10 Underrated MLB Pitchers
by Robert Ferringo - 05/09/2008
They just made is so easy.
Zach Grienke? Bet against the Royals. Edwin Jackson and Andy Sonnanstine? Bet huge against the Devil Rays. Aaron Cook? Automatic play against. This crop of awful arms was at the foundation of my record-breaking 2007 Major League Baseball season.
This year they aren't cooperating. Well, they are now, but just in a different manner. You see, this year across the MLB landscape you can find at least a dozen young arms that were trash yesterday and treasures today. Some of the most profitable hurlers in this young season were guys that were some of the worst plays you could make in 2007.
Jackson, who didn't even make this Top 10 list, is a perfect example. Last year he finished No. 307 out of 315 Major League pitchers in terms of total profit. Dime bettors dumped $11,000 on him alone as the Devil Rays went 8-23 in his 31 starts. However, this season he looks like a completely different guy. He's keeping the ball down, mixing pitches, and has already cashed against the Yankees and Red Sox this season. Those same dime bettors would have earned $2,000 back on Jackson in the first month.
I will admit that part of my struggles in the first two weeks of the season revolved around the fact that I was still playing a lot of these pitchers the same way I was last year: bet against them, and bet against them hard. But after watching and analyzing their early performance I've adjusted and now I'm earning right along side some of my former fades.
My enemy is my enemy, until he is my friend.
And with that in mind, here's a list of 10 of the most surprisingly profitable pitchers in the Majors so far this season:
1) Livan Hernandez (7-1, +790)
Last year Livan was lofting soap bubbles at the top of the Diamondbacks' rotation while the team went just 16-17 behind him. He has since resurrected his career with the Twins. I, for one, thought that a switch to the American League was the last thing Livan needed. But it's been just the opposite. Hitters aren't familiar to his junk and, for now, he is taking advantage.
2) Joe Saunders (7-0, +709)
Saunders shouldn't be too much of a surprise considering he was the 16th most profitable pitcher in the Majors in 2006 when the Angels went 10-3 behind him. But what is so surprising is the way the lefty has taken the reigns as staff ace as John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar mend. The Angels haven't lost in any of his seven starts and he's gone eight innings in four of his seven starts.
3) Vincente Padilla (6-2, +660)
Padilla's resurgence has definitely bitten me this year. Last season he ranked No. 255 out of 315 MLB pitchers in regards to profit - and he only made 23 starts. This year he's keeping the ball down, working out of trouble and benefiting from an improved team/lineup behind him.
4) Scott Olsen (6-1, +593)
Olsen was a train wreck last year. He was fighting with teammates - who seemed to quit on him - and looked liked he might be shipped off in the offseason. Now he's the ace of the Marlins staff and they have won seven of his last eight starts. He faded hard.
5) Daniel Cabrera (6-1, +549)
It's truly amazing what a guy like Leo Mazzoni can do with a young pitcher. Last year the Orioles were 13-21 in Cabrera's 34 starts. He was a complete dud. And an overrated one, at that. He's on pace to match last year's numbers in regards to walks, hits, and home runs allowed. He is also on pace for less strikeouts. Yet his ERA is two points lower because he's stopped trying to whiff everyone and is letting the movements on his pitches get people out. Because he has such good stuff you have to watch out for the juice on him flying too high, though.
6) Aaron Cook (6-1, +506)
Like Cabrera, Cook was an easy blind fade last year. The Rockies - as good as they were - won just 10 of his 25 starts (-654) and he is 7-22 as an underdog. However, he's won six straight starts and his 2.40 ERA is one of the best in the National League.
7) Mark Hendrickson (6-2, +460)
Hendrickson had a flash at the beginning of 2007 where he looked like he was ready to be a starter again. He won four of his first five starts, but then was bumped to the Dodgers bullpen when some other arms got healthy. He has been working with a sports psychologist and is benefiting from a lot of run support at the top of the Florida rotation.
8) Tim Redding (5-2, +376)
Redding has bounced around in his seven-year career but seems to have finally found his niche with the Nationals. He has won eight of 10 home starts and has shown a nice little array of pitches so far this year. He keeps the ball down, so the smaller dimensions of Washington's home park aren't affecting him as much as the visitors.
9) Andy Sonnanstine (5-2, +367)
Sonnanstine has recovered nicely from a shaky rookie campaign. He dumped 11 of his first 13 starts before going a respectable 5-4 down the stretch. He is 3-1 in his divisional starts this year and, aside from a seven-run shelling at the hands of the Yankees he's given up just seven runs in 21 innings at home this year.
10) Zach Grienke (5-2, +339)
Remember the crazy brother in the movie "Wedding Crashers"? That was Grienke. I know it's mean to pick on someone with a disorder, but Grienke was a mess between 2006 and 2007 and his off-the-field personal issues were holding back the electric stuff that this kid has.
Honorable Mention: Edison Volquez (5-2, +338)