Fading the All-Star Pitchers
by Trevor Whenham - 07/12/2007
I watched the All-Star Game yesterday. Sort of. I mean, I tried to, but between the generally boring play (with the obvious exception of Ichiro) and the disgusting love that Barry Bonds got from the crowd I kept finding my finger on the remote control. Basically, it's the same thing every year - I seem to forget how unlike real baseball the game is, so I sit down to watch it with some anticipation. That lasts for about two innings, which is about as long as the starting pitchers last.
Speaking of pitchers, I have a bit of a personal theory. I think that there is an opportunity to profit from fading the all-star pitchers in their starts immediately following the mid-summer classic. The pitchers in the big game are obviously the best ones out there, so they generally pitch with very low odds each time they go to the mound. I don't know whether it is because of the fact that they make a much shorter appearance in the All-Star Game than they are used to, or because their schedule gets thrown off by the game, but it is surprising how common it is to see a pitcher play poorly once he returns to his home squad. Here's a look at recent years:
Kenny Rogers - The American League starter went two innings in the All-Star Game. His next game he went just four innings against the lowly Royals, allowing five earned runs. Two starts later he couldn't get out of the first inning, give up seven runs while getting two batters out.
Brad Penny - The NL starter was just as bad in his return to the Dodgers. He allowed six runs in five innings against the Cardinals. Perhaps coincidentally, like Rogers, Penny was also bad in his third start, allowing another six runs in five innings.
Roy Halladay - The first American reliever wasn't as weak when he got back to Toronto, but his first game back was still quite a bit off of the standard he had been setting. His six innings were less than he had been lasting for, and the four runs were more than his team was used to when he was on the mound.
Scott Kazmir - Kazmir's worst outing of July and August was the first game after the break, with four runs in six innings.
Pedro Martinez - The Mets' ace lost four of six after the All-Star Game, and needed seven runs of support to overcome the five runs he gave up in another.
Jake Peavy - Though Peavy was strong in his first start back, he got shelled by the Mets in the second game, allowing seven runs in five innings. The price in the second game was more than high enough to make the two games nicely profitable despite the loss if you faded him in the first.
Dontrelle Willis - In his first two starts back, Willis was well favored in both. The opponents combined for 15 runs in 8.2 innings against him.
Matt Clement - After the All-Star Game it took four games for him to last a total of 16 innings, which isn't surprising given that he allowed 19 runs over that stretch. Twice he failed to make it out of the third inning.
Mark Mulder - Coming into the All-Star Game, Mulder was as hot as a pitcher can be. He hadn't lost since the end of April. Though the drop-off wasn't as immediate as with some other pitchers, Mulder definitely struggled after his All-Star start. His walks and runs were up, and he won just two of his last 11 starts.
Roger Clemens - Despite playing the All-Star Game in his home stadium, Clemens was historically bad as NL starter. He allowed six runs in his one inning of play. Like Mulder, Clemens was noticeably less sharp after the game. He had allowed more than three runs only three times in the 14 games before the break. He allowed at least four runs in five of his next 10 games.
Randy Johnson - The Diamondbacks were just 2-9 in the Big Unit's 11 starts following the All-Star Game.
Curt Schilling - The Red Sox lost three of the five games Schilling started following the All-Star Game, and he was absolutely rocked in two of them.
Obviously, this theory isn't scientific, and you can easily find other situations where pitchers are just as good as they always are after the All-Star game. Despite that, though, the thing that makes this interesting is that it helps us find decent prices on a fairly consistent basis. If nothing else, it is something fun to keep an eye on during the dog days of summer that sometimes seem like they will never end.