Don't Get WHIPped In Your League
May 19, 2004
WHIP ratio, as mentioned in an article on TCO a couple years ago, is the silent killer for fantasy teams, because it's not a stat you see in the box score, nor is it one that fans are familiar with in terms of which pitchers are better than others. The average fantasy baseball owner knows which pitchers are strikeout pitchers and which ones consistently post a good ERA, but very few can recite a pitcher's WHIP ratio (walks + hits / innings pitched). Just because the variance won't differ much between 1.0 to 1.5, even among the best and worst pitchers, is no reason to ignore it. In fact, it's all the more reason to pay close attention. Improve your team's WHIP just 0.05 and you might jump several spots ahead.
Because WHIP ratio deals with runners on base, the common sense approach says that, in the long run, the more runners you allow on base, the worse chance you have of preventing runs, and therefore, maintaining a low ERA. Of course, the opposite holds true as well: keep the runners off base and the ERA should stay low.
Anomalies always occur in the short run, so now is a great chance to look at whose fantasy stats should improve based on their current WHIP ratios.
In 21 innings, Lieber has allowed 19 hits but hasn't walked a batter, keeping his WHIP under 1.00. His ERA, however, is above 5.00, indicating that an inordinate amount of runners are scoring on him. While his WHIP will likely rise slightly, his ERA should plummet to a more normal range around 3.70. Now would be a good chance to snag this pitcher while his ERA is still bloated.
Vazquez, another New York pitcher, is also posting a WHIP under 1.00 (0.923) but his ERA is 4.097. It's doubtful that his owners have given up on him, but with his high strikeout totals as well, trading an overachieving solid player on your squad for him right now would be a good move before his ERA lowers below 4.00.
Williams has good numbers all around (34 Ks in 48 innings, 1.125 WHIP, 3 wins) except in the ERA department (4.500). That won't last long, so acquire him while you can.
A strikeout pitcher who keeps his walks to a minimum, Beckett's ERA is almost at 4.00 despite posting a 1.185 WHIP. His 1 K/inning rate along with the low WHIP make him one of the best fantasy pitchers in either league, so hang on to him if you have him and go get him if you don't - the ERA won't stay that high all year.
Acevedo's 1.254 WHIP isn't exactly stellar, but it doesn't come close to relating to his 5.533 ERA. The WHIP won't hurt you, and the ERA should come way down, so get him while he's cheap.
Yes, he's still pitching, but Moyer is stuck with a 5.290 ERA despite posting a healthy 1.297 WHIP. He'll never be an ace, but at least you know what you'll get, and with Moyer, it will certainly be a pitcher with an ERA much less than 5.00 by season's end.
Unlike the above pitchers who seem to be on the unlucky side of things so far, there are several hurlers out there hanging on to great ERAs despite allowing an unhealthy amount of runners on the basepaths. Here are a few pitchers you might want to avoid or trade while they're hot:
Peavy is starting to get the recognition he deserves as one of the premier young pitchers, but from a fantasy perspective, that miniscule 2.077 ERA will likely rise if he keeps allowing over 1.4 baserunners per inning. Sooner or later, the odds will catch up, so make sure you're not the one paying the price.
Just like Peavy, Ramirez is impressive on the diamond, but his 1.432 WHIP will hurt your fantasy team. Don't expect the 2.250 ERA to be around come August - think mid 3's with a slightly lower WHIP once Ramirez gains more control.
Here is another example of a young pitcher relying on his stuff to get out of jams. The 25 walks and 1.423 WHIP indicate that he's nibbling, and eventually those runners are going to start scoring in bunches, inflating his current 2.956 ERA.
Don't be fooled by the 5-0 record or the 3.316 ERA. Alfonseca is allowing almost 1.5 runners per inning, and that will catch up to him. Don't let it catch up to you!
I'm sensing a theme here: young pitcher, good stuff, some control problems, but the stuff gets them out in the end. It can't last forever. A 1.440 WHIP and a 3.456 ERA don't relate.
To summarize, don't fall in love with the name which looking for or keeping a pitcher. Check out the stats, and pay close attention to the WHIP ration because that will give you the best indication of any future trends.