MLB Expert Handicapping and Betting: Value Pitchers
There are big-name pitchers - the ones who mow down opposing batters and get paid very handsomely to do so. And there are the guys who deliver big value for bettors who back them consistently. Sometimes both of those guys are the same guy. But when they aren't - when the guy offering the big value to bettors is a guy no one is paying attention to - things can really be attractive for bettors. So, it should come as no surprise that our job here today is to look for guys somewhat or completely off the radar who are delivering profits so far this year. Luckily, there is no shortage of guys:
Julio Teheran, Atlanta: Teheran has been a very solid pitcher for Atlanta since 2013, but the team has been so bad that he doesn't get the notice - or post the numbers - that he probably deserves to. He has been riding the surprising wave of success that Atlanta is enjoying so far this year, though. While he's pitching not much different than usual, he is winning a lot more games as a result for him and his team. He's at 4-1 so far, and the team has won seven of his nine appearances. He has really rounded into form lately, with wins in his last three. That has helped him become the third most profitable pitcher in baseball behind only two established top-level aces - Luis Severino and Max Scherzer.
Eduardo Rodriguez, Boston: With three former Cy Young winners on the staff, it can be easy for a less-accomplished pitcher to disappear. Rodriguez is only 22-21 on his career, so it's not like he has done enough to make a big splash in the minds of bettors. But this year Rodriguez has been more profitable than any of the very expensive arms in that rotation. The Red Sox have won seven of the eight games Rodriguez has started, so he is the fifth-most-profitable pitcher in the whole league. Rick Porcello is next best, and he ranks only 38th. A lesser-known pitcher on a top-level team can often be the one who offers value, and that is the case here.
Nick Pivetta, Philadelphia: Pivetta is a Canadian like me, so we know he has a lot going for him right off the top. Last year as a rookie starter for the Phillies he had some rough times, winding up with an ERA north of 6.00 over 25 games. He has been much better this year, though, and the team has been much better around him. The team has gone 7-2 behind him, and he is the sixth-most-profitable pitcher in the league right now. He's only 25 and in his second year, so the improvement he has shown this year could be a sign of even brighter things to come.
Mike Leake, Seattle: This is an odd one. Leake has the highest ERA of his career by well over a run this year at 6.00. He is not pitching great. But the combination of luck and a decent team behind him has helped him be surprisingly effective despite not being much to watch. The Mariners are 6-3 in his starts, and his numbers have scared people off enough that he is the seventh-most-profitable pitcher in baseball. He proves that you don't have to be good to be profitable - you just have to be in the right place at the right time.
Chris Stratton, San Francisco: Stratton has cooled off a bit lately - the team is 2-2 in his last four starts after going 5-1 in his first six. But he is still remarkably productive for a guy who had only had 10 mostly-forgettable starts to his career. This is a guy that the Giants are looking to bring along as a mid-rotation answer, and if he could be even close to as productive going forward as he has been to start the year then he would be a major score for the team - and they could use one. Despite the slightly lower productivity of late, he is still 12th in the league in profitability - which is what absolutely no one besides maybe his mother would have expected heading into the season.
Dan Straily, Miami: There was absolutely no reason to expect anything positive to come from the Marlins this year after they traded away their entire team. Well, it's not much, and his numbers aren't great, but this journeyman starter has made three starts this year, and the team has won all three. Not surprisingly, the team has been dogs in every game, so he has produced nice profits. He's not exactly overwhelming guys with his stuff, so the team has also gone "over" the total in each of his starts as well.
Trevor Williams, Pittsburgh: Maybe I'm just drawn to the first name here. This second-year starter has really taken strides this year, though. He has dropped his ERA from 4.07 last year all the way to 2.72 this year, and his underlying stats have improved accordingly. Like Pivetta, he has improved faster than the bettors have given him credit for, so he is producing some strong profits. The team is 6-3 in his nine starts and 3-1 in his last four.
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