MLB Betting: Monthly FIP Leaderboard

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, May 10, 2013 4:00 AM UTC

Friday, May. 10, 2013 4:00 AM UTC

Anibal Sanchez leads the way in our first look at the Monthly FIP Leaderboard for 2013. FIP is a better indication of future performance than ERA and the Leaderboard will be updated monthly.

While conventional pitching stats like ERA and WHIP are nice for water cooler talk and for agents when negotiating contracts, they are not really that predictive from a betting standpoint. We have always felt that FIP is a better indicator of future performance, so we are now presenting our first Major League FIP Leaderboard for 2013, and we will update this list monthly to help you make more informed MLB picks.

Another reason why we prefer FIP is it is just about impossible to beat the sportsbooks using widely available conventional stats because 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 95 percent of gamblers can come up with.

Keep in mind too 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 his team’s defensive range and ability to even the official scorer deciding if a play is a hit or an error.

This is 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 is used to put FIP on the same scale as ERA, and since the constant 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, making it a better indicator of future performance in our minds. Obviously, there will be some superstars on the FIP leaderboard that will be huge favorites in the MLB odds whenever they take the mound, but the more important use of FIP is in uncovering the under-the-radar hidden gems that are undervalued on the betting lines.

What first caught our eyes about this first FIP update is that there are six Major League pitchers that currently have a FIP of less than 2.00, and three of them are on the Detroit Tigers! Here are the top 10 FIP pitchers in the Major Leagues through games of Thursday, May 9, 2013. (FIP is in parenthesis).

1 - Anibal Sanchez (Detroit Tigers, 1.44): While you may not know it be his 3-3 record, Sanchez has been dominant at times this season such as when he struck out 17 Atlanta Braves in a game. As you can see, he has a rather sizable lead on these FIP Standings, which is what happens when you have 58 strikeouts in 45.2 innings against only 11 walks and one home run allowed. Despite the 3-3 record, Sanchez is a perfect seven for seven in Quality Starts while allowing two earned runs or less in six of those seven outings.

2 - Yu Darvish (Texas Rangers, 1.86): Darvish looks like an early Cy Young Award candidate, although he has hit a bit of a wall in his last two starts. He is still 5-1 with a 2.56 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 72 strikeouts vs. 15 walks in 55.2 innings while allowing three home runs, but he has allowed seven earned runs in his last two starts. His stuff was still good in those outings though as he had 23 strikeouts in 13 innings, so we would not worry about those runs allowed at this point.

3 - Adam Wainwright (St. Louis Cardinals, 1.86): Wainwright is now about two years removed from Tommy John surgery, and as so often happens he actually looks stronger now than he did before the operation! Yes he finally had a rough outing vs. the Milwaukee Brewers last time out after beginning the season with six straight Quality Starts, but he is still 4-2 with a 2.72 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and a video-game like ratio of 48 strikeouts against three walks in 49.2 innings. Two of those walks came in one game, so he has an unheard or ratio of 42 strikeouts to one walk in his other six starts!

4 - Matt Harvey (New York Mets, 1.88): We did not quite believe the hype on Harvey at the beginning of this season, but we are believers now. Harvey just had one of the worst no-decisions you will ever see vs. the Chicago White Sox as he tossed nine shutout innings and allowed only one hit after taking a Perfect Game into the seventh inning with 12 strikeouts and not a single walk. He is 4-0 on the season with a 1.28 ERA, 0.69 WHIP and 58 strikeouts in 49.1 innings while allowing only two home runs and yielding just a .133 batting average.

5 - Justin Verlander (Detroit Tigers, 1.94): Verlander always turns up in the top 10 on this list year in and year out, but he has some support this season as he is one of three Tigers in the top six. Verlander is 4-2 with a tiny 1.55 ERA and 1.10 WHIP and he has 50 strikeouts against 13 walks in 46.1 innings. Justin is so good that perhaps he is starting to be taken for granted, as his numbers this season are almost to be expected and few people gush over them any more, whereas your average hurler would kill to put up numbers Verlander posts routinely.

6 - Max Scherzer (Detroit Tigers, 1.98): Not only is Scherzer the third member of the Tigers in the top six, but he is also the third one with a FIP below 2.00, so no wonder Detroit was a prohibitive favorite to win the American League Central before the year, especially when you add in their offense. Scherzer had an incredible ratio of 54 strikeouts to nine walks with only three home runs allowed and he just reaching the peak of his career now that he has learned how to harness his control. Expect his already good 3.43 ERA to drop, and he also sports a spiffy 1.04 WHIP.

7 - Clay Buchholz (Boston Red Sox, 2.08): There was recently some controversy involving Buchholz as he was accused of doctoring the baseball with a combination of spray-on sunblock lotion and rosin. And wouldn’t you know it, but in his first start after those accusations were revealed Buchholz had his worst start of the season vs. the Minnesota Twins allowing four runs on seven hits in six innings after allowing two runs or less in each of his first six starts, with all of them wins. He is still 6-0 with a 1.60 ERA and 56 strikeouts vs. 18 walks in 50.2 innings, but let us see how this drama plays out.

8 - Felix Hernandez (Seattle Mariners, 2.14): Hernandez has been one of the best pitchers in baseball for several years now, but it is a shame that he has always pitched for bad teams in Seattle. He is at it again this season as King Felix is 5-2 with a 1.53 ERA and a miniscule 0.90 WHIP with 56 strikeouts and only eight walks in 58.2 innings. Hernandez managed to win a Cy Young Award a few years ago, but just imagine what his record would be and how much more of a household name he would be if he pitched for a title contender.

9 - Derek Holland (Texas Rangers, 2.37): This is the biggest early season stunner in our initial Top 10 this year. Holland has been not much more than a serviceable pitcher in the past, and even this year his record is only 3-2, but he reports home ninth because he has 43 strikeouts against 10 walks in 49.2 innings with just two home runs allowed. He also has six Quality Starts out of seven total starts, resulting in a 2.43 ERA and 1.01 WHIP with the league hitting .222 off of him.

10 -A.J. Burnett (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2.48): Burnett had a great start for the Pirates last season before fizzling out the last couple off months. Well, he is off to another great start in 2013 despite a 3-3 record that is entirely due to a lack of run support, as Burnett has a 2.57 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and opponents are batting only .194 off of him. He has always had the physical tools and that is evident again this year with 66 strikeouts in 49 innings vs. 19 walks. Burnett has always struggled with the mental aspect of things, so it will be interesting to see how he responds to a little adversity.

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