The figurative second half of the season got underway last Friday following the four day break during which the American League’s win in the All Star game secured the World Series home field advantage the pennant winner come October.
Of course the second half has been underway for several weeks as teams entered the break having played more than 90 of their 162 game schedules.
The next major date of significance is next Wednesday’s deadline for non-waiver trades that are intended to bolster the rosters of playoff contending teams while adding mostly young minor league talent to teams that are looking towards the future.
The next week will be filled with rumors, some of which may actually come true. There might be a major deal or two and we are likely to see a flurry of minor moves consummated within the final hour or two of the actual deadline.
One major deal rumored to be nearly complete would send starting pitcher Matt Garza from the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers.
Other starting pitchers rumored to be headed elsewhere include Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo and Houston’s Bud Norris.
At this point in the season most starting pitchers have made between 15 and 20 starts, save for those that have missed time due to injury or were not part of the rotation that opened the season. In fact, nearly a third of the roughly 250 pitchers with at least one start in 2013 have already pitched 100 innings or more.
As such we can form some solid opinions as to which pitchers have been more lucky than good, and vice versa, by looking at the win-loss records of these pitchers and compare them to several key stats. The hope is to identify those pitchers who have been victimized by bad luck and those that have benefited from good fortune.
In handicapping baseball it is generally held that a pitcher’s own win-loss record, by itself, is a poor indicator of performance. A better one, though not necessarily more accurate, is the record of the team in a pitcher’s starts.
For example, Mets’ phenom Matt Harvey has a solid 8-2 record with a sterling 0.89 WHIP and 2.24 ERA in 20 starts. Yet the Mets are just 12-8 in those starts, due largely to both bullpen failures to hold leads and a lack of offensive support in other games.
As a result, backers of Harvey – arguably having a season that has him in the Cy Young Award conversation – are down 1.5 units despite getting efforts that have him on pace to become a 20 game winner on many teams.
Of course, it’s that bottom line that matters most when it comes to wagering. And therein is the dilemma for handicapping baseball. Is it better to rely on the raw data and stats or the bottom line results?
There are compelling arguments on both sides of this equation. Supporters of the former argue that by relying on stats more than bottom line results over the long term the results will be in line with performance.
Supporters of the latter will argue that with so many variables coming into play in almost every athletic event, the bottom line results encapsulate the effects of not just performance but also the other factors that influence winning and losing – such as random luck, psychological factors, etc.
There have been 15 pitchers compiling at least 100 innings and their teams are more than five games above .500 in their starts. For example, Arizona is 17-2 in Patrick Corbin’s 19 starts and the stats supports such a strong record with his 2.35 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.
Other pitchers with stats that support their team’s solid winning records include Atlanta’s Mike Minor, St. Louis ace Adam Wainwright, Oakland’s Bartolo Colon and Washington’s Jordan Zimmermann.
On the other hand Baltimore’s Chris Tillman, St. Louis right Lance Lynn and Tampa Bay’s Jeremy Hellickson have been more lucky than solid. Each has an ERA between 3.83 and 4.63 and WHIPs between 1.21 and 1.34. Yet their teams are a combined 41-19 in their starts with a profit over those 41 starts of plus 19 units.
At the other end of the spectrum are five pitchers whose teams are more than five games below .500 in their starts. None of the five can be considered to have been the victim of bad luck as all have put up below average stats in their combined 96 starts. Perhaps the “best” of the quintet have been the Mets’ Jeremy Hefner (3.80 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) and Cole Hamels (4.16 ERA, 1.25 WHIP).
It’s no wonder the Angels are 4-15 in Joe Blanton’s starts (5.52 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) or that Houston is 6-13 in Lucas Harrell’s starts (5.03 ERA, 1.61 WHIP). By looking to “go against” poor starters, play their games OVER the total, bet the top stat pitchers or play their games UNDER, you will be on the proper side more often than not.
Perhaps not to the degree you might otherwise expect based on the statistical profile, but at least you know what’s available.
Here’s a look at four series of interest this weekend.
CARDS/BRAVES: Atlanta got off to a strong start and has been fortunate in terms of avoiding injuries to their starting pitchers. The regular five man rotation has accounted for 97 of their 98 starts. St. Louis has not been as fortunate as 9 different pitchers have made starts and the trio of Adam Wainwright, Lance Lynn and Shelby Miller have accounted for just 59 of the Cards’ 96 starts.
The Cards have the more productive offense and actually lead all of MLB with their average of 5.3 runs per game on the road. Lefty Mike Minor has been Atlanta’s best starter although even their fourth and fifth starters have been serviceable. Miller has been a bit more shaky of late than he was in April and May, but still posting solid stats.
Recommended plays: St. Louis +120 or more in any matchup; St. Louis -130 or less in a start by Wainwright against any Atlanta starter; Atlanta +125 or more in a start by Minor or Julio Teheran not facing Wainwright; OVER 7.5 or lower in games not involving Wainwright or Minor; UNDER 8 or less if Minor or Teheran oppose Wainwright or Miller.
REDS/DODGERS: The Dodgers have been the hottest team in baseball dating back to early June. Clayton Kershaw remains arguably the best pitcher in the game but the Dodgers have also gotten solid efforts from Zack Greinke, rookie HJ Ryu and the recently acquired Ricky Nolasco.
The Reds have been fairly healthy insofar as their starters are concerned as Tony Cingrani has pitched well in his 10 starts as a replacement for injured ace Johnny Cueto. All 6 starters have ERAs below 4.00 and only Mat Latos (1.29) has a WHIP above 1.16. This handicaps as a well-pitched series with base runners and runs scored at a minimum, making the UNDER and the Underdog the most attractive options throughout.
Recommended plays: Either team +120 or more; UNDER 7.5 or higher in any matchup; UNDER 7 or higher if Kershaw or Greinke oppose Homer Bailey or Bronson Arroyo.
RANGERS/INDIANS: In their only prior series Cleveland won two of three games in Texas in mid-June. All three games stayed UNDER. Neither team has an outstanding starter although Cleveland’s Justin Masterson is having a solid season and his 3.61 ERA and 1.17 stats make him the de facto staff ace. He is the only Cleveland starter averaging more than 6 innings per start (6.8).
Yu Darvish and Derek Holland have been Texas’ best starters. Cleveland’s offense has been more productive on the road (5.0 rpg) than at home (4.4) but their 30-19 home record is strong. The Indians are a losing club on the road. Texas was 27-22 both at home and on the road, indicative of good balance that makes for an attractive road underdog.
Recommended plays: Texas as underdogs of any price in starts by Darvish or Holland; Texas +125 or more in other starts except against Masterson; Cleveland -140 or less in a start by Masterson not facing either Darvish or Holland; UNDER 8.5 or higher if Masterson starts against Darvish or Holland; OVER 8.5 or lower if Masterson, Darvish or Holland are not involved.
RED SOX/ORIOLES: Baltimore has won 5 of 7 games between the teams with the UNDER going 5-1-1. Injuries and ineffectiveness have forced Baltimore to use 13 different starting pitchers. Boston has had to use 9 different starters but it’s been mostly due to injuries that have currently sidelined Clay Buchholz. Now Jon Lester has injury concerns after several rough outings over the past month.
Both teams have potent offenses that are well balanced. Both have identical home and road run averages with Boston at 5.1 runs per game and Baltimore at 4.8. John Lackey has emerged as Boston’s most consistent starter (2.95 ERA, 1.16 WHIP). Miguel Gonzalez and Wie-Yin Chen have been Baltimore’s most effective. Although Chen missed about 10 starts due to injury he was very sharp in his pair of starts since leaving the DL.
Recommended plays: OVER 9 or lower in starts not involving Lackey or Chris Tillman; UNDER 8 or higher in a start by Lackey (14-2 to the UNDER) against Chen or Tillman; Baltimore -120 or less in a start by Chen not facing Lackey; Boston as underdogs not facing Chen; Boston -130 or less in a start by Lackey not facing Chen.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]