The Week in Baseball Betting By the Numbers
by Robert Ferringo - 7/19/2011
I’m going to do something a little different this week for MLB By The Numbers. I’ve been having some conversations with people lately about whether or not it’s good baseball betting strategy to blindly fade certain pitchers, regardless of circumstance (moneyline, matchup, etc.). And the primary issue is whether or not this method can yield a profit in the long term.
My stance on the situation has always been a resounding “Hell yes”. I am a firm believer that there are some pitchers that just suck. Maybe it’s not their fault (Jeremy Guthrie) because they play on terrible teams. Or maybe it is their own fault (Zach Duke) and teams just repeatedly seem to give these arms a chance. Regardless, there are certain names that when I see them in the Probable Starters column, I only have one thought:
Below are 10 Major League starters that are exceptional pitchers to go against, followed up by the numbers that support this idea of thin-sliced baseball handicapping. Each has their own unique circumstance, but they are a Brotherhood of Suckitude. Going against these guys by flat betting (betting the same amount on each one of their starts) would have earned you a hefty profit over the last five or six years. But if you had taken a “chase” or “scaled” betting approach while going against these pitchers (that is, betting more in the next game after a loss) you would have made a mint during that same stretch.
So for this week’s MLB By The Numbers I present, in no particular order, a list of 10 starters that you should consider betting against every time they take the mound:
1. Zach Duke (4-5 this season; 45-75 over the last five years)
As far as I’m concerned, Duke is one of, if not the, premier pitcher to bet against. After a 5-14 season in 2008 I was worried that Duke would finally be cut loose. But then he made the all-star team in 2009 (a year in which the Pirates ended up going 11-21 in his starts), and that ensured that Duke would be around to bet against for the better part of the next five years. You know, because some general manager or bobblehead will always make the, “You take a chance on him because he has all-star stuff,” argument. Keep dealing, Dukie.
2. Doug Fister (5-14 this season; 17-40 over the last three years)
Fister has been a starter on some wretched Seattle teams over the last three seasons. But the facts are the facts: the guy has won just 29.8 percent of his starts during that time period. His peripherals aren’t that bad – the guy has a 3.77 career ERA – but all that does is increase the value of going against him.
3. Jeremy Guthrie (6-13 this season; 55-75 over the last five years)
Guthrie is a guy that I think could be very successful if he were in a different situation. After five years he simply has to get out of Baltimore and away from that train wreck of an organization. Guthrie has good stuff. But he is in a meat-grinder division, and all of the big boppers for the Yankees, Red Sox and even the Rays and Jays, are just too familiar with his stuff. He is 3-13 this year and is simply overmatched as the “ace” of the Baltimore staff.
4. Brad Bergesen (1-8 this season; 22-34 over the last three years)
Speaking of overmatched pitchers on the Baltimore staff, Bergesen has been as bad as anyone over the last two years. The Orioles are just 1-8 in his nine starts this year, but they are also just 1-16 in his 17 appearances this season. You read that right: 1-16. He is giving up 5.75 runs per nine innings over the course of the last two years and I don’t see much upside with this arm.
5. Edwin Jackson (7-11 this season; 63-83 over the last five years)
I will admit that Jackson has improved tremendously from the horrendous starter that went 8-23 back in 2007 with Tampa Bay. But he is also treated with as much respect by the oddsmakers as any pitcher on this list and he is frequently opposed by low odds favorites.
6. Fausto Carmona (7-11 this season; 43-54 over the last four years)
Carmona, originally a walking disaster in the Cleveland bullpen, seems to be getting way too much credit for that “breakout” 2007 season in which he went 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA. Since then he has gone 43-54 and has probably been listed as a favorite more than half of the pitchers on this list combined. He has very little control and is not fooling any of the top hitters in the A.L. Central.
7. Charlie Morton (7-9 this season, 22-44 over the last four years)
Quite frankly, Morton is not a Major League-caliber pitcher. He doesn’t have good stuff. He isn’t left-handed. And outside of a tremendous opening two months of this season he has never looked competent by any measure. I mean, he earned 17 starts last year despite an ERA of 7.57. Don’t be fooled by his performance this April and May (anomalies exacerbated by a league-wide hitting slump). This guy is as bad as anyone in baseball.
8. Jo-Jo Reyes (9-10 this season, 21-35 over the last four years)
I like to think of Reyes as a left-handed Charlie Morton. Just this year he snapped a three-year winless streak (spanning 28 starts) and from 2008 to 2010 posted a 6.47 ERA through 27 starts. He has been particularly pathetic against Toronto’s toughest competition in the A.L. East, posting a 10.17 career ERA in four starts against the Yankees and Red Sox.
9. Paul Maholm (7-13 this season, 76-97 over the last six years)
Maholm is the Last Man Standing of the glorious (for bettors) Pittsburgh trio of Maholm-Duke-Tom Gorzelanny. He is the only one of those lefties still in a Pirates uniform (any surprise that Pittsburgh has been respectable since getting rid of 2/3 of their terrible trio?) and he is still an anchor around the franchise’s neck. Maholm is another one of those guys who will have just enough quality outings to make you think there is still a chance he’ll “figure it out”. Well, I figured it out years ago: this guy sucks and is always just four days away from providing gamblers with a strong play against him.
10. Dontrelle Willis (9-19 in L4 years, 41-56 over the last six years)
I think that Willis keeps getting chances – and respect from some bettors and oddsmakers – because he is a guy that people are kind of rooting for. Willis seems like a genuinely nice guy that seemingly overnight lost any and all control of his pitches. But the facts are the facts: Willis is kind of a Bizarro Oliver Perez and, aside from one or two solid, false hope-inducing outings (or innings) per season, has proven that he is just not a reliable MLB starter.
Now, we just need to convince some low-budget team (looking at you Kansas City) to give Oliver Perez (7-14 since 2009) another shot and we’re in business. But until that happens, blindly going against those 10 pitchers should pad your stack this MLB season.
Check back next week for more MLB By the Numbers.
Robert Ferringo is a professional sports handicapper for Doc’s Sports. He is considered one of the top MLB cappers in the country and has turned a profit in four of the last five years on the diamond with his baseball picks. He closed 2010 with $6,000 in earnings over the last four months and is looking forward to continuing his exceptional earnings.
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