computer driven algorithms to create much sharper numbers than over 90 percent of the betting population can produce.
And we have yet to mention that ERA and WHIP are inherently flawed because they include many components that are out of the pitcher’s control, ranging from his team’s defensive range and ability behind him to even the official scorer deciding if a play is a hit or an error, as that ruling has a direct impact on both of those popular mainstream stats.
On the flip side, 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 is used to put 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 have more 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 more predictive stat. Naturally there will be superstars on this leaderboard practically at all times, but the more important use of FIP is in unearthing those hidden under-the-radar gems, as those are the pitchers that are so oftentimes undervalued by the general betting public.
This season has flown by as we are already down to the final two months of the year, so this leaderboard should be very stable right now. To wit, there is only one new face making his 2014 debut on this list this week, although ironically it is at the number one spot!
As you shall see, there is a very good explanation for that however, so with no further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, July 31, 2014 (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1.70): The only reason that Kershaw was not on the leaderboard until now is because he just became qualified after missing about six weeks after starting on opening day in Australia with a back issue. But there is no reason to try and convince Major League hitters that Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball this year, not with the video-game type numbers he is putting up at 11-2 with an almost non-existent 1.67 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and a .192 batting average allowed, not to mention his unheard of ratio of 119 strikeouts vs. 13 walks in 102.1 innings! And do not forget that he also tossed his first career no-hitter this season and has allowed one run or less in nine of his last 10 starts.
2 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.07): King Felix was the FIP leader practically all season until now and he just set a Major League record by allowing two runs or less while pitching seven innings or more for the 14th consecutive start. Hernandez is a leading candidate to win his second American League Cy Young Award as he is now 11-3 with a 2.01 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and a .195 batting average allowed, and he also has a fantastic ratio of 178 strikeouts vs. just 31 walks in 165.1 innings with only six home runs allowed in 23 starts. Those are superior numbers to what Hernandez put up when he won his first Cy Young in 2010.
3 - Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox, 2.30): Sale is the main reason that Hernandez is not a runaway Cy Young favorite. Sale also missed a bit of time this year on the Disabled List, but he has been brilliant while allowing two runs or less in six straight starts and has improved to 10-1 for the year with a 1.88 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and a .194 batting average allowed, along with 122 strikeouts in 110 innings vs. just 19 walks. Granted the missed time has limited Sale to 16 starts, but as long as he stays healthy and maintains his current form for the rest of the year, he would be Hernandez’s biggest threat for the award.
4 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.51): We loved Kluber at the beginning of this year because he was precisely the type of hidden gem that we discussed earlier on. Then he went out and made it impossible for people not to take notice, even being one of the names available for the “Final Vote” of the All-Star Game, a vote he lost to Sale. Sabremetricians were aware of Kluber before this season after his 2.7 WAR in limited innings last season, and he is pitching to his potential this year and deserves better than his 11-6 record given his 2.61 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 170 strikeouts in 158.1 innings vs. only 33 walks. Rather remarkably, Kluber is second in the Major Leagues in WAR at 4.7, behind only Felix Hernandez.
5 - Jon Lester (Oakland Athletics, 2.62): The big news regarding Lester this week is that he was one of the biggest names traded at the trading deadline, going from the Red Sox to the Athletics for slugger Yoenis Cespedes. Lester put up great numbers in Boston despite a nondescript 10-7 record, as he had a spiffy 2.52 ERA and 1.12 WHIP along with 149 strikeouts vs. 32 walks in 143 innings. And the scariest part for American League batters is that Lester’s numbers only figure to get better while pitching in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball in O.co Coliseum.
6 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.63): Wainwright had a rare bad outing two starts back when the Tampa Bay Rays reached him for six runs in 4.2 innings, but it turned out to be just a one-game blip as he rebounded to toss seven scoreless innings while allowing only five hits vs. the Cubs. That one hiccup vs. the Rays was the only time in his last nine starts that “Waino” allowed more than two runs in a game and also the only time in those outings he failed to go at least seven innings. He is now 13-5 with a 1.92 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, along with 122 strikeouts vs. 34 walks in 149.2 innings.
7 - Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins, 2.67): Hughes has had a great comeback season now that he has escaped the new Yankee Stadium and now calls Target Field in Minnesota home, as besides being more spacious, the ball does not carry nearly as well in the power alleys as it did in the Bronx. Granted Hughes is only 10-8 with a 4.12 ERA, but he is now pounding the strike zone with much less fear of giving up long balls and as a result has a terrific ratio of 118 strikeouts vs. 13 walks in 137.2 innings.
8 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.70): Richards divided his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen prior to this year, but do not expect to see him back in the bullpen any time soon as he is approaching elite status as a Major League starter this season. 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 nine Quality Starts in his last 11 outings, allowing more than six hits just once over that entire span while allowing two runs or less eight times. Richards also has the highest average fastball velocity in the majors this year at 96.4 MPH, leading to an 11-4 record overall with a 2.74 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a.197 batting average allowed.
9 - Zack Greinke (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2.82): Greinke would probably be the ace of any other staff that does not include a pitcher named Kershaw, as he probably gives the Dodgers the best 1-2 punch in baseball. Greinke is 12-6 with a 2.65 ERA and a sparkling 153 strikeouts vs. 29 walks in 139.1 innings, and he has allowed one earned run or less in four of his last six starts with a sensational 52 strikeouts vs. nine walks in 42.2 innings over those six outings. In fact, perhaps the most impressive aspect of Greinke’s season has been the large spike in his strikeouts from 7.50 per nine innings last year to 9.88 per nine this season.
10 - Jose Quintana (Chicago White Sox, 2.83): Quintana is the closed thing to a hidden gem on this list right now as he maintains the 10th place standing he stood at when he first entered the leaderboard two weeks ago while still receiving practically no national recognition. Quintana had a very good year under the radar last season pitching for a terrible White Sox team, going 9-7 in 33 starts as a dreadful Chicago offense made him the King of the No-Decision with a fine 3.51 ERA and 164 strikeouts vs. 56 walks. Well, Quintana’s luck has not been good this year either as he is just 6-7 despite his 3.15 ERA and 120 strikeouts vs. 40 walks in 22 starts covering 137.1 innings with only six home runs allowed. Jose currently has eight consecutive Quality Starts, allowing two runs or less in seven of those starts.