MLB Betting Predictions: Bottom-of-Rotation Pitchers
by Trevor Whenham - 4/22/2011
The guys at the top of the rotation are the ones who get all the attention, the glory, and the big paychecks in baseball. They are also the ones who get all of the attention from the public bettors, so it can be tough to find value betting on them — especially if they are any good and they play for a good team. By looking at the bottom of the rotation — the fourth and fifth starters — you can often find guys who are talented and effective enough to win some games, but who don’t get nearly the attention of the bigger names. Here my MLB betting predictions for four guys at the back end of their team’s rotations that have proven to be worth a look so far this year:
Kyle Drabek, Toronto Blue Jays — Drabek is the kind of pitcher I love to find. The Jays win every time he pitches, but he’s not getting decisions. He’s just 1-0 so far this year, but his last three games have been no decisions that the team has won after he left. That means that his odds have stayed about where you would expect them for a later starter for a team like Toronto — a slight underdog in most games or slightly favored against bad teams. I don’t see any reason why Drabek won’t continue to deliver value for a good portion of this year. Sooner or later, though, people are going to start to realize something about him — the kid can pitch. He’s got some nasty movement on his slider, and he is fearless. This is the beginning of his major league career, and he’s not going to be at the back of the rotation for long, so enjoy betting on this guy before he starts getting some real buzz.
Mitch Talbot, Cleveland Indians — People who pay close attention will be surprised to see Talbot on this list because he’s on the disabled list right now with an elbow issue. I’m reasonably optimistic that he’ll come back strong, though, and given how he pitched to start, and how well his team is playing, he’s certainly worth watching. He was a solid underdog in both of his starts, but he pitched well and won both games easily. He’s the ideal kind of pitcher in a situation like this, too — he pitched very effectively, but he didn’t do much that would get him on the highlight reels or get him noticed by the general betting public. The risk here, though, is that Talbot will follow the same pattern as last year — his first as a starter. In that season the team was 5-2 in his first seven starts and he was sharp, and then he became much less effective as the season progressed. The team was just 4-9 in his last 13 starts.
Matt Harrison, Texas Rangers — Harrison has been a treasure for bettors the last few years when he has been starting. In 2008 the team was 10-5 in his starts, and seven of those 10 starts were as underdogs, so he was wildly profitable. The next year he faltered early on, but was 5-3 in his last eight starts, with four of those wins as underdogs. Last year he was mostly a reliever, but that clearly got through to him because he has been really sold this year — he won his first three starts as an underdog, and then lost his fourth start despite pitching well because he got no run support. Harrison is a big guy who seems to finally be growing into his talent. He pitches for a good team, but one that is perceived to be lacking in pitching, so there is a good chance that Harrison can keep performing and still stay reasonably under the radar.
Kyle McClellan, St. Louis Cardinals — After 202 relief appearances over the last three years the workhorse was rewarded with a starting spot. So far he has made the most of the opportunity. He has been consistently very solid so far this year — he’s not overwhelming teams, but he’s certainly not letting them accomplish much, either. He’ll have some ups and downs over the season, but a guy who has appeared in as many games as he has over the last three years has been through a lot of different experiences, so he’ll be as braced as a new starter can possibly be to get himself out of trouble. I’m optimistic. The one concern is that McClellan has enjoyed a whole lot of run support this year — 17 runs in his last two games alone. St. Louis can’t keep that up for all his starts, so McClellan will face less favorable situations in the future.
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