WHIP It Bad!

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…

10 thoughts on “WHIP It Bad!”

  1. I have to admit, we’ve always used WHIP, and that history lets me read the WHIP numbers just fine. (We usually go to three digits, which addresses the granularity argument.) I think it’s just what you’re used to. That said, I don’t have any trouble (okay, more than a little trouble) converting ratio to WHIP: 9.9 is 1.1, 10.8 os 1.2, 11.7 is 1.3, etc.

    I think it’s a tempest in a teapot, personally. I think the vast majority of your readers have just come to grips with the different systems.

  2. I think you should use the stat that most of your readers want and use. Regardless of your arguments that leagues should do away with WHIP, that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Your magazine should be user-friendly to your readers, and using ratio instead of WHIP isn’t doing that.

  3. My only question, Tim, is why you’d rather use a less informative measurement than a more informative one?

    Otherwise, you’re right. Our goal is to serve our customers. But as someone who knows about this stuff I have a hard time serving up inferior information.

    So I’d like to hear an argument why I should change that isn’t based on Market Expectations (because we’re going to change to meet them next year unless a whole lot of you climb on board now).

  4. Peter,

    For one thing, I just don’t agree with this assessment: “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.”

    You might think that WHIP is not an adequate measure of ability, but using the argument that it’s confusing because it appears next to ERA doesn’t make much sense to me. I have no problems distinguishing between the two. Using your arguments, you could say that HR and RBI are equally confusing, since some guys hit 50 HR and some guys have 50 RBI in a season. Is that confusing as well? I certainly hope not. To me, it doesn’t take much effort to distinguish between a 3.00 ERA and a 3.00 WHIP (especially since you’ll never see those two numbers next to each other for the same pitcher).

    As for your question about why I’d rather use a less informative measurement than a more informative one, it’s simple enough. It’s what everyone in my league is familiar with, and it’s not worth going through the trouble of making a change.

    I’m glad to hear your publication is changing to WHIP next year. If it used WHIP this year, I might have bought it.

  5. Tim,
    Aside from whether it is desireable or not to express baserunners allowed as ratio or WHIP and I appreciate convenience of having WHIP if that is what you or your league are used to, but in all honesty, doesn’t it seem somewhat short sighted to make your decision whether to get insight and analysis based on whether a number is expressed as br/9ip as opposed to br/ip – instead of making that analysis based on the quality of analysis that the book contains?

    I mean, there isn’t one publication out there that I don’t object to some aspect of their presentation or editorial choices, but I sure would save some money if I threw out all of them (and all the ideas contained therein) based on such things. And beside that, if I thought ratio was more descriptive than WHIP (although I think your point about the 3 vs 3 is well taken), or vice versa, I’d almost want to have that info if it gave me an edge on my league mates who refused to consider the new (or in this case the old) technology.


  6. Steve,

    The reason I usually buy a fantasy magazine isn’t for analysis. I have other resources for that. One of the main things I use a fantasy magazine for is quick reference to statistics. Thus, if a magazine doesn’t give me the stats I want, I’ll find one that does.

    So, when at the newsstand the other day I had the option to buy either the Fantasy Baseball Guide or the Sporting News’ fantasy publication, I chose the Sporting News because it gave me the stats I use in my league. That’s all I’m saying.

  7. Interesting, I always thought it was the other way around these days with the internet set up the way it is and there being so many sources for the basic stats (a free place like Baseball References has more complete career stats and all kinds of ways to slice and dice, Baseball Cube and TSN.CA have minor league stats….all free and pretty speedy). Of course I tend to use Lee Sinins encyclopedia for the basic stats and ratios of one sort or another too.

    Not that I am criticizing, whatever works for you. I almost never pay much attention to anything but the analysis (and any special numbers a book or mag might have).

    I appreciate the response.


  8. Well, when I’m talking to friends on the phone about baseball, it’s much easier for me to grab a magazine than it is to pull up a web page. And I use the web SO much for other stuff that I get sick of it. Sometimes I just prefer a hard copy.

  9. Hi! I just inherited a keeper league – 5X5. We are allowed to keep 4 players – the only ones worth considering are: Todd Helton, Tim Hudson, Jorge Posada, Jim Edmonds, Bret Boone and Chipper Jones

    I was also offered Carlos Delgado for my 3rd round pick.

    I was thinking of keeping Helton, Hudson, Edmonds and maybe one of the other 3. The other option was to trade for Delgado, since the 3rd round pick is effectively the 72nd-84th pick overall and then keep Delgado and play him as my DH (it’s 1 player at each position, and 1 DH).

    Can you guys please help me? I need to make my decision soon. Also, while I get to keep 4 players this season, I get to keep 6 players next season….

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