Statistic of the Week: WHIP

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Statistic of the Week: WHIP
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This is a feature I'd like to start here on the blog. I not only want to use this blog for commentary, but also as a place where sports fans can learn.

Part of that learning will be history lessons—telling stories about events that shaped sports and the people that made them what they are today. But it also involves knowing the terminology, and some of the most complicated of those are statistics.

This section will help you understand what someone means when they throw out some seemingly random acronym.

WHIP stands for Walks + Hits per Inning Pitched. It is a simple sabermetric statistic that is used to show how effective a pitcher is at keeping the opposing team off the basepaths. It is measured by adding the number of hits and walks and then dividing that total by the number of innings pitched.

Naturally, the lower this number is, the better the pitcher should be at keeping the bases empty—and after all, if the other team can't reach base, they can't score runs.

The statistic was probably invented by the man who is credited with inventing fantasy baseball: Dan Okrent. Okrent, who designed the game as a way to have fun with friends, created the statistic by using the Strat-O-Matic baseball game and a newspaper. The statistic was originally called IPRAT (Innings Pitched Ratio) and was later renamed WHIP.

Okrent developed the statistic in 1980, and it didn't take long for the stat to become integrated as a useful tool for fans and baseball professionals alike.

The stat, however, is not without its flaws. In the Wall Street Journal article that credits Okrent for creating the statistic, the Director of Baseball Operations for the Tampa Bay Rays, Dan Feinstein, notes the team ignores the statistic when evaluating players. He gives the following explanation in the article for the organization's decision:

“Once a ball is hit, the pitcher has no control over the outcome of the play, with the exception of the home run,” Mr. Feinstein explains. “There are too many factors that determine whether or not that ball will be a hit, including ballpark size and dimension, positioning of the defense and ability of his defenders.”

That said, WHIP is one of the more widely accepted sabermetrics in baseball. While there will never be one single, flawless statistic in sports, in context, there are many useful pieces of data. It is up to us, as humans, to properly apply each statistic properly.

I'll wrap up this post with a list of the leaders in this statistic. Please note that for single-season data, a minimum of one inning pitched per game is required. For career data, a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched is required.

Lowest Single-Season WHIP: 0.7373, Pedro Martinez (2000)
Lowest Career WHIP: 0.9678, Addie Joss (1902-1910)
Lowest Career WHIP (Active): 1.0035, Mariano Rivera (1995-present)

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