Head of the Class – Top WHIP Rankings

The time has come to take a look at what the Blue Jays pitchers did in the minor leagues during the 2007 season. In the third of a four-part series, we look at the top performers using a statistic called WHIP (Walks + Hits/Innings pitched).

The ultimate goal for a pitcher is to stop the opposing team from scoring runs. Therefore, the hurler must avoid putting hitters on base. With WHIP, we are able to determine the average number of runners getting on base in an inning.

A good WHIP is anything around 1.00 (going to approx. 1.25) and anything under 1.00 is simply outstanding. When you allow less than a runner on base per inning pitched, you give yourself and your team a great chance to win and avoid the blowouts that become undefeatable.

There are basically two ways to beat a hitter and keep him off base:

- The strike out, which doesn't put the ball into play and reduces the chances of an error by a fielder.

- The fielding out, which is obtained by throwing strikes and is, as we'll analyze next week, much more effective and secure when executed on the ground by infielders.

A handful of top performers can bring both aspects to the mound, like right-handed starter Roy Halladay of the Toronto Blue Jays (1.23 career WHIP), who is able to put away batters by making them swing over his sinkers, cutters or curve balls, but also has the ability to pound the bottom half of the strike zone and make the hitters swing and put the ball into play for his infielders (55 was his ground ball outs percentage in 2007 and 60 GB% in 2006).

Here are some WHIP figures for the Toronto major league club in 2007 and throughout their history:

0.99, 1.11, 1.19, 1.20, 1.22: The leaders in WHIP last season for the Jays pitching staff (Brian Wolfe, Jeremy Accardo, Allan James Burnett, Casey Janssen and a tie between Scott Downs and Dustin McGowan), for pitchers who appeared in at least thirty games.

1.03: single-season record for a Blue Jays pitcher, by Roger Clemens in 1997. Roy Halladay ranks third (2003) and fifth (2006) in that department at 1.07 and 1.10 respectively.

1.03: career WHIP for Tom Henke as a Blue Jay (563 innings pitched), putting him first among career leaders for that statistic for the Toronto franchise. Roy Halladay is currently tied for third with Doyle Alexander (750 innings pitched) his career 1.23 WHIP (1561.7 IP).

1.29: the overall pitching staff WHIP for the 2007 season (1383 hits + 479 walks / 1448.7 innings pitched) and the best since at least 2000: 1.37 (2006), 1.33 (2005), 1.47 (2004), 1.43 (2003), 1.46 (2002), 1.40 (2001) and 1.51 (2000).

That being said, let's see who kept the bases clean last season in the Blue Jays farm system.

Note 1- Rookie and short-season league players have been omitted due to the development-oriented approach found at these levels. Check for the special mentions at the end of this article.

Note 2- To be eligible, a pitcher had to have thrown at least 50 IP in the minor leagues and could have done it between one or more level within the organization. In the level column, the number between brackets represents the number of levels at which he has performed and also presented is the highest level he has visited. MLB numbers are not compiled for this ranking.


Player

Age

Level

WHIP (2007)

BB/9

H/9

K/9

WHIP (2006)

RHP, Adrian Martin

22

 (2) High-A

0.88

0.91

6.98

7.38

1.37

RHP, Jesse Litsch

22

(3) MLB

1.05

2.01

7.45

6.62

1.27

RHP, Lee Gronkiewicz

29

(3) MLB

1.06

1.21

8.37

10.07

1.25

RHP, Jean Machi

24

AA

1.13

2.66

7.54

6.21

1.46

RHP, Seth Overbey

23

(3) AA

1.14

2.33

7.93

6.45

1.09

RHP, Julio Pinto

22

A

1.19

2.38

8.34

9.21

1.21

RHP, Jordan DeJong

28

(3) MLB

1.21

3.49

7.39

10.61

1.20

LHP, A.J. Wideman

22

(2) High-A

1.25

1.96

9.28

5.82

1.58

RHP, Justin James

25

(2) AAA

1.27

2.66

8.80

5.93

1.23

RHP, Paul Phillips

23

(2) High-A

1.27

2.72

8.81

9.45

1.40



WHIP for every affiliate:

- Syracuse Chiefs (AAA): 1.42
- New Hampshire (AA): 1.46
- Dunedin Blue Jays (High-A): 1.38
- Lansing Lugnuts (A): 1.37
- Auburn Doubledays (Short-season A): 1.30
- GCL Blue Jays (Rookie): 1.21
- Dominican Summer League – 1: 1.44
- Dominican Summer League – 2: 1.32
Minor league affiliates WHIP: 1.38

Analysis

Our top pitcher for this week's ranking is right-handed pitcher Adrian Wade Martin, drafted in the 19th round of the 2003 draft (but only signed in 2004 as a non-drafted free agent). He just had a breakout year where he improved on every average mentioned in the table above (BB/9, H/9 and K/9). He started the year with the Lansing Lugnuts (A-ball: 0.83 ERA, 43.1 IP, 35 H, 4 ER, 1 HR, 5 BB, 33 K, 0.92 WHIP) and was a needed presence on the Dunedin Blue Jays pitching staff: 2.56 ERA, 45.2 IP, 34 H, 13 ER, 3 HR, 4 BB, 40 K.

Used mostly out of the bullpen where he posted a fantastic 0.31 earned run average and a .194 average against, he also started nine games last season, including his last six outings. In that starting role, he presented a pitching line of thirty two hits, nine earned runs, one home run, two walks and thirty seven punch outs in forty-four innings pitched.

The Stuart, Fla native is not overpowering, with a fastball that tops at 90 mph, but throws his four pitches (2 and 4- seam fastball, curve, slider and a developing change up) consistently for strikes and knows how to set up hitters and repeat his delivery, making each offering more effective.

The strike-thrower knows that he has to mix up his pitches and sometime exploit the areas outside the strike zone to succeed at higher levels, but doesn't want to give up his aggressive approach that has proven successful since his debut in pro ball in 2004: "I'm a groundball pitcher, and if I can get a guy out in two or three pitches or even less, that's what I want to do. I've been with Tom [Lansing pitching coach] for a few years now and the game plan with him is to execute one quality pitch at a time."

RHP, Lee Gronkiewicz: The Gronk finally got a taste of the big leagues last season after starting the season in Double-A. That followed his most difficult campaign in Syracuse (AAA) where he saved only seventeen games and allowed more hits than innings pitched for the first time in his pro career, although one bad week during the season proved costly with the end of season totals. The demotion seemed to ignite the 29-year-old, who fanned thirty-seven batters in thirty innings while walking only four. After posting a 2.25 ERA in four innings pitched in the majors, he was demoted to Triple-A and continued his great performance with a 0.99 WHIP in more than forty-four innings. The California native has the stuff to survive at the major league level and will need to be dominant with his fastball that tops at 91 mph and his splitter that he incorporated as his out pitch after eliminating his change-up. He also throws a curve, slider and a cutter that keep hitters guessing. He can use his repertoire to his advantage, considering that relievers usually master one or two pitches.

LHP, A.J. Wideman: After starting the season in Lansing (A), where he had been playing the two previous seasons and put up ordinary numbers, the Jays challenged the Canadian with a promotion to Dunedin (High-A) and everything seemed to fall into place. While he didn't strike out hitters at the same pace he had done so far in his pro career (5.61 K/9 compared to a 7.05 K/9 average), his control and fastball-change-up combination improved to the point where he was the ace of the Dunedin pitching staff and came back on the prospect radar. The 11th round pick of the 2003 draft will have to keep the ball down in the zone to reduce the number of home runs he gives up and rely more on his infield defense to execute outs.

Special Mentions

RHP, Jimmy Dougher: The 6'7' right-hander established himself as a prospect to follow closely, in his first visit through pro ball. He would have ranked second in the WHIP ranking (0.90) if the GCL (rookie level) had been allowed. His 1.56 ERA and 51 strike outs in 52 innings were enough for him to be called to Lansing for a playoff outing. Unfortunately, Dougher suffered his first discomfort since he became serious about playing pro and had to be taken out of the game. He will be perfectly fine to begin the 2008 season. His height give him a great downward plane that is perfect to induce hitters into hitting ground balls (1.59 ground outs/all outs ratio) and his new pitch, a knuckle-curve, should help him in Lansing next season.

LHP, Brett Cecil: Scout doubted how he would respond to a move into the starting rotation, but the numbers seem to be a good enough answer: 49.2 IP, 36 H, 7 ER, 1 HR, 11 BB, 56 K, 1.27 ERA, 2.18 Go/Ao and 0.95 WHIP. He has a great mound presence to compliment his arsenal: low-90s fastball (2-seam and 4-seam), a good curve, slider and a splitter. Right-handed batters seemed to be completely dumbfounded by his off-speed offerings, posting a modest .188 average against. The 2007 first rounder seemed to have trouble keeping his velocity up when going deep into games, but still used his breaking pitches and excellent command to defy opposing batters. Look for him to be a good number two or three starter down the line.

LHP, Marc Rzepczynski: Even though scouts are not completely sold on the Yorba Linda, CA native, mainly because of the lack of movement on his pitches, his first taste at the pro level seemed to go perfectly, especially when inserted as a starter (2.29 ERA and a .194 average against). He had games of over ten strike outs recorded and allowed only thirty-three hits in forty-five innings pitched.

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