It is time for one last look at the 2014 FIP Leaderboard as these pitchers try to key playoff runs! Unfortunately, one member of the Top 10 is done for the year with a serious knee injury.
As those of you that have followed us all year probably know, it has always been our belief that conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are not very predictive numbers from a betting standpoint. And for that reason we like to turn to sabremetric stats, or more precisely FIP, which we feel is a better indicator of future performance than mainstream numbers. And we are now back with our FIP Leaderboard as of August 29th to assist you with your MLB picks.
Not only do ERA and WHIP not relate to future performance all that well, but another reason FIP is preferable is because it is virtually impossible to beat the sportsbooks by using simple common stats. After all, oddsmakers have just as easy access to those readily available numbers as everyone else, and they have much more intricate computer driven algorithms to create sharper numbers than over 90 percent of bettors can produce.
Also, 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 obviously has a direct impact on both of those popular mainstream stats.
On the other hand, 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 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 anyway, making FIP the more predictive stat. Now obviously there will be superstars on this leaderboard almost all the time, but the more important use of FIP is in finding hidden under-the-radar gems, as those are the pitchers that are usually undervalued by the general betting public.
We are now approaching the final month of a season that seems like it began just a few days ago, and because we have reached this late stage, this leaderboard is now very stable. In fact, the top four leaders remain unchanged from our last update two weeks ago and nine of the top 10 are back again, with the only new face joining the ranks only because he just recently became qualified to be ranked.
So with no further ado, here are the top 10 pitchers in the Major Leagues on the FIP Leaderboard through games of Thursday, August 28, 2014 (FIP is in parenthesis).
1 - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1.82): Kershaw took over the Major League lead in wins despite missing six weeks after he first start of the year as he improved to 16-3 by beating the Arizona Diamondbacks Wednesday, but being the wins leader is not the main reason he is favored to win his second straight National Cy Young Award and third in his career overall at the young age of 26. No, the main reason would be his downright dominance as he owns an almost non-existent 1.73 ERA, 0.84 WHIP and a .195 batting average allowed, not to mention his video-game-like ratio of 194 strikeouts vs. 23 walks in 161.1 innings! He also added a no-hitter to his credit this season and has allowed one run or less in 12 of his last 15 starts.
2 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.22): Hernandez is Kershaw’s America League counterpart in terms of being the heavy favorite for his league’s Cy Young honors. Yes Hernandez had his Major League record of consecutive games allowing two runs or less while pitching seven innings or more snapped at 17 when he was lifted after five innings despite allowing just two runs vs. the Detroit Tigers on August 16th due to a minor hip injury, and he then allowed three runs in 5.2 innings vs. the Boston Red Sox his next start. Still, that Cy Young should not be in jeopardy as King Felix remains 13-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and a .196 batting average allowed, and he also has a fantastic ratio of 204 strikeouts vs. just 34 walks in 191 innings with only nine home runs allowed in 27 starts. Those are better numbers than what Hernandez put up when he won his first Cy Young in 2010.
3 - Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox, 2.43): Sale is probably the second choice to Hernandez for the AL Cy Young, but he has been a bit more hittable while going winless in his last five starts, most likely putting more distance between he and King Felix for the award. Nonetheless, Sale has still had a terrific season while being one of only two pitchers on this list that pitches for a team that is not a playoff contender. The ultra-talented southpaw is 10-3 with a 2.03 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and a .201 batting average allowed, along with 165 strikeouts in 142 innings vs. just 29 walks! Sale has made just 21 starts due to a DL stint, but he has answered every call since being activated so that should not be held against him.
4 - Corey Kluber (Cleveland Indians, 2.44): Kluber has gone from being a relative unknown in the public’s eye to begin this season to being a probable All-Star Game snub. Granted he has gone 0-2 in three starts since our last FIP update, but the fact that Kluber holds firm at fourth on this list should tell you that he has continued to do his part, in fact recording Quality Starts in all three outings during this winless streak. Kluber got the attention of Sabremetricians with his 2.7 WAR in limited innings last season, and he has followed that up by blossoming this year as even with the three winless starts, he is still 13-8 with a 2.52 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and a nice 213 strikeouts in 192.2 innings vs. only 44 walks. Kluber is also remarkably third in the Major Leagues in WAR at 5.8, behind only Hernandez and Kershaw.
5 - Phil Hughes (Minnesota Twins, 2.59): Hughes is the only other pitcher on this list besides Sale that does not pitch for a playoff contender, and after going four straight starts of allowing exactly one run, he was charged with four runs vs. the first place Royals last time out, but that is deceptive as he had a shutout entering the eighth inning before allowing all four runs. Hughes has had a great comeback this season after escaping the new Yankee Stadium and now calling 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” in the Bronx. Hughes is 14-9 with a 3.70 ERA and he is pounding the strike zone with much less fear of giving up long balls. Thus, he has an unbelievable ratio of 152 strikeouts vs. 15 walks in 172.2 innings!
6 - Garrett Richards (Los Angeles Angels, 2.60): Richards was having a break-through season after dividing his time between the starting rotation and the bullpen the last couple of years, as he was staring to approach elite status as a starter. Unfortunately, Richards’ season came to an end when he suffered a torn patellar tendon while running to cover first base vs. the Boston Red Sox on August 20th. Thus, Richards finishes at 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and a tiny .201 batting average allowed. He finished with 12 Quality Starts in his last 15 outings, allowing more than six hits just twice in that stretch while allowing two runs or less 12 times, and he had the highest average fastball velocity in the majors this year at 96.4 MPH.
7 - Jon Lester (Oakland Athletics, 2.62): Lester has not missed a beat since coming to the A’s from the Boston Red Sox in one of the biggest trades of the trading deadline, as he is 3-1 in five Oakland starts while going a perfect five-for-five in Quality Starts, posting a 2.60 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in an Oakland uniform with 32 strikeouts vs. seven walks in 34.2 innings. That leaves Lester at 13-8 for the whole season for his two teams combined with a spiffy 2.53 ERA and 181 strikeouts vs. 39 walks in 177.2 innings. Lester allowed only nine home runs in 21 starts for Boston and he has allowed two for Oakland, and he should continue to enjoy pitching his home games at O.co Coliseum, one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in baseball.
8 - Hyun-Jin Ryu (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2.77): Although Ryu has been one of the best third starters in the National League this year, he has missed time with a back issue and just recently became eligible to be ranked among the league leaders, only to then go back on the Disabled List again on August 15th, this time with a groin injury. Still, Ryu makes his debut on this leaderboard at this late stage since he does now quality and word is he may be activated as soon as he can be on August 30th as he has had no issues in a couple of bullpen sessions. That is a good ting for the Dodgers as Ryu is 13-6 with a 3.28 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and a great ratio of 122 strikeouts vs. 27 walks in 137.1 innings.
9 - Jordan Zimmermann (Washington Nationals, 2.80): Zimmermann is now the ace of the Nationals’ staff, as Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez are both having relatively off seasons by their standards. That is not to say that Zimmermann’s ace status is not deserved, as the Washington organization probably had great vision in limiting his innings his first few years. That is because the 28-year-old has blossomed this season while out-performing his 9-5 record, as he has a 2.93 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 140 strikeouts vs. just 24 walks in 159.2 innings. Zimmerman has also allowed only 11 home runs in 26 starts, he is currently working on a streak of six consecutive Quality Starts and he has allowed two runs or less in eight of his last 11 outings.
10 - Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers, 2.81): Nobody expected the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner to match his 2013 season when he went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA and 240 strikeouts in 214.1 innings, but he is having another outstanding season that some pitchers would consider a career year if not for his numbers last year. After all, Scherzer has gone 15-4 with a 3.13 ERA and 209 strikeouts in 181 innings vs. 50 walks. He also recorded his first career Complete Game this season, which just happened to be a shutout, and he has now allowed two runs or less in nine of his last 12 starts and three runs in two of the other starts.