MLB Betting: July Monthly FIP Leaderboard

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, July 19, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

If there was doubt about Matt Harvey starting the All-Star Game, he leads the majors in FIP. Here is our Monthly FIP Leaderboard for July, with Harvey, Wainwright and Kershaw at the top.

While novice MLB bettors like to look at conventional statistics like ERA and WHIP when evaluating pitchers, those stats are not really predictive from a betting point of view. Thus, we feel the sabremetric stat FIP is a better indicator of future performance, so we are now updating our Monthly Major League FIP Leaderboard for July to help you make more informed MLB picks.

Besides, common stats like ERA and FIP are already fully incorporated into the betting line and it is just about impossible to beat the sportsbooks using widely available conventional stats, considering that the books have just as easy access to those numbers as the bettors do and trust us when we say that oddsmakers make better use of them, running much more intricate algorithms to produce sharper lines than over 95 percent of gamblers can come up with.

The reason that ERA and WHIP are not very predictive and thus flawed betting tools is because they include some components that are out of the pitcher’s control. Those factors could range from the team’s defensive range and ability to even the official scorer deciding if a play is a hit or an error, as all those things have a direct impact on those standard numbers.

That is a huge reason why we feel FIP is superior, as it is composed of factors that the pitcher can control on his own. FIP stands for Fielder Independent Pitching and it incorporates strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. The formula for FIP is (13xHR+3xBB-2xK)/IP + a constant, which is usually about 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 throughout the season.

Since they have more control over it, pitchers tend to maintain their FIP much better than ERA and WHIP, theoretically making it a better indicator of future performance. Of course, there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard that will usually be very heavy favorites on the MLB odds when they take the mound, but the more important use of FIP is in finding the under-the-radar pitchers that are often undervalued on the betting lines.

National League All-Star starter Matt Harvey takes over the FIP lead, a strong indication that he would certainly have been the worthy choice to start the game even if it was not played in his home stadium. Last month’s leader Adam Wainwright is now second and Harvey’s main competition for the All-Star starting nod Clayton Kershaw is third. Here are the top 10 FIP pitchers in the Major Leagues through games of Sunday, July 14, 2013. (FIP is in parenthesis).

1 - Matt Harvey (New York Mets, 2.17): Harvey retired the last six batters he faced in the All-Star Game after allowing a double to Mike Trout on the fist pitch of the game and hit the second batter Robinson Cano, as the entire country caught a glimpse of his fastball, which hit 99 MPH, and nasty slider. Harvey even had some off-the-field notoriety before the game during a late night entertainment television appearance, the video of which can be found on SBR Forum. Harvey does not need to think about a second career just yet though, as he has a 2.47 ERA this season along with a tiny 0.92 WHIP and a .196 batting average allowed. He also has a whopping 147 strikeouts in 130 innings compared to 28 walks.

2 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.23): Wainwright was named to the All-Star Game but did not pitch due to pitching the final game before the break Sunday vs. the Chicago Cubs, when he had just his fourth non-Quality Start in 20 outings this season allowing four runs on eight hits in six innings. Wainwright is still 12-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.01 WHIP though and he is still a bona fide National League Cy Young Award candidate, especially with his other-worldly ratio of 130 strikeouts against 15 walks in 146.2 innings. In fact, up until about four starts ago, Wainwright actually had more wins this season than he had walks!

3 - Clayton Kershaw (Los Angeles Dodgers, 2.52): It is rather amazing to think that Kershaw was not even in the Top 10 on the FIP Leaderboard last month, which should give you an idea of how hot he has been. Do not be fooled by the 8-6 record as Kershaw leads the Major Leagues with his 1.98 ERA while also posting a 0.91 WHIP and holding opponents to a .188 batting average, and he too has a great ratio of 139 strikeouts vs. 35 walks in 145.1 innings. Since his final start on May, Kershaw has eight Quality Starts out of nine total starts, allowing as many as three earned runs in just two of those Quality Starts.

4 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.66): The former Cy Young winner Hernandez has been his typical self this season while pitching in the relative obscurity of Seattle, as he is 10-4 while pitching for a losing team with a 2.53 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 140 strikeouts vs. just 26 walks in 138.2 innings. Furthermore, King Felix avenged his worst start of the year vs. the team that he has probably struggled against the most in his Major League career, the Los Angeles Angels, by tossing eight scoreless innings and allowing seven hits in his last start vs. the Halos before working one scoreless inning in the All-Star Game.

5 - Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers, 2.68): Scherzer was Harvey’s mound opponent as the American League starting pitcher in the All-Star Game, and deservedly so considering that he is 13-1 with a 3.19 ERA, a miniscule 0.98 WHIP, a .206 batting average allowed and a bountiful 152 strikeouts in 129.2 innings against a modest 31 walks. The Mighty Max just missed going into the All-Star Game undefeated as he was 13-0 before losing his final start vs. the Texas Rangers on Saturday, although he did have six strikeouts in that contest, meaning that he has now struck out at least six batters in all 19 starts this year.

6 - Derek Holland (Texas Rangers, 2.87): This is probably the biggest surprise in the FIP Top 10 this month as Holland will never be confused with the All-Stars on this list, which is precisely what makes him a hidden gem right now. Holland is 8-4 with a 3.08 ERA, but the real story has been the big improvement of his command this year over previous seasons as he has 121 strikeouts vs. 37 walks in 125.2 innings with only eight home runs allowed despite pitching half of his games in the wind tunnel at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. In fact Holland was the winning pitcher in Scherzer’s first loss last week, limiting the potent Tigers’ offense to one run on five hits with seven strikeouts in seven innings.

7 –Homer Bailey (Cincinnati Reds, 2.87): Bailey cracked the FIP Top 10 last month and he promptly went on to toss the first no-hitter in the Major Leagues this season vs. the San Francisco Giants three starts back, continuing an amazing trend from last season where many of the seven no-hitters thrown in baseball were on this Leaderboard at the time of their masterpieces. Bailey has been mediocre in his two starts since the no-no, and he is actually surprisingly 5-8 on the season, but he has a 3.82 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with 121 strikeouts and only 30 walks in 122.2 innings.

8 - Mat Latos (Cincinnati Reds, 2.89): Latos makes it back-to-back Cincinnati pitchers on this list. Granted he has not been the most consistent pitcher in the world this year, but in the end he is still 8-3 with a 3.53 ERA and 127 strikeouts vs. 36 walks in 120 innings. If Latos can gain some consistency he may have many All-Star Games in his future as he can be downright nasty when he is on top of his game. Perhaps most impressive is that Latos has only allowed nine home runs this year while pitching his home games at the Great American Ball Park launching pad.

9 - Chris Sale (Chicago White Sox, 2.94): The White Sox recently stated that every player on the team is expendable at the trading deadline except for Sale, and it was nice for him to showcase his abilities on the big All-Star Game stage where he was in fact the winning pitcher after tossing two perfect innings. Sale would probably merit Cy Young consideration if he didn’t pitch for an inept team that gives him no support, and it was to American League Manager Jim Leyland’s credit that he selected Sale to the team with a 6-8 record. After all, he is one of the toughest southpaws in the game despite that record as he has a 2.85 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with 131 strikeouts vs. 27 walks in 120 innings.

10 - Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies, 2.97): Lee is a key reason why the Phillies are unsure if they are buyers or sellers at the trading deadline, as in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, Lee’s 10-3 record and 2.86 ERA with 125 strikeouts and only 21 walks has helped propel Philadelphia into the playoff race, possibly altering its preseason plans. On the flip side, should the Phils stick to their guns and trade some veterans as they attempt to re-stock a depleted farm system, Lee may make great trade bait for a contender and find himself elsewhere as a hired gun in the next couple of weeks.