Thinking MLB man prevails by keeping up

May 24, 2016 3:00 AM

Baseball is very much a thinking man’s game, be it the battle between the pitcher and the hitter or managers making adjustments in the field, utilizing bullpens or sports bettors trying to beat the oddsmakers each day.

This is an age of specialization for baseball pitchers. You have starters, closers, middle relievers, long relief, set-up men and lefty specialists. Some pitchers feel more comfortable and excel in the role of set-up man than as closer, for example.

It can all seem overwhelming and even silly at times. I recall an interview with a pitcher a few years ago who was asked about what his role would be on the team. He looked strangely at the inquisitor. “A pitcher’s role,” he said, “is to get guys out.” If more hurlers simplified things like that, we might see better pitching league-wide.

Pitchers are a unique breed in the sports world. Especially early on in the season, they can perform very differently year to year, for a variety of reasons.

The Red Sox paid big bucks for an ace when they signed David Price this offseason. One reason is he had a 6-1 record and 1.95 ERA at Fenway Park. However, the big lefty has not thrown well in Boston this season. It’s hard to believe age is a reason, as he should be in his prime, but that’s the thing: You never know how pitchers are going to perform from year to year.

Knuckleballer R.A. Dickey parlayed a dominant season back in 2012 when he went 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA with the Mets into a new contract with Toronto. He’s still with the Blue Jays, but his ERA keeps climbing, currently having his worst season in years at age 41.

It’s essential for sports bettors to keep up on moves, parks and injuries like this. Betting lines are made around the starting pitcher, but be careful. Include defense in the field in your handicapping and bullpen strength.

Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Twitter: @JimFeistSports Email: [email protected]