WHIP is one of those often-misunderstood baseball statistics that people tend to overlook for that very reason.
From one meaning of the word ‘whip’, you might think that it refers to the way in which the pitcher throws the ball. But in reality it’s far more technical than that. WHIP is derived from an acronym formed from the words ‘walks and hits per inning pitched’.
WHIP measures the number of runners that a pitcher allows to reach their home base by either of the two means of doing so – the already-mentioned walks and hits.
As a result, the lower a pitcher’s WHIP figure, the more successful he is reckoned to have been in a game.
And given that a prime objective of a pitcher is to prevent runners from reaching any of the four bases, their WHIP stat tells you how effective their pitching is. The WHIP figure can also be extrapolated over any number of games, or a whole season, and used to show which pitchers are the most consistent over a period of time. The figure is represented as a ratio (or a percentage).
Errors made by a pitcher’s team-mates in defending his hits are not counted in his WHIP statistics, because they have no relation to the pitcher’s own efforts.
The (Surprising) History of WHIP
Perhaps surprisingly, it’s a relatively new statistic, having only been devised in the late-1970s. Even more surprisingly, it was devised as a measure of the performance of players in a fantasy baseball league. Initially called Innings Pitched Ratio, its inventor, a writer called Daniel Okrent, came up with the idea as one of a number of factors used in scoring and predicting future results in a series of fictional matches.
WHIP is still not considered an official statistic by Major League Baseball, but followers and stats fiends have increasingly used it to assess pitchers and rate their future potential.
How Is A Pitcher’s WHIP Calculated?
It is almost exactly as is suggested by the name – you add together the number of hits and walks that the pitcher has allowed over a season, then divide it by the number of innings in which he has pitched. So as a mathematical formula, it would appear as: (Hits + Walks)/Number of Innings Pitched. These are all readily-available statistics, making it easy for anyone to work out the figure for any pitcher playing in any top league.
The figure is usually presented to two decimal places.
WHIP is a popular statistic among baseball fans because it is quite easy to calculate and needs relatively little data to do so.
What Represents A Good WHIP Figure?
While some statistics in baseball are heavily influenced by the amount of offensive play a team is involved in during a game, WHIP is less heavily influenced by such factors. So a player with a good WHIP figure is generally acknowledged to be a valuable member of his team, and a good performer.
An average WHIP over a season is generally around 1.30. If a pitcher achieves a WHIP of 1.10 or under that is considered excellent. Very occasionally, the figure may be below 1.00 – that would be considered of elite standard.
Any figure of more than 1.50 is considered quite poor.
As pitching is all about trying to prevent the batting team from scoring runs, the pitcher’s WHIP figure is a good measure of his accuracy and ability to prevent the batting team from getting players around the bases and, ultimately, back home.
The best WHIP figure for an individual pitcher over a whole season was achieved in 2000 by Pedro Martinez. Spending most of his near 30-year career with the Boston Red Sox and the New York Mets, Martinez hit the heights in his 2000 Red Sox season with a WHIP of 0.737, consisting of 128 hits and 32 walks in 217 innings pitched.
What Other Factors Affect WHIP?
While the pitcher delivering a good ball in the right place to prevent a hitter from scoring runs is the most obvious factor that counts towards his WHIP, good defensive work by the rest of his team can also help keep his figure low. You can correlate it with cricket, where the fielders’ work in stopping as many runs as possible from being scored also helps the bowler achieve a better average. It could be argued that WHIP doesn’t treat all pitchers even-handedly, because a pitcher who throws the ball particularly hard but isn’t able to control it well might have a higher WHIP stat, as a result of more batters being able to walk off their pitches. But this might not be reflected in their overall statistics, due to them not conceding as many hits.
How Much Does A Pitcher With A Good WHIP Contribute To A Team’s Success?
A baseball team is made up of a set of individuals with a number of unique skillsets, and the key to success is bringing these diverse talents together in a way which works effectively. Figures on pitching success have shown, though, that a strong set of WHIP figures is very often related to a team’s overall success.
A lower WHIP figure by a team’s pitcher usually also shows how dominant his team has been as it clearly shows how effective the pitcher has been in directly preventing opposing teams from building up their number of runners, and so the number which they can get home. Because of the individual factors alluded to above, a good set of WHIP figures can’t be said to guarantee that a team will have a successful season. But in most years, the best team in the NBL (or any other league) will have a pitcher whose WHIP is at least in the top half among his fellow pitchers.