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Why Not SWIP?
by Ray Flowers
June 9, 2004

PART I – STARTING PITCHERS 
 
Why do people fall all over themselves championing WHIP? This question is one that only would make sense to those of us who try our hand at fantasy baseball since other people looking at that term may think we were talking about Miracle Whip. Those of use who do play fantasy baseball mindlessly pour over factiods and stats in order to help us to draft the best team we can in order to drive our friends self-esteem into the ground. But do we ever pause to think if the stats we use to determine which players are successful are truly accurate predictors of that success? 

WHIP, a “roto-geek” stat that has become all the rage in the past ten years (you measure WHIP by adding Walks and Hits and dividing by Innings Pitched). Of course this is a valuable stat and it can be one of many predictive tools one uses to forecast the success of a pitcher. But we believe that the vagaries of hits allowed (a ball lost in the sun, a wind gust, a misstep by a fielder, coaches positioning of players) can possible offer a “false” positive in terms or a pitchers overall effectiveness.  

How do we remedy this situation? We propose a new stat, one we call SWIP.

What does SWIP stand for? 

S- Strikeouts
W- Walks
IP- Innings Pitched  

Why SWIP? If you don’t let a guy hit the ball, or give him a free-pass, he can’t score (there are 7 ways to reach first base; hit, walk, HBP, fielders choice, catchers interference, dropped third strike and errors, but since WHIP only counts 2 categories [hits and walks], we limited SWIP to two categories as well). Therefore you are probably a “better” pitcher if you don’t let batters put the ball in play because you are less susceptible to be negatively influenced by the performance of others (for a full overview of SWIP, see: WHIP or SWIP). Make sense? 

As to how to actually figure out SWIP, here’s a brief example. 

Matt Clement in 2003 had 171 K, 79 BB, and 201.2 IP.

To figure his SWIP for 2003 we do the following calculations:

171K - 79BB= 92
92 / 201.67 IP = .456 SWIP

The HIGHER the SWIP, the more effectively the pitcher presumably performed. We say presumably because SWIP, like any other tool, is but one measure of the effectiveness of a ballplayer. This system is also more biased toward power pitchers as it places a greater emphasis on K’s (Tim Hudson scores a rather poor .42 SWIP last year, but by almost all other statistical measurements had a very successful year, so the system is not full proof). But it stands to reason, does it not, that the fewer times a batter puts the ball in play the fewer hits he can accumulate? Therefore the pitcher who successfully limits the amount of balls in play stands a greater chance of given up fewer baserunners, and by inference, fewer runs. 

Let’s take a look at some of the best pitchers over the last three years in the following chart by listing each pitcher by his composite WHIP for 2001-2003.

*** The average WHIP of the past three years is 1.38. 

WHIP WHIP

Pedro

0.97

Vazquez

1.15

Schilling

1.03

Mulder

1.16

R.Johnson

1.08

Zito

1.18

Mussina

1.11

Hudson

1.18

Prior

1.13

Brown

1.19

Halladay

1.13

Wood

1.23

Oswalt

1.14

Millwood

1.23

Schmidt

1.14

Clemens

1.25

Maddux

1.14

Morris

1.25

Moyer

1.14

Colon

1.27

 

This is a fairly standard list of some of the best pitchers of our generation. But how does this same list of pitchers look if we list them by their SWIP for 2001-2003?

***The average SWIP of the past three years is 0.36. 

Column A SWIP Column B SWIP

R.Johnson

1.06

Brown

.589

Schilling

1.02

Halladay

.572

Pedro

.987

Morris

.533

Prior

.927

Maddux

.476

Mussina

.700

Mulder

.472

Vazquez

.698

Millwood

.461

Oswalt

.687

Zito

.426

Wood

.686

Colon

.424

Schmidt

.674

Hudson

.422

Clemens

.657

Moyer

.359

 

The same three pitchers man the top 3 spots in both lists, but after that there is a bit of movement in the list.

If SWIP can be viewed as a useful tool it should be seen as having some predictive value. According to this list of top 20 pitchers, one would think that the pitchers in the left column (column A) would be performing at a higher level than those on the right (as evidenced by their higher SWIP). Is that true for 2004 (stats as of June 9, 2004)? 

Column A Win Loss ERA

R.Johnson

8

4

2.75

Schilling

7

3

3.07

Pedro

6

3

3.98

Prior

0

0

0.00

Mussina

7

4

3.54

Vazquez

7

4

3.54

Oswalt

4

4

3.42

Wood

3

3

2.82

Schmidt

7

2

2.61

Clemens

9

0

2.08

 

Column B Win Loss ERA

Brown

7

1

3.89

Halladay

5

4

3.58

Morris

5

5

4.06

Maddux

5

4

4.13

Mulder

7

2

2.93

Millwood

4

4

4.85

Zito

4

3

4.74

Colon

4

4

6.00

Hudson

6

2

2.92

Moyer

4

2

4.14

Totals

Column A: 58 Wins, 27 Loses, 3.03 ERA.
Column B: 51 Wins, 31 Loses, 4.07 ERA. 

So perhaps we are onto something with SWIP as our hypothesis is proved to be true in this limited sample.  

PART II – RELIEF PITCHERS 

Here are the 2001-03 SWIP Leaders among relief pitchers with a minimum of 150 IP.
(For a full review of relief pitchers and SWIP see: SWIP).  

  SWIP   SWIP

Gagne

.945

Embree

.749

Wagner

.925

Percival

.741

Gordon

.883

Remlinger

.731

Rhodes

.882

Guardado

.711

Dotel

.881

Nelson

.697

Smoltz

.849

Isringhausen

.694

Urbina

.800

Borowski

.682

Rivera

.780

Riske

.672

Farnsworth

.761

Witasick

.637

Marte

.760

Foulke

.632

 

Yet again Mr. Gagne tops the list, but there are a few surprise names here. Looks like the Yankees might have made a great move in signing Tom Gordon, and the A’s and Astros were wise to move Rhodes and Dotel into the closers role.  

Other surprising names: 

Farnsworth- should he be the closer now that Borowski is hurt over LaTroy Hawkins? Or perhaps, the closer should be the number 13 man on the list who is now healthy in Remlinger?

Marte- the closer in White Sox land over the struggling Billy Koch?

Riske- maybe he can overcome his early season woes if given the chance.

Witasick- what the heck is he doing on this list? 
 
CONCLUSION 

So in the final analysis, well at least for this article, we feel that SWIP is a useful tool that should be part of your toolbox of fantasy baseball resources. Is it going to allow you to win your fantasy league with no other work on your behalf? Of course not. But if you employ SWIP as one of your tools that you use to build the foundation of your team, one day you just might get that home built and be sitting there in front of your fireplace with a trophy on your mantle.  


***FOR COMPLETE LIST OF THE 2001-2003 SWIP LEADERS SEE:

http://wildpitch.blogspot.com/2004/06/swip2001-2003-totals_09.html 

 

Ray Flowers can be reached with comments/questions or suggestions at: ray@athomeplate.com

You can also visit Rays’ blog at http://wildpitch.blogspot.com/ for a full review of all of his recent articles.


 


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