The Bull Pen – fantasy baseball magazines: “I just picked this one up the Borders in Liberty Place in Philly. Haven’t looked at it yet, but I have to say I’m totally annoyed right off the bat. They use hits plus walks per 9 innings instead of per innings pitched, which gives you numbers like 12.45 and 10.79 instead of normal WHIPS like 1.13 or 1.37. Is there any league in America that doesn’t use the regular WHIP? Does Rotoman expect us to keep a calculator in the bathroom to divide all these numbers by 9? Why can’t he just do it for us? If I noticed this before I bought the mag, I might have left it on the shelf.”
My publisher let me know about this post, which developed into a discussion at the always active and frequently useful Rotojunkie.com bulletin boards. I’m not registered and under a bit of deadline pressure, and anyway, I’d like to let more people know about the Fantasy Baseball Guide, so let me throw down the gauntlet here…
WHIP is just plain stupid. It makes no sense. A 3.00 ERA is good. A 3.00 WHIP is bad. Really bad. Yet they stand side by side and they kind of look the same. That confuses me. Basically I can’t think of any justification for using WHIP except that it’s got a cool name, and oh, everyone uses it.
That’s why I’ve always used Ratio in the Fantasy Baseball Guide. This is the sixth issue and every year I include Ratio and most years one or two people asks me about it and I give them the arguments for Ratio.
First off, there is no granularity with WHIP. What is the difference between a 1.22 and a 1.26? .04 baserunners per inning is totally abstracted from our idea of the game. One-third of a baserunner per nine puts that comparison in perspective.
In Ratio there is real difference in the numbers: 13.00 isn’t good. In WHIP the numbers are 1.22 and 1.44. There’s more information in the bigger numbers.
This argument matters, but given the variability of hit rates allowed by pitchers I’m not sure this granularity matters much. But Ratio does make it easier to see what differences there are between players. WHIP makes it harder to see. That’s one reason to prefer Ratio.
The other argument, the totally compelling one for me, is that from a stats sense pitching qualitatives are always measured per 9 innings. How does everybody measure HR allowed? It isn’t by the inning, is it?
How do we measure Run Support? Strikeout rate? Walk rate? Fly balls? Ground Balls? Double Plays? All of them are measured per 9 innings. And Earned Runs, of course. The only one that isn’t measured that way is WHIP. Why?
If you look in the Sports Weekly stats they show H per 9 and BB per 9. To get the WHIP for your fantasy purposes you have to add them together and divide by nine. That’s because the Sports Weekly stats are concocted for baseball fans. If you use ratio you just have to add the two numbers together, what could be easier? (The same is true of the stats at MLB.com, and no doubt elsewhere.)
Next year my boss wants me to change the stats to WHIP, because that’s what everybody uses. I don’t think anyone is stupid for using WHIP, but I think WHIP is lame and everyone would be better served if they used Ratio.
The world isn’t going to change much if we switch over to WHIP in the magazine. If anyone (well, the Publisher, anway) had fought me on this the six years we’ve been publishing The Fantasy Baseball Guide I would have reluctantly changed, because most people use it.
But I think in this case that most people are wrong. So I’m asking everyone to suck it up this year, switch over to Ratio (every stat service has it, most of the leagues I play in use it). It will take you about a week to get used to it. And then we can make this all right in the world.
And if you disagree, if you think there is another good reason to use WHIP, let me know about it. Comment here so others can read it. Or take it over to the discussion board. And thanks for thinking about it. And next week we’ll take on baseball age…