The top five FIP leaders in the Major Leagues remain unchanged as this board has stabilized. There was some movement in the bottom half of the Top 10 however.
As you all should be very well aware of by now, conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are not very predictive numbers from a betting standpoint. It is for that very reason that we turn to sabremetric stats, or more precisely FIP, which we feel is a better indicator of future performance than mainstream numbers. So here we are now to present our latest Major League FIP Leaderboard as of August 15th in our continued attempt to assist you with MLB picks.
Besides ERA and WHIP not relating to future performance all that well, another reason FIP is preferable is because it is virtually impossible to beat the sportsbooks by using those simple common stats. That is because 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 sharper numbers than over 90 percent of the betting population can produce.
It is also worth mentioning 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.
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 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.
Since pitchers can basically control their FIP on their own, they tend to maintain it for longer periods than ERA and WHIP, stats that are oftentimes at the mercy of others, thus making FIP the more predictive stat. Of course there will be superstars on this leaderboard at virtually all times, but the more important use of FIP is in finding those hidden under-the-radar gems, as those are the pitchers that are so usually undervalued by the general betting public.
We think it is rather amazing that there is only about six weeks left in a season that seems like it began just yesterday, and because we have reached this late stage, this leaderboard is very stable right now. In fact, the top five leaders remain unchanged from our last update two weeks ago.
There is some movement underneath the top five however, so here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, August 14, 2014 (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1.75): Kershaw was not on this leaderboard until entering at number one on our last update, but that was only because he just recently became qualified after missing about six weeks after starting on opening day in Australia with a back issue. However, he was probably the best pitcher in baseball long before qualifying as he seems on the way to his third career Cy Yong Award. Kershaw is 14-2 with an almost non-existent 1.78 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and a .201 batting average allowed, not to mention his unheard of ratio of 163 strikeouts vs. 19 walks in 136.1 innings! He also recorded his first career no-hitter this season and has allowed one run or less in 10 of his last 12 starts.
2 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.06): King Felix just keeps moving along as he allowed a total of two runs in 15 innings in two starts since our last update. In doing so, Hernandez has extended his Major League record for the most consecutive starts of allowing two runs or less while pitching seven innings or more, as that streak has now incredibly reached 16! Hernandez is favored to win his second American League Cy Young Award as he is now 13-3 with a 1.95 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and a .191 batting average allowed, and he also has a fantastic ratio of 194 strikeouts vs. just 32 walks in 180.1 innings with only seven home runs allowed in 25 starts. Those are much better numbers to what “King” put up when he won his first Cy Young in 2010.
3 - Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox, 2.26): Sale had a rare off night on the date of our last update August 1st allowing five runs (four earned) in six innings, but he has since rebounded by first allowing two runs on three hits in six innings in his next start and then tossing eight shutout innings allowing four hits last time out. Sale is the main reason that Hernandez is not a runaway Cy Young favorite, as he is now 10-2 for the year with a 2.01 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and a .196 batting average allowed, along with 150 strikeouts in 130 innings vs. just 24 walks. Sale has made just 19 starts due to a DL stint, but as long as he stays healthy and maintains his current form for the rest of the year, he could conceivably push Hernandez for that hardware.
4 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.42): Kluber was one of hidden gems we described earlier at the beginning of this season, but the secret is certainly out now! In fact, Kluber was a notable All-Star Game snub, even missing a second chance to make the game when he lost the fan vote for the last player in, which incidentally went to Sale. Kluber got the attention of Sabremetricians with his 2.7 WAR in limited innings last season, and he is pitching to his potential this year as he has actually pitched better than his already good 12-6 record, given his 2.46 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 187 strikeouts in 171.2 innings vs. only 36 walks. Kluber is remarkably third in the Major Leagues in WAR at 5.2, behind only King Felix and Jon Lester.
5 - Jon Lester (Oakland Athletics, 2.53): Speaking of Lester, he has not missed a beat since coming to the A’s in one of the biggest trades of the trading deadline, as he is 3-0 in three Oakland starts allowing a total of six runs in 21.2 innings with 20 strikeouts vs. five walks. That leaves Lester at 13-7 for the whole season for his two teams combined with a 2.51 ERA and 169 strikeouts vs. 37 walks in 164.2 innings. Lester allowed only nine home runs in 21 starts for Boston and he has yet to allow one for Oakland, and he should continue to enjoy pitching in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball in O.co Coliseum.
6 - Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins, 2.64): Hughes was in a bit if a lull at the time of our last update two weeks ago, but he has since allowed two runs in 13 innings over two starts. Hughes has had a great comeback season now that he has escaped the new Yankee Stadium and calls Target Field in Minnesota home, as besides being a much bigger park, the ball does not carry nearly as well in the power alleys as it did in the new “House that Ruth built.” Hughes has improved to 12-8 with a 3.88 ERA and he is pounding the strike zone with much less fear of giving up long balls. As a result, he has a fantastic ratio of 134 strikeouts vs. 15 walks in 150.2 innings!
7 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.64): After dividing his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen the last couple of years, Richards will not have to worry about being removed from the rotation any time soon. In fact Richards is approaching elite status as a Major League starter this year, tossing 11 Quality Starts in his last 13 outings 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, which speaks well of his resiliency. Furthermore, Richards allowed more than six hits just once over those last 13 starts while allowing two runs or less 10 times! Richards also still has the highest average fastball velocity in the majors this year at 96.4 MPH, which has helped lead to a 12-4 record overall with a 2.54 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and a tiny .193 batting average allowed.
8 - Jordan Zimmermann (Washington Nationals, 2.66): Zimmermann must now be considered the ace of the Nationals’ staff with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez not having typical seasons for them. Zimmermann on the other hand is blossoming and only getting better! Do not get fooled by the nondescript 8-5 record as he has a 2.92 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 130 strikeouts vs. just 21 walks in 144.2 innings, and he has also allowing only nine home runs in 24 starts. He is currently working on a streak of four consecutive Quality Starts and he has allowed two runs or less in seven of his last 10 outings.
9 - Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers, 2.71): Unfortunately Sanchez was placed on the Disabled List by the Tigers this past weekend. You may recall that Sanchez won the American League ERA title last season at 2.57, but of more interest to readers of this column, he tied for second in the Major Leagues with a 2.39 FIP. Fast-forward one year and Sanchez missed time this season previously with a lacerated finger, and he is now disabled due to a strained right pectoral muscle. However, Anibal has been great again when he has made it to the mound despite his ERA being up a bit to 3.53, as he still has a 1.10 WHIP, a .230 batting average allowed and 102 strikeouts vs. 30 walks and just four home runs allowed.
10 - Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers, 2.76): The reigning American League Cy Young Award winner will probably never match that 2013 season when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214.1 innings, but if not for that year, observers would be in awe of his current 2014 campaign! That is because Max is currently 14-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 196 strikeouts in 169 innings vs. 46 walks. He even recorded his first career Complete Game this season, which happened to be a shutout, and he has now allowed two runs or less in nine of his last 10 starts and three runs in the other outing.