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WHIP it! WHIP it real good!

WHIP is a stat meant to measure how many baserunners a pitcher allows per inning. The acronym stands for Walks and Hits per Inning Pitched, and as you may have guessed is calculated by adding the total number of walks and hits a pitcher allowed divided by the number of innings he pitched. Formulaically, it is nice and simple: (BB +H)/IP.

But just like the video above, there are some issues with this stat. First of all it is not necessarily a good measure of a pitcher’s effectiveness for a variety of reasons:

  • A low WHIP composed of many home runs or extra base hits is worse than a higher WHIP made up of only singles and walks.
  • The distribution of the baserunners is important. You can throw a shutout if you only allow one baserunner to reach each inning but if you allow nine runners on base one inning and nothing the rest of the game, you’re likely to be pitching in a losing cause.
  • A pitcher with a high WHIP who is good at inducing groundballs for potential double plays and gets a lot of strikeouts may have more success than a low strikeout, flyball pitcher with a lower WHIP.

But that’s ok. Nobody has ever suggested that should be the one and only number to use to judge a pitcher. Just like you wouldn’t base how good an offensive performer a hitter is based solely on his batting average (please!), WHIP is just one of many numbers you can look at to judge a pitcher – along with many others including his strikeout rate, FIP, KK:B ratio, and of course the all-important WIN stat (If you don’t know I’m being sarcastic with that last one, well… you’re probably not my intended audience anyways).  And I will concede, that all other things being equal, the lower the WHIP the better.

Unfortunately, it does NOT accurately measure what it purports to measure – how many runners on average reach base each inning due to the pitcher’s fault (i.e., ignoring runners who reached on error).  This is because it is missing a couple of other pitcher related ways that runners get on base. Namely hit batsmen, and reaching on an uncaught third strike wild pitch (U3K-WP) (as opposed to uncaught third strike passed balls which are not the pitcher’s fault).

Now, both of these are infrequent enough that they generally won’t make a huge difference to the WHIP.  But it does make a small difference and so I propose this stat be renamed to RIP or BRIP (BaseRunners allowed per Inning Pitched) and include these additions.

For example, the White Sox Chris Sale has 210.2 IP and has allowed 170 hits and 44 walks, for a WHIP of 1.02. Manashiro Tanaka of the Yankees has given up 172 hits and 34 walks in 193.2 innings for a WHIP of 1.06.  But Sale has hit 13 batters to Tanaka’s 3.  Including those numbers in would give both pitchers an identical BRIP of 1.08.  (I have not included the U3K/WP as I can’t find a source of those – and I’m not 100% sold on the necessity of these, because unlike hit batters which generally have the same pitchers on the leaderboards every year, these are much more of a fluke- except maybe for knuckleballers – and are much more infrequent than hit batters).

So, what do you think? Instead of WHIP, should Baseball Reference, Fangraphs et al, include this BRIP stat instead?  Again, it doesn’t necessarily measure how good a pitcher is, but if you want a gauge of base runners allowed, I believe this is an improvement over WHIP.

Leave your thoughts in the comments below, or hit me up on twitter @baseballruben




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