MLB Betting: June Monthly FIP Leaderboard

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, June 14, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

Adam Wainwright takes over the lead as we update the Monthly FIP Leaderboard for June. Last month’s leader Anibal Sanchez is just behind in second with Mets’ sensation Matt Harvey third.

While the so-called conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are widely known and used by agents when negotiating contracts, they are not really predictive from a betting point of view. In that regard, 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 June to help you make more informed MLB picks.

Another reason why FIP is preferable is because 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 they have much more intricate algorithms to produce sharper lines than probably 99 percent of gamblers can come up with.

Also remember that ERA and WHIP include some components that are out of the pitcher’s control, which also makes those numbers flawed as a predictive tool. 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.

That is a huge reason why we favor FIP so much, 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.

Because 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. Obviously, there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard that will usually be substantial favorites on the MLB odds when they take the mound, but the more important use of FIP is in finding the under-the-radar hidden gems undervalued on the betting lines.

Just like last month, there are three Detroit Tigers in the top 10 again, which is a big reason why Detroit was and still is a huge favorite to win the American League Central now that the depth of its starting staff has caught up to the great offense. Here are the top 10 FIP pitchers in the Major Leagues through games of Thursday, June 13, 2013. (FIP is in parenthesis).

1 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 1.76): Wainwright takes over the top spot this month, which is understandable considering he has more wins this season (10) than he does walks (9), and that is while recording 97 strikeouts and allowing only two home runs in 103 innings! He is the first 10-game winner in the Major Leagues and owns a 2.18 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 13 Quality Starts out of 14 total starts. Wainwright is walking proof that a lot of times, pitchers that have Tommy John surgery come back stronger than they were before the operation.

2 - Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers, 1.78): Last month’s leader is second this month, but only by a hair and Sanchez is the only other starting pitcher besides Wainwright that has a FIP below 2.00, not to mention being the first of three Tigers on this list. Sanchez has been more dominant than his 6-5 record suggests, as he has a whopping 98 strikeouts in 78 innings against only 19 walks and three home runs allowed. He had one of the most impressive games by any pitcher all year when he had 17 strikeouts while working eight scoreless innings vs. the Atlanta Braves and he has 10 Quality Starts in 12 starts.

3 - Matt Harvey (New York Mets, 2.15): Harvey finally suffered his first loss of the season last time out when he basically matched Wainwright pitch for pitch but lost to the Cardinals 2-1. Harvey should sue the Mets for non-support as he deserved better than a 5-1 record, given his 2.04 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, .197 batting average allowed and 102 strikeouts in 97 innings against just 20 walks and four home runs allowed. Harvey is still in the Cy Young conversation as it is, but he might have more of a case if his wins matched his performances. That is where the inept Mets’ offense hurts.

4 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.36): Hernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for several years now, and he has been so good in fact that he even won a Cy Young Award while pitching for a bad Seattle team He is at it again this season as King Felix is 7-4 with a 2.49 ERA and a tiny 1.04 WHIP with 102 strikeouts and only 19 walks in 97.2 innings. It is nice that the sports writers have been giving Hernandez the recognition he deserves when he could have easily gotten lost pitching in the northwest, but it is still mind-boggling to think what his numbers would be if he pitched for a contending team.

5 - Clay Buchholz (Boston Red Sox, 2.48): You may recall that there was some controversy involving Buchholz earlier this year as he was accused of doctoring the baseball with a combination of spray-on sunblock lotion and rosin, and as fate would have it, his first start after those accusations were revealed was Buchholz’s worst start of the year vs. the Minnesota Twins. To put his year in perspective though, that “worst start” meant allowing four runs in six innings and that outing remains the only start this year where Buchholz has allowed more than two runs in a game, so it is safe to say he has silenced his critics by going 9-0 with a scintillating 1.71 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, .195 average allowed and 81 strikeouts vs. 29 walks and two home runs allowed.

6 – Cliff Lee (Philadelphia Phillies, 2.49): Lee joins the leaderboard after sitting just outside the Top 10 last month, and in what has been another disappointing year for the Phillies, he remains a bright spot going 8-2 with a 2.66 ERA and 0.98 WHIP. As has always been his wont, the southpaw has continued to pound the strike zone as he has 34 strikeouts against a mere four walks over his last four starts, leaving him with 89 strikeouts vs. 17 walks for the season with five home runs allowed in 102.1 innings despite pitching his home games in a hitter’s park.

7 - Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers, 2.49): Scherzer is the second member of the Tigers on this list, and he joins Buchholz with a 9-0 record. Scherzer started to blossom while having his best season to date last year and the 28-year-old is topping it this season with a 3.19 ERA and a microscopic 0.87 WHIP and a .182 batting average allowed. Scherzer has always been a flame-thrower, but he has now overcome the command issues that plagued him when he first came up as he has a terrific ratio of 106 strikeouts vs. 22 walks in 90.1 innings.

8 - Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers, 2.49): The third Tiger Verlander may not be pitching up to his usual lofty standards this year, but your average Major League pitcher would not mind being 8-4 with a 3.41 ERA and 101 strikeouts in just 87 innings against just 28 walks. It is a testament to Verlander’s greatness that in what is being perceived as a “down” year, he has allowed more than three earned runs in a game only twice in 14 starts and he has 11 official Quality Starts.

9 - Shelby Miller (St. Louis Cardinals, 2.52): The final two pitchers on this list are making their 2013 debuts on the FIP Leaderboard. How do the Cardinals keep finding these gems that come out of nowhere? Miller is a rookie who finally gave up more than three runs for the first time this season in his 14th start when he allowed four runs to the Mets last time out. He is still 7-4 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, and he is displaying tremendous command for someone so young with 91 strikeouts vs. 17 walks in 81.1 innings.

10 –Homer Bailey (Cincinnati Reds, 2.56): Bailey may be the biggest surprise of all breaking the Top 10, especially being 4-4 with a good but not great 3.47 ERA. However, he has a much better 1.13 WHIP, not to mention his 83 strikeouts in 83 innings against 22 walks. But what sticks out the most about Bailey this year is allowing only four home runs despite pitching his home games at the launching pad that is Great American Ball Park. Homer is finally displaying the potential the Reds saw when selecting him in the first round with the seventh pick overall way back in 2004.