WHIP vs. ERA: Which Stat is More Important for DFS?

We're breaking down the big differences between WHIP and ERA for your DFS lineup and you'll be surprised on which is a better metric.

Matt Brown
By Matt BrownPublished: May 16, 2024
WHIP vs. ERA: Which Stat is More Important for DFS?

The metrics used to assess players can make or break your DFS lineup. For baseball, in particular, two key statistics for evaluating pitchers are WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Inning Pitched) and ERA (Earned Run Average). Both provide valuable insights into a pitcher's performance, but their relevance can differ significantly when it comes to DFS. After all, we're trying to rack up fantasy points and not necessarily win a baseball game like a manager would, so it's a different perspective.

Understanding which stat offers a more accurate prediction for future performances could be crucial for crafting winning teams.

Why WHIP Might Edge Out ERA in DFS

WHIP looks at a pitcher's ability to keep batters off the bases via hits or walks. It's one of the simplest stats for pitchers in the MLB. This direct measure of a pitcher's control and effectiveness offers several advantages, especially in the DFS context, where every play counts.

Predictive Power of WHIP

By most accounts, WHIP is considered a superior predictor of future performance compared to ERA. It provides a clear picture of a pitcher's ability to prevent batters from reaching base, which is central to stopping runs. If runners can't even get on base, then there's no chance of earning runs.

By focusing on elements strictly within a pitcher's control—walks and hits—WHIP can offer a truer sense of a pitcher's effectiveness against batters.

Unlike ERA, which can go up or down based on a few bad innings or poor defensive backing, WHIP tends to be more stable.

This stability makes WHIP a more reliable metric for predicting how a pitcher will perform in future outings and ultimately, how that pitcher would do for your lineup.

Consistency Across Seasons

WHIP's value in DFS is also boosted in the eyes of DFS owners due to its consistency. It tends to fluctuate less from season to season compared to ERA. Take a look at Justin Verlanders WHIP and ERA over the past few seasons. The WHIP is generally stable, whereas the ERA can take major swings.

Year WHIP ERA
2017 1.17 3.36
2018 0.90 2.52
2019 0.80 2.58
2020 0.67 3.00
2021 Did Not Play
2022 0.83 1.75
2023 1.13 3.22
2024 1.19 3.38

This consistency helps fantasy players gauge a pitcher's performance more reliably over time. Are they staying relatively hot? Perhaps they're cooling down with their older age.

When drafting players for your DFS lineup, a consistent track record is gold, especially in a format like Underdog Fantasy or OwnersBox that rewards foresight and strategic planning.

Less Dependence on Defensive Play

Another factor that makes WHIP particularly valuable for daily fantasy sports is its independence from the quality of defense behind the pitcher.

ERA can be misleading; a pitcher with a low ERA might still allow significant baserunners but escape unscathed, thanks to exceptional defensive plays.

On the other hand, a good pitcher might suffer with a high ERA due to defensive errors. WHIP doesn't take these variables into consideration, focusing solely on the pitcher's own actions — how many players they let on base per inning (hence the walks and hits).

Direct Link to Scoring Potential

For DFS players, understanding the scoring potential is extremely important.

WHIP directly correlates with a pitcher's ability to limit scoring opportunities, hence directly impacting their potential to rack up DFS points.

A lower WHIP shows that they're allowing fewer baserunners and, by extension, fewer scoring opportunities for the opposition. This stat becomes a critical factor when selecting pitchers who can dominate a game, thereby maximizing points through innings pitched, strikeouts, and wins.

While you're at it, take a look at the batters in your lineup and who they're facing. Of course, you want your batters to be swinging on a pitcher with a relatively high ERA but, more importantly, a high WHIP. That's because simply getting on base affects the points for the batters in most DFS leagues. 

The Role of ERA in DFS Strategy

While WHIP may offer a clearer, more consistent reflection of a pitcher's real-world capabilities, ERA still plays an important role in DFS. After all, most DFS leagues have the ERA as a scoring metric, but they don't necessarily list WHIP as a scoring metric. 

Take a look at FanDuel, for example. For most contests, the pitchers scoring metrics are earned runs (ER), innings pitched (IP), quality start (QSTART), strikeouts (SO), and wins (W). Nowhere in there is WHIP.

Regardless, ERA measures the number of earned runs a pitcher allows per nine innings and provides a snapshot of overall effectiveness to keep runs off of the scoreboard.

A low ERA indicates a pitcher who keeps the score down, which is crucial for wins and quality starts in DFS.

Complementing WHIP with ERA

Smart DFS players will look at both ERA and WHIP to get a complete picture of a pitcher's performance.

ERA can help identify pitchers who, despite allowing some baserunners, manage to keep their composure and prevent runs, often translating into game wins. It also indicates how the defense behind them is going to support them.

Integrating ERA with WHIP allows for a more nuanced approach to choosing your lineup, balancing a pitcher's ability to prevent baserunners with their knack for escaping tight spots unscathed.

Making the Best DFS Decisions

For DFS success you want to find more than simply a good pitcher. You want to select pitchers whose stats suggest they will excel in the specific conditions of a given contest and WHIP + ERA are a powerhouse combination to do just that.

WHIP, with its predictive power and stability, provides a cornerstone for these decisions. However, blending this insight with ERA's broad view of a pitcher's effectiveness ensures a more strategic approach to lineup creation. Think of WHIP as the small stat and ERA as the large overarching stat. Both are important but can be drawn out individually to tell you something about the pitcher.

While both WHIP and ERA are indispensable tools in the DFS toolkit, in our opinion, WHIP might just edge out as the most important stat for those looking to optimize their draft choices. WHIP will help you maximize your potential for success in MLB DFS.

By leveraging these insights effectively and together, DFS players can enhance their strategy, leading to more informed and potentially more profitable decisions. In the end, the pitchers bring in the most points for a lineup, so they spend a bit more time analyzing their stats and metrics.

Matt Brown

Matt Brown

Head of DFS

Matt's deep-rooted enthusiasm for sports betting and daily fantasy sports infuses the EatWatchDraft team with valuable expertise in football, hockey, and baseball. His forward-thinking perspectives are grounded in a solid academic foundation, including a B.S. in Aeronautical Computer Science and an M.S. in Project Management. This combination of sports passion and technical knowledge fuels Matt's innovative input to the platform.