Ghost Ride the WHIP
With the postponement of Sunday’s game giving us likely the only consecutive days without Nationals baseball until the All-Star Break, we figured it might be a good time to take stock of the team following the first homestand and point out a few truly ridiculous numbers. For those of you well-versed in your statistics, we’ll make the following disclaimer: small sample size alert. After all, we’re only 16 games into a 162-game season (9.9%), and baseball is all about how trends play out in the long run, not a few handfuls of contests. Nevertheless, the following statistics are rather absurd.
For this discussion, we take a closer look at WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched), a very useful way of determining how effective pitchers are at keeping opponents off the base paths. Since 1901, only 140 pitchers who have qualified for the ERA title have posted a WHIP below 1.00, or an average of 1.25 pitchers per year. Since the year 2000, just 14 have accomplished the feat, three of which came last year (AL MVP/Cy Young Award Winner Justin Verlander – .920, NL Cy Young Award Winner Clayton Kershaw – .977, and Cole Hamels – .986). Needless to say, to be in the company of those select few puts one in rarefied air, among the top pitchers of the generation, if not all time.
Why is this so important? We all know that the Nationals starting pitching has been superb to this point, but for any to notch sub-1.00 WHIP would be quite a feat, something never accomplished by a qualifying starter since the move to Washington in 2005 (Jordan Zimmermann was the closest last season, at 1.15). As it turns out, there are multiple starters out of the five on this year’s staff currently posting sub-1.00 WHIPs. Specifically, there are five of them.
That’s right, each and every one of the Washington Nationals starting five has allowed an average of less than one baserunner per inning. Ross Detwiler, who ranks second in the National League in ERA at 0.54, has the highest (aka, worst) of the lot at a 0.94 mark. Stephen Strasburg (0.92) and Gio Gonzalez (0.91) rank slightly ahead of Detwiler. Meanwhile, Edwin Jackson’s mark of 0.84 is even more eye-popping, and Zimmermann’s 0.71 is downright silly.
For some additional historical perspective, only one pitcher has logged a WHIP of under 0.90 since 1996, which was Pedro Martinez (0.74) in his historic 2000 campaign, widely regarded as the greatest single pitching season in the last generation. That year, Martinez notched a 1.74 ERA and 284 strikeouts in 217.0 innings pitched while throwing four shutouts for the Boston Red Sox, all in the midst of a hitter-dominated era.
Right now, Zimmermann is ahead of even that pace. Again, we are working off a small sample size, one that is hardly projectable for the remaining 90% of the season. Nevertheless, wow.
Last week, Curly W Live readers voted that the starting rotation has been the most impressive component of Washington’s hot start. So, we ask you now: who has been the most impressive starter so far? The best part about this poll: there are no wrong answers.