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Evaluating Pitchers

Baseball Handicapping: Evaluating Pitchers

By Loot, Major League Baseball Handicapper,

When evaluating starting pitchers, we are confronted with a morass of information. As bettors, we can’t possibly take all of it into serious consideration. We are forced to become filters, sifting through all the different items to find what we can really use to find an edge. Which stats should we value and which ones should we more or less disregard? It can be a challenge even for the seasoned betting man.

WHIP and ERA are definitely considerations, even more than a pitcher’s won-loss record. Obviously, the lower--the better. But we need to be a little more pointed with our analysis. What a pitcher did in April doesn’t make much difference later in the season. And how he will perform against a certain team can’t be determined by how he fared against different lineups.

That’s why recent form and head-to-head stats against the batters he is facing in a specific game are potentially better indicators. You might see that late in a season, a pitcher is 19-7 with a low ERA. But what if he’s 1-2 in his last 5 starts with a 5.98 ERA? He might not be the attractive pick he first appeared to be on paper.

The same applies to a pitcher who might not look so hot on the surface. But this isn’t the old days, where all we have to look at are the stats you see on the back of baseball cards. We might see that this pitcher has been rounding into better form recently. In addition, we can easily see on the internet how a pitcher does against individual batters.

There might be something peculiar about a certain lineup that sees a struggling pitcher sail or that causes a dominant thrower to go awry. It may require a large sample of at-bats to draw any meaningful data, but the league is full of examples of no-name hitters who rip apart all-star pitchers and vice versa.

Another stat worth looking at is a pitcher’s TRGS, which stands for team record in games started. A won-loss record can only go so far. They tell us an incomplete story--of how the pitcher fared in games where he was the pitcher of record. While we are betting on the pitchers, the result of our wager is based on how the team does. Therefore, it reasons out that knowing a team’s won-loss record in all of the combined games a pitcher started would be a useful stat.

In a lot of cases, a pitcher’s TRGS will be in keeping with his won-loss record. A starting pitcher with an 11-12 record has a TRGS of 15-15. Well, that doesn’t really give us any added insight. However, there are times where you will see a gap in the two statistics that would suggest that a pitcher is either receiving higher or lower value then what is rightfully due.

In other words, if you see a 7-15 pitcher whose TRGS is 16-16, he might be worth a look at an underdog price. Everyone sees the 7-15. That’s the stat they see in the newspaper. It’s what they see on Sportscenter. It’s what they see on the back of the betting sheets at the sportsbook. The conclusion is made that the pitcher is much likelier to lose. But his team is .500 when he starts. Who cares how they win or whether this guy got credit? TRGS is a good tool to boost a vital part of your baseball handicapping profile. We need underdogs in this sport to boost profits and morale. So look for gaps in a pitcher’s won-loss record and his TRGS.

Actually watching the games can offer you an edge that you can’t gain by looking at box scores or watching highlights. You know the game pretty well and want to apply some of that knowledge for betting purposes, right? When watching a slow-moving game like baseball, there is time to think. You can tell if a pitcher is starting to lose his edge ever so slightly. Or when a struggling pitcher has managed to lock into a better groove. The results might not even show it, but you can sometimes sense a turning of the corner by watching the games. Then, you can get the jump on some good value by pulling the trigger and acting on your observations. So don’t forget--watch some games!

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