Statistical Analysis: Top MLB Pitchers

Updated: 5 days ago

A baseball pitcher is arguably the most important defensive player on a baseball team. The pitcher is involved in every play and, at the high level of the MLB, pitchers must display incredible accuracy over the ball in order to maintain control of the game - one wrong pitch could lose the game. In this article, we will use the Tactician’s created metric to measure the pitcher's accuracy and effectiveness to determine the top 10 pitchers currently in the league.

Key Terms

  • FIP: Fielding Independent Pitching

  • FIP is a pitching statistic that takes into account a pitcher’s strikes, walks, batter’s hit and home runs given up. The stat significantly removes defensive fielding factors not controlled by the pitcher in order to get the true picture of the pitcher’s effectiveness.

  • The formula for calculating this statistic is (13*HR+3*(HBP+BB)-2*K)/IP + C where HR is home runs allowed, HBP is hit-by-pitches allowed, BB is walks allowed, K is strikeouts, IP is innings pitched, and C is the league FIP constant.

  • WHIP: Walks And Hits Per Inning Pitched

  • WHIP is a pitching statistic that evaluates pitcher performance by calculating how good the pitcher is at keeping opponents off the bases.

  • The formula for calculating this static is the number of pitcher's walks and hits allowed added together, divided by his total innings pitched.

  • xERA: Expected Weighted On-Base Average

  • xERA is a pitching statistic that compares a pitcher’s actual ERA - a stat that tells how many runs the pitcher allowed - to his performance. It helps determine how the pitcher will perform in upcoming games.

  • The formula for calculating this statistic is ((.575 x H/9) + (.94 x HR/9) + (.28 x BB/9) – (.01 x K/9) – Normalizing Factor) where H is hits allowed, HR is home runs allowed, BB is walks allowed, K is strikeouts, and the Normalizing Factor is a number determined by the league during that year - usually .270-.285 range.

Player Selection: Which Players should be Considered?

Pitchers are an extremely important, basically essential, part of the game of baseball. Teams keep an array of pitchers on their team to be prepared for all game situations - whether one pitcher is having a bad day, the other team has figured a pitcher out and is hitting off of him, some pitchers have injuries etc. Teams on average have 12 pitchers, 5 starting pitchers, and 7 relief pitchers. With 30 professional MLB teams, that’s approximately 360 pitchers in the MLB! So how can we determine the best?

We will start off with player yearly salary. Pitchers who make more money have proven themselves in the past as pivotal to a team and as reliable, productive players. So, to narrow the list of players to analyze, The Tactician determined the pool of pitchers to look at by taking the top 25 from the highest-paid MLB pitchers for the year 2020.

After selecting the top 25 highest paid MLB pitchers, the statistics for FIP, WHIP, and xERA were gathered for each player from both the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The data from both seasons were averaged to get a clearer, more accurate picture of the pitcher’s capabilities and performance. For players who did not play in either 2019 only the 2020 data was used and vice versa.

The Tactician's Metric: FIP (Avg. of 2019 & 2020 Stat) + WHIP (Avg. of 2019 & 2020 Stat) + xERA (Avg. of 2019 & 2020 Stat)

Why These Statistics?

  1. FIP is the perfect statistic for determining the top 10 overall pitchers as it measures each pitcher's individual performance and impacts. The statistic takes into account strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs which are all one hundred percent controlled by the pitcher. If the pitcher performs well, it is reflected in the stat, and if the pitcher doesn’t do as well, it is reflected in the stat as well.

  2. WHIP is another great statistic as it shows how the batter does against opponent batters. Pitchers must be able to minimize the number of batters on base and this statistic shows just that. The more effective the player, the lower the WHIP will be.

  3. xERA helps to verify and confirm pitcher statistics and to see their expected performance. It is extremely helpful when looking at a pitcher and to see whether they actually have given up runs or whether the runs scored when they pitched were due to errors or unlucky circumstances.

By adding FIP, WHIP, and xERA, an all-rounded image of how each performs and how good they are can be seen. This created metric is intended to pinpoint each strength pitchers should have and to create one statistic that shows the most productive/successful pitchers.

The interactive chart above shows the complete breakdown of all statistics used for the analysis. The line graph shows the value of The Tactician's created metric.

Using the Metric: Player Rank

From the previous breakdown, we can now look solely at the metric and rank the players based on it. The pitching statistics measure how many times the pitcher allowed the opponent to produce, so thus a lower number is better - it indicated the pitcher was able to stop the batter. A lower statistic means better performance when pitching so the metric calculation of each player has been ranked in ascending order.

From this ranking, we can now determine the Top 10 most effective and productive MLB pitchers.

The Tactician's Top 10 Pitchers are:

Let's take a look at some of the nastiest pitches of our top 10!

Using the data from the 2019 and 2020 MLB season, the Tactician’s metric has been able to identify the top 10 pitchers in the league through an analysis of FIP, WHIP, and xERA. Be sure to look out for these players starting April 1st on Opening Day!

Contributors: Brandon Conoley, Eamon Bedford-Panori

Photo Credits:, BleacherReport, Twitter

**No copyright infringement is intended**

**The Tactician Refrains from monetizing the infringing content**

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