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WHIP: The Silent Killer
May 24, 2002

Usually, a good pitcher posts good numbers across the board and a bad pitcher posts bad numbers all the way around.  In some cases, though, ERA and WHIP don't always coincide - sometimes for the good, sometimes for the bad.

In the case of fantasy baseball, WHIP ratio (walks + hits / innings pitched) is the most overlooked category.  Everyone following baseball is familiar with a pitcher's record, his ERA, and even his strikeout total if you own a fantasy team.  Rarely, however, do fantasy owners know a mediocre pitcher's WHIP ratio.  We just assume that a low ERA means and low WHIP and vice versa.  While that probably should be the case, after 2 months, some anomalies can be found.  Logic tells us that the fewer baserunners a pitcher allows, the fewer amount of runs will be scored, given a large sample.  While 2 months is not a long time, here are a few pitchers who might not be helping your team as much as you think:

Steve Trachsel
Trachsel's 3.316 ERA might have helped you so far, but an astonishing WHIP of 1.561 indicates that Steve has been more lucky that good this year.  If you have Trachsel on your team, trade him now and hope that other owners focus more on his ERA than his WHIP.

Hideo Nomo
Nomo provides some benefits for fantasy owners, namely strikeouts and an average win total.  His wildness, however, has always kept his WHIP high.  This year, his ERA is about 1 run lower than his past 3 years and yet his WHIP is actually HIGHER (1.507).  Something has to give.

Ben Sheets and Terry Adams
Almost identical seasons thus far.  Both pitchers have losing records, an ERA around 3.75, and a WHIP of nearly 1.50.  Expect both pitchers to finish with an ERA closer to 4.50.

Juan Cruz
His 1 - 7 record with a 3.776 ERA doesn't quite add up until you look at Cruz's astronomical 1.636 WHIP.  Apparently, Cruz has been able to get himself out of jams, just not enough of them to win ballgames.  Expect his WHIP to drop slightly as a reliever, but don't look for his ERA to improve much.

On the other side of the coin, there are some pitchers out there whose WHIP ratios suggest that they will fare better in the coming months.  Here are just a couple:

Tim Hudson
Hudson's ERA is just over 4.60 but his WHIP is a respectable 1.291.  Given Hudson's past, expect his WHIP to remain the same and his ERA to drop to the high 3's.  Grab him if you can.

Mike Mussina
Everything adds up with Mussina except his ERA.  He strikes out a lot of hitters, has a record of 7 - 2, and only allows a little over 1 baserunner / inning (WHIP=1.05), but Mussina's ERA is 4.418.  Somehow, despite keeping hitters off the basepaths, the few that do reach are finding a way to score.  Mussina's WHIP may not stay as low as 1.05 but his ERA will certainly drop into the mid 3's without changing anything.

Look for May Fantasy Awards in next week's column!