The Cluelessness of WHIP

Tout Wars AL Standings-

For years, in the Fantasy Baseball Guide (which I edit), we ran the pitching stat called Ratio. Every year, people would complain and tell me that in their league they used the pitching stat called WHIP, and ask why we didn’t publish that instead.

For years, I replied that:

1) Ratio (((Hits+Walks)*9)/IP)) is much more descriptive/granular than WHIP ((Hits+Walks)/IP), and that,

2) Ratio looks better, since it’s on the same scale as ERA.

I then usually also note that I used Ratio in the leagues I played in, and if they had a problem they should do the same.

I didn’t win this argument. Many readers said they saw my point, but even if they agreed with me, the other people in their league did not, and so weren’t inclined to change. After a lengthy discussion with such readers a few years ago, I changed the magazine. We now publish WHIP instead of Ratio.

To ease the transition, the first year I included a handy WHIP to Ratio converter to cut out of the magazine, which I assume some people are still using. It featured a bodacious picture of WHIP kitten Anna Benson. Unfortunately, I’ve lost mine.

I bring this up now because I was looking at the Tout Wars AL standings just now and was struck by the WHIP category:

Team WHIP Pts Dif
Siano – 1.32 12 0
Colton/Wolf – RotoWorld 1.34 11 0
Sam Walker – 1.34 10 0
Moyer – Baseball Info Solutions 1.37 9 2.5
Erickson – 1.37 8 -1
Michaels – Creative 1.37 7 0.5
Berry – 1.37 6 -2
Shandler – Baseball HQ 1.37 5 0
Peterson – STATS LLC 1.38 4 0
Collette – 1.38 3 0
Grey – ESPN 1.41 2 0
Sheehan – Baseball Prospectus 1.42 1 0

My first reaction, assessing the three-way race between Siano, Michaels, and Shandler, is that this is unbearably close. After all, there are five teams at 1.37 and two more at 1.38. Siano is safely atop the category, but couldn’t Michaels easily gain two points? Couldn’t Shandler easily gain four?

In both cases, such gains would erase Siano’s lead. And certainly the numbers say it’s that close. It’s a virtual tie, for pete’s sake.

In fact, it’s not, but WHIP isn’t granular enough to tell you that. Here is the same rankings using Ratio.

Team Ratio Pts Dif
Siano – 11.84 12 0
Colton/Wolf – RotoWorld 12.02 11 0
Sam Walker – 12.10 10 0
Moyer – Baseball Info Solutions 12.292 9 2.5
Erickson – 12.294 8 -1
Michaels – Creative 12.312 7 0.5
Berry – 12.330 6 -2
Shandler – Baseball HQ 12.367 5 0
Peterson – STATS LLC 12.387 4 0
Collette – 12.451 3 0
Grey – ESPN 12.65 2 0
Sheehan – Baseball Prospectus 12.75 1 0

I went to the third place among the “tied” teams to show a little more information. To show how much distance there is between these tied teams, here are few facts, looking at Shandler since he’s the last of the teams with a 1.37 WHIP:

If Shandler gets 10 innings with no hits or walks his Ratio drops to 12.263, enough to pass everyone, and his WHIP drops to 1.363.

If Shandler gets 10 innings with 10 hits+walks, a pretty good performance, his ratio drops to 12.338, and he gains no points.

What if Shandler pitches 25 innings the rest of the way, with an excellent Ratio of 9.00 (a WHIP of 1.00) which would be way good, his Ratio would end up at 1.366, which would gain him two points but would still look like 1.37 on the CBSSports reports. His Ratio would drop to 12.297.

The point is that using WHIP, especially displayed to the second place, it looks like there’s a virtual tie, when the reality is that the standings are close, but it would take an extraordinarily good effort for one team to break ahead of the others. Ratio better illustrates this and it provides better and more information, which is why I still think it is a vastly superior stat.

Which is why I think you should change. Let me know when you do.

2 thoughts on “The Cluelessness of WHIP”

  1. The granularity argument sort of collapses IMHO if WHIP is expressed to three decimal places. Which it is almost everywhere I see it. In that case, WHIP has four numerals and one decimal point, same as does Ratio.

    I’m just used to whip, have used it for 25 years. That’s the main reason I’m unlikely to switch. Hmm, though maybe if I did switch it in the league I run, that would give me a tactical advantage?

    The issue always seems to come down to, who should have to convert from the system used in the Guide, those who prefer ratio or those who prefer whip? I wouldn’t make a purchase decision on the issue myself, but I guess there are some folks who would.


  2. You’re right, if it is expressed to three decimal places it is equally granular. It isn’t at CBSsports, which is what got me going on this.

    I changed from Ratio to WHIP in the Guide because people complained, and when I asked about the complaints many others responded saying they used WHIP, regardless of the merits.

    I still think it makes sense to measure on a per/9 basis, like all other pitching stats, like ERA. Nobody shows HR per IP. Baseball Reference shows K per 9 and BB per 9 and H per 9. Sean also shows WHIP, so I guess it’s nice to have the real estate.

    At we show both.

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