pitching stats

Pitching Stats Explained: A Simple Guide To 13 Key Metrics

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pitching stats

In the game of baseball, pitching stats are arguably the most important measuring stick for how a player is performing. The team’s wins and losses count for something, but individual statistics are what most people focus on when comparing players. They are the basis of salary negotiations and often what people look at on a baseball card. Stats for pitchers are some of the baseball stats that people pay the closest attention to, and understanding the pitching stats meaning can greatly enhance one’s appreciation of the game.

In the Major Leagues, pitchers today can throw at least 90 MPH. Hitters know that and can prepare for it. Pitching has changed over the years and pitching stats have changed as well. It doesn’t matter if you have the best changeup or slider in the league. It’s all about how pitchers utilize their pitches and what results come from each at-bat.

What are the abbreviations for pitching stats? We’ll break down all of the important stats and help you become a more knowledgeable baseball fan.

Common Pitching Stats Explained

There are many different pitching statistics that can be used to measure a pitcher’s performance. Here are some of the basic baseball stats that each pitcher is going to compile during a game and season.

Base On Balls (BB)

If you’re wondering, “What is a bb in baseball”, it stands for base on balls. Most people just say the term “walk.” A BB is how you would write a walk in a baseball scorebook. This total will also include any intentional walks issued by the pitcher.

Strikeout (K)

A strikeout is recorded as “K” on a scorecard. A strikeout in baseball occurs when a pitcher throws three swing-and-miss or called strikes to a batter during his at-bat. If a pitcher strikes someone out on a called third strike, it is marked as a backward K in the scorebook. A pitcher who compiles a lot of strikeouts is very valuable for a team.

Earned Run Average (ERA)

To calculate the earned run average, divide the number of earned runs a pitcher allowed by the number of innings pitched. Then you take that number and multiply it by nine since there are nine innings in a game. Pitching ERA is thought of a bit differently for starting pitchers versus relief pitchers because starters typically throw more innings. But for pitchers’ ERA that stands lower than 4, it’s generally considered a plus. Unearned runs do not factor into a pitcher’s ERA.

Adjusted ERA

The adjusted ERA pitching stat measures a pitcher’s effectiveness at preventing runs, by adjusting for the league and ballpark in which they pitched. The Adjusted ERA+ stat is calculated by taking a pitcher’s ERA and adjusting it to the league average ERA. Then multiply it by 100 to get a percentage. The resulting number is then adjusted for the pitcher’s ballpark.

A 100 ERA+ means a pitcher is exactly league average. A 110 ERA+ means that the pitcher is 10% better than the league average, while a 90 ERA+ means the pitcher is 10% worse than the league average.

Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched (WHIP)

WHIP is calculated by summing up the number of walks and hits a pitcher has allowed and then dividing that by the number of innings they’ve pitched. This is one of the stats that is important for relievers, as you expect good ones to have a WHIP under 1. The WHIP pitching stat is helpful to see just how sharp a pitcher has been during a season.

Innings Pitched (IP)

For those contemplating “What is an IP in baseball”, it stands for innings pitched. It’s simply the total number of innings a pitcher has thrown. It won’t always be a whole number either, as plenty of pitchers are taken out after ⅓ or ⅔ of an inning.

Pitch Count (PC)

A baseball pitch count is the number of pitches a pitcher throws in a game. Teams use it to monitor workload, and nowadays, most starting pitchers rarely exceed 100 pitches. A high pitch count can signal that a pitcher is getting tired and may require a replacement.

Batter vs Pitcher (BVP)

This is a rundown of how a batter has done versus a pitcher in their careers. Batter vs pitcher stats are highly relied upon in baseball as the reason why a batter is in the lineup on a particular day or why a team brings in a pitcher in a certain situation. 

Playing a type of BVP baseball strategy has led to rule changes in the major leagues. Pitchers for example, now have to face at least three batters during an appearance. Teams would use BVP to have a specific pitcher come in to face a batter because the historical batter vs pitcher stats favored the pitcher. But, that also slowed the game down. Pitchers today must either finish an inning or face three batters.

Quality Start (QS)

A quality start, often abbreviated in pitching stats abbreviations as QS, is a stat for a starting pitcher. It registers when they pitch at least six innings and yield three earned runs or fewer in a start.

Hold (HLD)

A hold occurs when a relief pitcher enters the game with the lead and prevents a tying or go-ahead run before another pitcher replaces them. So, if a pitcher successfully maintains the lead during their outing, they earn a hold. This baseball pitcher stat is an important player statistic, especially for relief pitchers.

Save (SV)

Most frequently, a relief pitcher will earn a save if a team is up by three runs or less, and that pitcher, normally the closer, keeps the other team from tying the game. If the other team does tie the game or take the lead, the closer will register a blown save (BS). 

Wins (W) and Losses (L)

A pitcher earns a win when he becomes the pitcher of record while his team takes the lead and maintains it for the rest of the game. He doesn’t have to be the pitcher who throws the final pitch, but he must be the pitcher who was pitching when his team took the lead. To earn a win as a starting pitcher, they must pitch at least five innings, while a relief pitcher can secure the win if their team takes the lead during their appearance. The team must be winning and they have to maintain the lead after he leaves the game.

Field Independent Pitching Stats (FIP)

What is the best stat for pitching? It depends on who you ask but FIP is gaining in popularity. Field independent pitching (FIP) is a stat that measures how well a pitcher performs independently of the defense behind him, making it one of the essential pitching metrics.

The idea behind FIP is that a pitcher should be judged based on the outcomes he can control. Things like strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed. Traditional baseball pitching stats like hits allowed and runs allowed aren’t factored in.

To calculate FIP, we begin by estimating the number of runs a pitcher would allow when facing an average number of batters and an average defense. This estimation is further adjusted based on the batter faced and the defense behind the pitcher. The resulting FIP is then scaled to match the same scale as ERA, where a pitcher with an FIP of 3.00 is regarded as an average performer.

Baseball Pitching Stats In Today’s Game

Years ago, Denny McLain won 30 games for the Detroit Tigers in 1968. However, it wasn’t the most stellar stat a pitcher had ever compiled. But pitchers today will never come close to winning 30 games in a season. Wins aren’t as important when looking at a pitcher’s overall value. MLB pitching stats explained in modern terms show that quality starts, K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings), BABIP (batting average on balls in play), holds, and saves are more important than wins. Baseball pitching stats have evolved to reflect the changing dynamics of the game.

The current baseball landscape is more focused on a starter going five to six innings and handing the ball to the bullpen. From there, the seventh and eighth-inning pitchers are tasked with holding onto a lead if a team has it. If they do so, they’ll earn a hold. The closer, in the ninth inning, will earn a save if they close out a tight ballgame. 

As baseball changed, 20 wins became a benchmark that was achievable but respected in the sport. Even that has gone by the wayside now, as more and more teams are utilizing the opener method for games or have six-man rotations to try and curb arm injuries. Workhorse pitchers earn the most money and teams trust them to stay in games longer. Pitcher stats explained in this light show the shift in value from mere wins to overall contribution.

While we can compare Shohei Ohtani pitching stats (12.03 K/9 with a 0.90 WHIP in 2022) with his hitting stats, it’s just as impressive to see a starting pitcher throw a complete game (CG) these days. 

Pitching Stats And Advanced Metrics

As baseball has progressed, the tools to assess players, particularly pitchers, have also advanced. Beyond the classic metrics like ERA, Wins, and Losses, experts have introduced a range of sophisticated stats that offer deeper insight into a pitcher’s capabilities.

xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching): While FIP focuses on outcomes a pitcher can control, xFIP takes it a step further by normalizing the number of home runs a pitcher allows, based on the league average. It provides a clearer picture of a pitcher’s performance by removing the variability of home run rates.

SIERA (Skill-Interactive ERA): SIERA considers the type of balls in play a pitcher allows. This metric factors in the complexity of pitching, recognizing that not all balls in play have equal outcomes.

LOB% (Left On Base Percentage): This baseball pitching stat measures the percentage of base runners a pitcher leaves stranded on base. A higher LOB% typically indicates that a pitcher is effective at pitching out of jams.

Future Of Pitching Stats

As technology and data analysis continue to evolve, so will the landscape of baseball pitching stats. The future promises even more detailed insights into pitching, merging traditional metrics with cutting-edge technology.

Wearable tech, like smart sleeves and biometric monitors, will offer real-time data on a pitcher’s arm health, fatigue levels, and biomechanics. This could lead to new pitching metrics that evaluate a player’s physical condition and risk of injury alongside their performance.

Statcast, already a revolutionary tool in the MLB, will likely become even more advanced. We might soon have metrics that analyze the spin efficiency of every pitch or the micro-movements of a pitcher’s delivery.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will play a significant role in the future of pitching stats. These technologies can predict patterns, offering strategies for pitchers based on historical data against specific batters or in certain game situations.

Furthermore, Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality might revolutionize the way fans, analysts, and teams view pitching stats. Imagine watching a game where, in real-time, you see predictive stats overlaid on the screen, showing the likelihood of a strikeout or a home run based on the pitcher’s current stats and the batter’s history.

Exploring Pitching Stats Meaning: Final Thoughts

The game has evolved and so have baseball pitching stats. There are plenty of resources available to measure professional stats like K% (strikeout percentage), BB% (walk percentage), HR/9 (home runs given up per nine innings), Fly-ball rate (FB%), and ground-ball rate (GB%).

Baseball pitcher stats explained in detail can provide deeper insights into the game’s intricacies. For a high school or Little League team, these probably aren’t the most important stats. But one thing will always remain the same when it comes to pitching. If you’re getting guys to swing and miss or locating your pitches, you’re doing well on the mound.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Which stats commonly represent pitching?

Common pitching stats include ERA, WHIP, IP, Wins, Losses, and Strikeouts.

Which pitching metrics are considered most valuable?

ERA, WHIP, and Strikeout-to-Walk ratio are often deemed the most valuable for assessing a pitcher’s effectiveness.

Which advanced metric is pivotal for evaluating pitchers?

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is crucial as it focuses on events a pitcher has control over.

What’s denoted by “IP” in the context of pitching?

“IP” stands for Innings Pitched, indicating how long a pitcher played.

In pitching terms, what does “BF” signify?

“BF” represents Batters Faced, showing the number of hitters a pitcher has gone against.

What does “H” indicate for pitching stats?

“H” refers to Hits, the number of times batters successfully hit against the pitcher.

How is the “R” metric relevant to pitchers?

“R” means Runs, showing how many scores the opposing team achieved against the pitcher.

Can you explain the significance of “ERC” in pitching analysis?

“ERC” or Earned Run Average Calculator predicts a pitcher’s ERA based on performance factors.

What attributes do MLB scouts prioritize in pitchers?

Scouts look for velocity, control, pitch variety, mechanics, and mental toughness in pitchers.

How to read pitching stats?

Pitching stats quantify a pitcher’s performance using abbreviations like ERA (Earned Run Average) and WHIP (Walks and Hits Per Inning Pitched). To interpret them, compare the pitcher’s figures to league averages or standards.

What are good pitching stats?

Good pitching stats typically include a low ERA (below 4.00 is often considered above average), a WHIP under 1.30, and a high strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB).

What is a good IP (Innings Pitched) in baseball?

A good IP for starting pitchers is 6 or more innings per game, while relievers typically pitch 1-2 innings, with high IP signifying a starter’s durability and the manager’s trust.

Chris F.

Chris F.

Chris Forbes is the founder and editor of BaseballMode.com, a leading blog in the youth baseball space. As a lifelong baseball player, coach and fan, he decided to team up with his young son to offer advice and share their experiences with the sport they both love. Chris lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children.

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