On Monday night, San Francisco Giants pitcher Alex Wood did something that possibly nobody on the planet but me cared about. In the bottom of the fourth inning of his outing against the Rockies, Wood hit José Iglesias with a 3-2 sinker that ran way inside. Why am I telling you about this? Because that pitch turned Wood into a strong WHIP Warrior candidate.
Wood pitched 4.1 innings, allowed six hits, and surrendered one walk. That put the WHIP—walks and hits in innings pitched, for the RBI stannies out there—for his outing at 1.62. If he had just missed the strike zone with that 3-2 sinker instead of hitting Iglesias, he would have been tagged with a 1.85 WHIP on the night.
I have taken it upon myself to label these instances of a pitcher plunking a batter on a three-ball count as WHIP Saves, and the pitcher who accrues the most over the course of a season becomes my official WHIP Warrior. Wood is now tied with Zac Gallen in the WHIP Warrior league lead with two HBPs on three-ball counts, though both of them—the other being a slider on Luke Voit—were with two strikes. In the eyes of WHIP, all other plate appearance results are created equal, but in terms of performance evaluation, a strikeout is generally considered to be more valuable than a HBP.
Ignoring the subsequent batter-rage consequences, Gallen provided a platonic ideal of a WHIP save situation earlier this season by plunking C. J. Cron on a 3-0 count. Gallen sent in three straight fastballs, only one of which was particularly close, followed by a fourth that was likely never going to make it over the plate, anyway. Game situation-wise, you’d rather not let the leadoff guy get on base, but within the scope of the at-bat, the circumstances could not have been more ideal.
If you are like me, and the Chicago White Sox became your AL team of choice after the Phillies went ahead and Phillies’d away their 2021 season, then you may know that this strategy is not new. In 2021, the White Sox were tied for fourth in the league with seven WHIP Saves, headlined by Carlos Rodón and Dylan Cease, who were two of only five pitchers in the league to reach three total WHIP Saves.
2021 Whip Saves Leaderboard
Austin Adams — 3
Edwin Diáz — 3
JT Brubaker — 3
Carlos Rodón — 3
Dylan Cease — 3
11 MLB Pitchers — 2
(As a side note, Adams and Diáz’s marks are especially impressive as relief pitchers who threw fewer than 1,000 pitches total.)
Wood already has two WHIP Saves this season despite only notching one all of last year. A possible explanation is statistical variance, given the low occurrence of WHIP Saves in general (out of 709,851 regular season pitches in 2021, there were 138 three-ball HBPs amounting to a stunning 0.0194 percent of total pitches, which is how you know this is a Real Stat That Matters), but a far more likely explanation is that Rodón, who signed with the Giants thanks to Jerry Reinsdorf’s best efforts, bestowed his powers upon Wood through osmosis. Rodón has yet to get a WHIP Save of his own, which supports this theory.
So far in 2022, the WHIP Save seems to be as healthy as ever, on pace to match 2021’s total. It can be even healthier, if either Wood, Gallen, or any of the 29 other pitchers who have recorded at least one WHIP Save can join 2008 Dennis Sarfate, 2009 Tim Wakefield, or 2018 Rich Hill as the only pitchers to break the storied four WHIP Save barrier since 2008.
I am not suggesting that pitchers should hit batters in order to improve their WHIPs, especially considering that hitting batters weighs more strongly against a pitcher in wOBA allowed (which is generally a more useful all-around metric than WHIP) than unintentional walks do. I will, however, be watching Alex Wood and other WHIP Warriors closely to see if anyone will join the hallowed group of Rich Hill, Tim Wakefield, and Dennis Sarfate.
2022 WHIP Saves Leaderboard
Alex Wood — 2
Zac Gallen — 2
29 MLB Pitchers — 1
This is very important to me.