03/16/2004 8:45 AM ET
Behind the numbers: WHIP
To most anyone conducting a fantasy baseball draft now, no consideration of relief pitchers is complete without knowing the player's WHIP. It measures neither saves nor holds, but it is a valuable predictor in determining how well a reliever will fare when placed in that closer or setup situation.
By Mark Newman / MLB.com
It also has become useful in helping a club determine whether a pitcher is worth considering for that role.
WHIP is walks plus hits divided by innings pitched, and it essentially shows baserunners allowed per inning. For example, if a pitcher allows 210 hits and 60 walks in 200 innings, his WHIP is "(210+60)/200" -- or "1.35." This is a very simple but effective formula to calculate a pitcher's ability to limit baserunners, and in some respects is even more important than ERA, because you can have a baserunner but not allow a run, but you can't allow a run without allowing a baserunner.
Therefore, the lower the WHIP, the lower the ERA is likely to be, making it a great indicator of expected performance. The only weakness of WHIP is that hits allowed are
very dependent on a team's defense, so two equal pitchers pitching in front of two very unequal defenses (think Yankees vs. Mariners, defensively) are likely to have quite different WHIPs.
Below is the top 10 for WHIP in 2003 (minimum 50 innings pitched). While it further illustrates Eric Gagne's mind-blowing season that won him a National League Cy Young Award for the Dodgers, it also magnifies other points. The Phillies now have two of the top six WHIP leaders (Wagner and Cormier), and the Mariners have two of the top 10 (and three of the top 11 when you consider Eddie Guardado's 0.98). It also reinforces the dominance in 2003 of Giants right-hander Jason Schmidt, the only starting pitcher to make a list that is dominated by relievers because there is no tiring factor when you come in for typically one inning.
1. Eric Gagne 0.69
2. Rafael Soriano 0.79
3. John Smoltz 0.87
Billy Wagner 0.87
5. Keith Foulke 0.89
6. Rheal Cormier 0.93
7. Jason Schmidt 0.95
8. Julio Mateo 0.96
David Riske 0.96
10. Octavio Dotel 0.97
Mark Newman is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.