35 years ago, no one had ever heard of the baseball statistic WHIP. In fact, it was not until the emergence of Rotisserie ("Fantasy") Baseball in 1979, that the statistic was even invented. Daniel Okrent, credited as the father of fantasy baseball, was looking for a way to evaluate pitching performance with greater accuracy than the traditional ERA (Earned Run Average). As Okrent saw it, ERA only told the story of how a pitcher fared in terms of keeping runners from scoring. More relevant, at least for Okrent, was a statistic that illustrated how effective a pitcher was from keeping batters off the base paths. The answer was WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings Pitched).
Okrent's original name for WHIP was IPRAT (Innings Pitched RATio), but somewhere along the line the name was changed. To give you an idea of how the statistic works, consider the following scenarios:
- 1) Chicago Cubs' reliever, Carlos Marmol, enters the game and walks the bases full. He then proceeds to strike out the side, without allowing a run.
In both scenarios, the pitchers kept the opposing teams from scoring, but obviously Kimbrel was more effective in his outing. In terms of earned runs, both performances were equal and would show 0.00 for an ERA calculation. However, when determining WHIP, the story becomes much clearer for someone who only reads the box scores and doesn't watch the game.
- 1) Marmol: 3 walks + 0 hits/1 inning pitched= 3.00
Clearly, Kimbrel's WHIP line is superior to Marmol's, which reflects the two performances more accurately than ERA alone.
That being said, WHIP can actually serve as a predictor for ERA. For example, in evaluating a player, say for fantasy baseball purposes, a pitcher with a high ERA but low WHIP could be considered unlucky. This means that a high percentage of the runners he allows on-base, come around to score. Conversely, a pitcher with a low ERA and a high WHIP, might be considered lucky. Either that or he pitches far more effectively with runners on-base, which could indicate a problem with his windup compared to his stretch technique.
Over the last 30+ years, the popularity of WHIP has grown immensely with the rise of fantasy baseball. In fact, WHIP is one of the five standard pitching statistic used in most 5X5 leagues, along with ERA, Wins, Strikeouts and Saves. Perhaps one of the most intriguing characteristics about WHIP, especially for baseball junkies, is that the statistic can be applied to pitching performances well before the creation of idea, for any player with a record of walks, hits and innings pitched.