Buck the Trends: WHIP and the future of the KC Royals

Exploring WHIP and the importance of innings pitched to the future success of the Royals
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
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"The Maddux" is another stat the Royals need to consider

In 2012, sports writer Jason Lukehart invented a statistic he coined “The Maddux”for Hall of Fame Atlanta pitcher Greg Maddux. The Maddux is a shutout thrown in less than 100 pitches and is incredibly hard to achieve. Maddux is credited with throwing 17 such games; the last Royal to do so was Jason Vargas in 2014. 

Why raise awareness of such a difficult achievement? It's a philosophical approach to pitching that goes against current fastball and strikeout trends. Maddux's goal was to go deep into games by inducing contact early in an at-bat. Strikeouts were optional but not as important as getting out of an inning quickly. A recent installment of Buck the Trends looked at how Kauffman Stadium is an ideal ballpark for limiting the three true outcomes: Homerun, Strikeout, Walk. Because Kauffman limits hitters abilities to hit homeruns, pitchers can take advantage of this by attacking the zone with pitches that induce bad contact, as opposed to striking batters out. This is why Maddux's approach is so appropriate for the KC Royals.

Maddux pitched 22 seasons with a career 1.143 WHIP. His career SO/9 was only 6.1. Maddux is unique because he averaged 13.7 pitches per inning while leading the majors in innings pitched five times. He did this by enticing hitters with pitches thrown over the plate that induced a high 54.3 GB% and resulted in a high number of double-play opportunities (2,691). This type of pitching approach applies well to Kauffman Stadium and is likely to be under-valued in a market focused on SO/9.

As the Royals look for pitchers this off-season, via free agency or through trades, they'd be wise to consider pitchers like Maddux and Morris. Placing a high value on P/IP, BB/9, and GB%, and less on SO/9 and pitch velocity, could be a method to reduce WHIP and improve team performance.

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