MLB Handicapping: Best and Worst Pitchers
by Trevor Whenham - 6/14/2012
As we are about 40 percent through the MLB season, here’s a look at the five best and five worst pitchers of the year so far from an MLB handicapping perspective. While these guys might not keep their current form, this guide will help you manage the MLB odds.
R.A. Dickey, New York Mets
Dickey has been one of the biggest stories of the year — a 37-year-old knuckleballer who suddenly is unhittable. He’s 10-1, his WHIP is a microscopic 0.94, and he has only gotten better recently. It seems almost impossible that a guy with a 51-51 career record can keep it up, but the ride has been very fun so far.
Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals
The hype on the back of Strasburg has been massive, but the superstar has overcome Tommy John Surgery and is as good as he has even been. The team is 11-2 while he is on the mound. He may not be quite as overwhelmingly dominant as he was in our first brief glimpses of him, but he’s clearly a very elite pitcher with a very bright future. His presence here is no fluke.
Gio Gonzalez, Washington Nationals
Gonzalez was a nice pickup when he joined the Nationals, but it wasn’t clear how good. He has far exceeded expectations and is clearly enjoying the change of leagues and the protection of pitching behind Strasburg. The team is 10-2 when he starts, and he is essentially co-MVP of the team with Strasburg. He may not be as strong once teams see him more, but for now what he has done has not been a fluke.
Jason Hammel, Baltimore Orioles
Hammel just seems to be relieved to be out of the pitcher’s nightmare that is Denver. His new team has been the biggest surprise of this young season, and the fact that the team is 9-3 in his starts is a big reason for it. Hammel has proven to be a solid pitcher over his career, though not as solid as he has performed so far. I still don’t know whether to trust the Orioles or not, but I can’t help but feel like Hammel will adjust downward with time.
A.J. Burnett, Pittsburgh Pirates
For the last three years Burnett was a waste of oxygen in New York. Now he has gone to a team that has specialized in wasting oxygen for decades, and suddenly he looks like Cy Young. Burnett is a total space cadet, and I have a really hard time to believe he can keep his game together — especially if the Pirates start their typical second-half swoon. For now, though, Burnett has been performing like he is capable of.
Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels
Haren is coming off a strong season and his team was heavily-hyped, so it is no wonder that the public was high on him before the season. The team is just 4-9 when he starts, though, and no player has burned more bettor money than Haren. He has had a whole lot of bad luck, though — his 3.73 ERA and 1.29 WHIP are both respectable and are not much above his career marks. He has also led his team to a 3-1 record in his last four outings. Haren won’t be an all-star this year, but he should be able to find his way out of the betting cellar if he keeps things up.
Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
Lincecum has two Cy Young awards and has been as impressive as anyone for the last five years. Now there are serious discussions over whether he needs to spend some time in the bullpen until he gets his game back. He’s 2-7 with a 6.00 ERA and just doesn’t have it — the team has lost his last eight starts. You hope a guy like this can find his magic again, but right now he’s just not worth touching. Worse yet, he’s pretty much an automatic bet-against at this point.
Henderson Alvarez, Toronto Blue Jays
Here’s another guy who, like Haren, has just had no luck. He doesn’t deserve to be the third least profitable pitcher in the game given his performance. For a guy at the bottom of the rotation to post a 3.87 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in his first full year as a starter is totally respectable — really above expectations for him. He hasn’t had run support, though, and the team is only 3-10 when he starts. He could be a little better — especially lately — but the team needs to be kinder to him as well.
Chris Volstad, Chicago Cubs
Volstad is down in Triple-A and could be there for a while, so he likely shouldn’t be on this list. He is the fourth least profitable pitcher in the league, though, so he should be mentioned — even if you don’t have to worry about getting burnt by him again in the short term. In eight starts he was 0-6, and opposing hitters were hitting .302 against him. There are batting practice pitchers who aren’t that easy to hit. The lesson is clear — at this point if he gets called up again you should be very happy.
Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
You look at Lee’s stats and he should be doing much better. His ERA of 3.18 is well below his career average, his 1.05 WHIP is very solid, and opposing hitters are managing just a .237 average against him. In 10 starts, though, he is just 0-3, and the team has won only three times. He has been a victim of the shockingly underwhelming play out of Philadelphia, and the public has taken longer to adjust to it than expected. The combination of high expectations, bad luck and bad play by his team has been a deadly combination for bettors.
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