Bullets’ pitching staff WHIPping the Centennial Conference, Analysis of pitching rotation sheds light on Gettysburg College’s depth and strength
Jason Heath, Contributing Writer
Two common aphorisms in the baseball community are that “good pitching always beats good hitting” and that “pitching wins championships.” With these thoughts in mind, Gettysburg College has good reason to be optimistic this season. They currently possess the lowest earned run average (ERA) in the Centennial Conference and are second in strikeouts per game.
While terms such as “strikeout” have garnered enough popularity to become incorporated into every day conversation and most common baseballs fans are familiar with ERA, one more obscure statistic used to measure a pitcher’s efficiency is walks and hits per inning pitched, or WHIP.
As the name suggests, WHIP is calculated by adding up the walks and hits a pitcher has allowed and dividing that sum by the amount of innings he has pitched. Although less popular than other statistics, WHIP is useful if one knows how to use it.
One of the best uses of WHIP is for analysis of luck. If Pitcher A has a lower ERA than Pitcher B but Pitcher B has a significantly lower WHIP than Pitcher A, it is likely that Pitcher A is getting luckier than Pitcher B. Although Pitcher A is allowing more base runners than Pitcher B, fewer of A’s base runners are coming across to score. Hence, it is likely that Pitcher B’s base runners just happen to get on base in bunches, while Pitcher A’s runners are more spread out over the course of games.
Pitching with runners on base certainly has some skill involved; the fact that certain pitchers are better than others at getting out of jams is not pure chance. Therefore, WHIP cannot be used as a perfect measure of luck.
It can be an excellent measure of sustainability. All of the base runners allowed by a pitcher with a high WHIP but low ERA are bound to catch up with him, and his ERA, eventually. Likewise, if a pitcher has a relatively high ERA but low WHIP, it is probable that the pitcher has had some misfortune but that his ERA has some good karma coming for it.
All of that being said, it is no fluke that Gettysburg’s arms rank first in the Centennial Conference in ERA. The Bullets also boast the top WHIP in the conference, which is at a superb 1.21. To put that into context, the Chicago Cubs had the MLB’s lowest WHIP at 1.15 in 2015 and the Colorado Rockies had the highest at 1.51.
In the Centennial Conference this season, the next lowest WHIP is 1.38, belonging to McDaniel College. The highest WHIP in the conference is that of the Muhlenberg Mules at 1.65.
An additional benefit of WHIP is that it directly takes into account walks surrendered, unlike most common pitching statistics. Limitation of bases on balls can sometimes go unnoticed to the common fan, but as junior pitcher Rich Power puts it, “Limiting walks is definitely every pitcher’s goal.” In this regard, Gettysburg has been excellent. On average, they give up only two free passes per game.
Power, who has averaged just one walk surrendered per start and has not walked a batter over his last two outings, attributed much of the pitching staff’s success to “simply throwing strikes,” a fundamental which often gets lost in the world of blazing fastballs and biting breaking balls.
In addition to pounding the strike zone, Power accredited the staff’s success to its competitive nature and depth: “We are a very competitive group of guys who push each other a lot in practice….Everyone on the staff has the ability to go out and there and shut the opponent down.”
Statistically, Power has seen the most success among Bullets pitchers this season. The southpaw is 3-0 in his three starts, including two complete games, one of which was a shutout against Rivier during the team’s spring break trip to Florida. His ERA and WHIP both rest at a remarkable 0.90, and he strikes out about a batter per inning on average. He has a Centennial Conference Pitcher of the Week award to show for his performance. His key to success this season? Focus.
“My mindset on the mound is just to focus on the batter,” he said. “I try not to worry about who’s on deck or on base or what the batter has already done. I just like to focus on the present.” When it comes to his success in limiting walks, Power also accredited concentration. “I try not to take my eyes off the pocket of the catcher’s glove and have had some success with it so far,” he told the Gettysburgian.
It is said that numbers never lie, and the numbers clearly show that the Bullets’ pitching staff is the best in the Centennial Conference this season. Although Power is just focusing on the present, Gettysburg’s low WHIP indicates that there is more excellence on deck for the Bullets pitching staff.
If pitching really does win championships, Gettysburg could be in store for a special season.