For those who don’t know, WHIP measures how many base runners a pitcher allows in a given inning. It’s calculated by adding together walks and hits and dividing that number by innings pitched. A 1.00 WHIP is excellent, a 1.10 is great, a 1.25 is above average and a 1.30 is average. Here is a prediction of the top ten pitchers in WHIP for the upcoming 2014 MLB season.
Top 10 Starting Pitchers for WHIP in 2014
Clayton Kershaw is hands-down the best pitcher in the league, and one of only four players to have a WHIP under 1.00 last year. In fact, he’s had a WHIP under 1.00 in two of five seasons so far in his young career, and his career WHIP is a sparkling 1.09. There’s no reason to believe Clayton Kershaw won’t continue to produce similar numbers again this season.
Last year, Stephen Strasburg ranked #8 on the list of top WHIP finishers. Remember, however, that he was still recovering from Tommy John surgery from the previous season, and he dealt with bone spurs towards the end of the year, which eventually required further surgery. Still, he pitched 183 innings. 2014 will be a big year for Strasburg, and the pressure will be on him either to jump up to Clayton Kershaw’s level or continue to be considered a tier below. Since the Nationals should be competitive this year with the addition of Doug Fister, I am fully expecting Strasburg to pitch more aggressively and continue to build on last season's successes.
3. Chris Sale
Against all odds and criticisms of his erratic delivery, Chris Sale has done just that: delivered. Each of his four years in the league (two as a starting pitcher) his WHIP has been under 1.13; there is no reason to expect otherwise in 2014.
Last season, Adam Wainwright proved that he'd officially recovered from his Tommy John surgery, by posting a 2.94 ERA with a 1.068 WHIP. While his 2012 season was a little shaky, its hard not to think his surgery had something to do with it. It seems like Wainwright shook off the rust in 2013 and will look to improve upon his numbers in 2014. The Cardinals are always in contention, and Wainwright is a known competitor.
5. Yu Darvish
With only two seasons under his belt, Yu Darvish is difficult to figure out. In his first season, he posted a 1.28 WHIP, while last season, as we all know, he posted a dominant 1.08 WHIP. The question is: with such a small sample size, which season represents the real Yu Darvish? Its unlikely that Darvish will repeat his 2013 numbers, but he may post similar numbers. He is still adjusting to U.S. baseball. Even though he did lower his walk rate and raise his strikeout rate in his second year, it will be difficult to have a much better season, so look for similar (though perhaps not quite so impressive) WHIP numbers.
Hiroki Kuroda may not have the strikeout power that others on this list have, but Kuroda has top-of-the-line stuff, and he seems to be getting better with age. Although he finished with a 1.16 WHIP in 2013, there was a big discrepancy between his first half (1.05) and his second half (1.32). Furthermore, his BABIP was very high compared to his career average BABIP during the second half of the season. What this means to me is that he was very unlucky in the second half of 2013, and we can reasonably expect his 2014 WHIP to be in the range of 1.09-1.11.
7. Cole Hamels
Cole Hamels is another guy who is just so consistent that he just has to make the list. He has posted a one-point-oh-something WHIP for each of the past four years, and has done so six times in eight professional seasons. Pencil him in for another great season.
Don’t expect another 1.03 WHIP next season, but Madison Bumgarner has been consistently dominat enough to post a WHIP somewhere between 1.10 and 1.19. His last season metrics look a little flukey, highlighted by an opposing player batting average of .199 and a spike in walk rate, so expect his WHIP to increase as his other numbers regress to the mean.
9. Jered Weaver
For the past four years, Jered Weaver hasn’t had a WHIP above 1.14. Even though he seems to fly under the radar at times, he is as close to a sure thing as you can get, aside from Clayton Kershaw. Weaver might not be the most dominant pitcher on this list, but year-in and year-out he posts great control numbers and a very solid WHIP.
10. Felix Hernandez
Everyone knows Felix Hernandez is a bona fide ace. That said, he is streaky, and his WHIP fluctuates a bit from year to year and even from month to month. Just two years ago, he posted a 1.22 WHIP, and has even gone as high as 1.3. Still, odds are that he has another great season, especially if the Mariners are actually in contention this year.
Big Names Who Didn’t Make The List:
Max Scherzer probably had a career year, and wont repeat; I think it was a mistake to take a one-year deal. David Price is streaky to a fault-- I’m predicting a poor 2014. Anibal Sanchez had a great year last year, but it's been his only really good season. Justin Verlander may be past his prime and has struggled mightily the past two seasons.
Sleepers Who May Make The List by Season's End: