Of all the team sports there are in the world, you’d be hard pressed to find a player or a position in sport more important than the starting pitcher in baseball. Bookmakers and sportsbooks know this, and this is why they will list the pitcher when taking bets on the game, and void all bets if one of the pitchers changes – this happens on no other sport.
Because the pitchers are so important, you should spend more time on these two players than any others when assessing bets on a particular game. Here, I offer a guide to making a full assessment of the pitchers, by the end of which you’ll have a much greater feel for the game and help give you that edge over the gambling sites.
Why is the Starting Pitcher so Important?
The main reason this player is so important is that they are directly involved in every pitch of the game. Imagine if there was a game of cricket where the same bowler bowled every single ball? The ability of this player would then have a huge bearing on the odds. Some might use a counter argument and say that the starting pitcher will not always play the whole game, and this is true but consider the following three scenarios:
- The Starting Pitcher is taken off early in the game – In this situation there is a huge probability that the team is losing at this point, possibly heavily.
- The Starting Pitcher plays around six or seven innings – In this situation, the pitcher has probably had a decent but not spectacular game, without giving up too many runs.
- The Starting Pitcher plays 8 innings or even a complete game – Here, it is very likely that the starting pitcher has had a great game, and the team is in the lead.
So, in each of three scenarios it is clear the pitcher has a big influence on the game, whether or not they play the whole game.
How to Assess a Starting Pitcher
There are a variety of ways to assess a starting pitcher and some of these are both obvious and are used by many, whilst some other stats are less well known. Here I list all of the stats you should use, with an explanation of each.
You’ll find the following two stats on any game preview and these are the ones that are used most frequently.
ERA – This stands for earned run average, which is the amount of runs a pitcher gives up every nine innings he plays. If the batting team gains a run through an error, this will not count against the pitcher. The ERA is a great place to start, as you’ll gain an immediate feel for how good the player is, although you shouldn’t put too much emphasis on it early in the season, as it might take some time to settle down – perhaps placing more importance on the ERA from the previous year.
Win/Loss Record – In some respects I find this more important than the ERA, as it tells you how many times the pitcher gets the job done. For example, you might have a pitcher who wins many games, but when he’s off, he is really off, so his ERA is hugely effected despite him suffering just one loss.
The rest of the stats I use will be found on the situational stats page for a pitcher (go to the pitcher page on an major US sports site – cbssports.com for example – and click on situational stats button under his name).
Home/Away – You’ll see full stats for home games and away games. Check out the ERA and Win-Loss record for these two splits. Some players are markedly better playing in familiar surroundings – others play to the same standard wherever they are pitching.
Day/Night – The majority of baseball games are night games, which means that starting pitchers will generally have a routine of some kind throughout the day. The games that are played during the day will obviously upset this routine. Look out for pitchers who are markedly better when playing during the day or at night.
Pre All Star/Post All Star – Is the player markedly better in the first half of the season or the latter part of the season. Some players will tail off as the season progresses, so check out these splits for the last three or four years for a player. A good first half of the season will give a player a low ERA, and this number will be slow to rise in the second half of the year, even if the player is not playing so well - which could lead to some pitchers being over-rated and therefore too short a price.
Last Seven Appearances – This is a great form guide, long enough to gain a feel for how the player is playing, but not too long to include games that are frankly not that relevant any more.
1st Inning - This is always a key part of the game for a pitcher as they’ll want that solid start. You can always feel more confident in a pitcher who rarely gives up anything in the first inning. A low stat here will normally mean that the player will be able to adapt to different conditions quickly, which could be most useful on the road.
Number of days rest – Generally pitchers will play in a set rotation, so they’ll know how many days they’ll have off. However this can be disrupted due to injuries, schedule changes or because of playoff games and this stat will give you an idea as to how the player might react to these changes. Use more than one season’s stats in this category to gain a proper feel for the player.
Assessing a Pitcher – Overview
Having looked at each and every one of these stats, you’ll now have a great feel for how a pitcher might perform, and you might indeed spot something that wasn’t obvious form the Win-Loss record, or the ERA.
You’ll obviously have to go on to look at the batting line-ups and the bullpen for each team before making a decision about any potential bets, but having assessed the pitchers, a major part of your work is done.
Of course, assessing the pitcher is only half of the battle. If you want consistent returns from your bets, then finding a book with the best lines is a vital part of a skilled bettors armory. Bovada (part of Bodog) only accept bets from US based bettors - their lines are the best out there, and their great service is famous - check out www.bovada.lv for the latest offers.
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