Monday, March 19, 2012

The New WHIP

By Sean Gagnier

First things first, you may be asking, "what is WHIP and why should I care?" Well Mr. Casual Baseball Fan, WHIP is a more accurate indicator of a pitchers success on the mound than the traditional ERA statistic. Many media outlets, cough ESPN, still pound home the suggested importance of ERA but have begun to include the WHIP in the stats provided for pitchers coming into the game.

Now WHIP is the calculation of a pitchers walks and hits divided by the number of inning pitched. WHIP indicates the effectiveness of a pitcher to limit the number of base runners per inning. Looking at a pitchers WHIP gives a more clear picture of the quality of the pitcher than ERA. ERA is a flawed statistic that factors a pitcher's effectiveness over nine innings, but since pitchers rarely go nine innings the stat is rarely a mirror of how the pitcher will perform. 

Now that you have a grip on the virtual worthlessness of ERA and a basic knowledge of WHIP, forget all of it and check out this new statistic, ABA.

ABA, or average bases allowed, is a stat that is designed to replace WHIP as it addresses some of the flaws that arise in the calculation of WHIP. In a proposed situation the flaws of WHIP become evident - say Pitcher A allows one hit and one walk in two innings. His WHIP is 1.00. Pitcher B allows one hit and one walk in two innings and also has a WHIP of 1.00.

Were these two pitchers equally as effective as their identical WHIP would suggest? Not really. Let's say that Pitcher A allowed a walk and a single while Pitcher B allowed a walk and a home run. Pitcher A has an ERA of 0.00 while Pitcher B has an ERA of 4.50. This imbalance is what prompted the creation of ABA by Ray Flowers.

The formula to calculate ABA is;

ABA = (Total bases allowed + BB / Innings pitched)

In the article in which Flowers describes his creation of ABA he uses the example of Tim Lincecum and Colby Lewis each having an identical 1.21 WHIP.

Lincecum: 111 singles, 48 doubles, two triples, 15 home runs, 86 BB's in 217 IP.
Lewis: 112 singles, 35 doubles, five triples, 35 home runs, 56 BB's in 200.1 IP.

Now both pitchers had a 1.21 WHIP but their total bases allowed are not on par to have the two pitchers be considered equally as effective. Using the ABA formula the true effective pitcher can be determined.

Lincecum: 273 total bases + 86 BB / 217 IP = 1.65 ABA
Lewis: 337 total bases + 56 BB / 200.1 = 1.96 ABA

There is a definite difference between these two pitchers that WHIP does not show, looking at the ABA numbers clearly shows that Lincecum is a much better pitcher than Lewis. The lower the ABA the better, but the average ABA in the league was 1.86 as opposed to an average WHIP of 1.32.

Flowers goes on to create a key to evaluate a pitcher's effectiveness for the ABA stat.

Below 1.50: Elite pitching
1.50-1.70: All-Star pitching
1.71-1.89: Solid pitcher worth a fantasy team spot
1.91-2.10: Barely useful as a fantasy player
2.11+: Use him for batting practice

If you want to read Flowers' entire article on ABA check out his blog at;

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