MLB Predictions: 2013 Pitching Wins Head-To-Head Props Odds
by Alan Matthews - 3/15/2013
Is this finally the year we see a starting pitcher win 30 games for the first time since Detroit's Denny McLain went 31-6 in 1968? Uh, that's a big fat no. Among the Major League Baseball single-season magic numbers that will never be reached again (.400, 73, 56, 191), include that 30-win barrier.
Because of the way bullpens are used these days with specialized pitchers, reaching 25 wins would be a fantastic achievement. The last player to do that was Oakland's Bob Welch in 1990 with 27 for the powerhouse Oakland A's. No National League pitcher has won at least 25 since Hall of Famer Steve Carlton in 1972.
In 2011, there was some minor rumblings that a dominant Justin Verlander might at least match Welch's 27-win total. Verlander was a brilliant 20-5 through August, but here's the problem: He started just five more regular-season games and would finish with 24 wins, the most in MLB since Randy Johnson won 24 in 2002. Verlander had a career-high 34 starts that year, which is a lot these days. McLean had 41 in 1968. Welch had only 35 in 1990, but he pitched much deeper into games than modern-day pitchers do, thus giving him a few more innings to potentially add a victory.
BookMaker offers a prop on the most pitching wins in the 2013 regular season, set at “over/under” 21 (both -120). Washington's Gio Gonzalez led the majors right at that number last year, Verlander had those 24 the year before, and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay and the Yankees' CC Sabathia tied with 21 in 2010. The last time no pitcher won at least 21 was in 2009, the last time no pitcher reached 20.
I would have to lean under here, because, realistically, there are probably only six guys who can do it: Verlander, Clayton Kershaw, Gonzalez, Jered Weaver, David Price and Cole Hamels. Halladay is starting to look his age and show the wear and tear of all those innings. I would include Stephen Strasburg, but I don't think he'll get enough innings. Sabathia also appears to be breaking down a bit, and the Yankees clearly aren't going to be as good as in past years.
BookMaker also offers six head-to-head props on wins. Here's a look at each.
Verlander -1.5 (-120) vs. Price +1.5 (-120): What do these two have in common? A race to become the majors' first $200 million pitcher, although Kershaw could beat them both. Verlander has two years left on a five-year, $80 million deal that looks paltry now. The Tigers already have broached the subject of an extension. Price is under the Rays' control through 2015, but they can't afford the reigning Cy Young award winner much longer as he will command record numbers in arbitration the next two years. I fully expect Price to be traded before the start of next season. I always think Verlander is due for a down year by his standards, but that loaded Tigers offense is so much better than Tampa Bay's that you have to go with him here.
Weaver -.5 (-145) vs. Felix Hernandez +.5 (+105): Clearly any team would rather have King Felix, who might be the best pitcher in the league and just got a new $175 million extension. Hernandez isn't a 20-game threat because the Mariners stink. As good as Hernandez has been the past three years, he hasn't won more than 14 games. Weaver should have that by the end of July thanks to a truly scary Angels lineup.
Sabathia -2 (-145) vs. Chris Sale +2 (+105): The White Sox locked up the young Sale for at least the next five years after his breakout 17-8 season a year ago. Some scouts still worry about his funky delivery, but the guy is nasty. Sabathia was limited to 28 starts last year due to injuries as his workload finally is catching up to him. The big lefty had surgery on his left elbow and had his spring debut delayed until late this week. I worry about his health big-time, and I really think the Yankees are going to be a .500-type club with a very weak offense. Take Sale here.
Kershaw -1.5 (-120) vs. Hamels +1.5 (-120): As long as Clayton Kershaw's hip problem is OK, and apparently it is, I like him here. He is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season and, thus, pitching for many, many millions. Hamels already got his last year, and that Phillies offense has an awful lot of question marks. Have you seen their outfield?
Strasburg -2 (+105) vs. Cliff Lee +2 (-145): If the Nats do let Strasburg pitch 200 innings this season, as has been rumored, he should be good for at least 15 wins. I happen to think the team will still baby him a bit. Fellow starter Jordan Zimmermann was held to 195.2 innings last season, two years off Tommy John surgery. That's probably the ballpark for Strasburg, who rarely may go seven innings. That will cost him wins. Lee's six wins were a fluke last year as he had a 3.16 ERA and 1.11 WHIP. He should stay within two of Strasburg because Lee eats innings.
Zack Greinke -1 (-120) vs. Matt Cain +1 (-120): I am in the camp that the Dodgers are sorely going to regret giving Greinke that $147 million contract this offseason. He's a good pitcher but not a great one. Sure, he will win games because of that lineup, but already Greinke is complaining about some elbow soreness and may not be ready for his first start of the year. Can you say warning bells!?!? Take Cain even though the Giants will have trouble scoring.
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