MLB Wagering and Expert Baseball Handicapping: Rotations Bettors Can Trust
There are few things easier to trust in sports betting than a team with great pitching. Baseball is so driven by what a team gets on the mound, so when you can reliably and consistently expect a strong pitching outing you can focus on the deeper comparables between teams, and you can be a more effective handicapper as a result. And right now there is a lot of good pitching in the league. It's now balanced, of course - there are some truly awful rotations out there. But there are also a number of really great ones. Here's a look at the top four rotations in baseball at this point as well as a few more worthy of honorable mention:
1. Houston Astros:
Dallas Keuchel has a Cy Young award to prove his talent, and he was very
good last year despite dealing with a neck injury that limited his work. He
would be the ace on most staffs in baseball. Justin Verlander has a Cy
Young, too. A few years ago it was easy to think that his glory days were
gone. But he was completely robbed of a Cy Young in 2016 by Rick Porcello,
and he was absolutely brilliant last year after being traded to Houston.
And he's now married to Kate Upton, just in case you were worried that life
wasn't already good enough for him. He has found a fountain of youth, and
he is another guy who could be an ace on more than 20 teams right now.
And as if that wasn't enough, the team added the ace from yet another team this offseason when they grabbed Gerrit Cole from Pittsburgh. Cole hasn't always pitched to his potential, but he has ridiculous stuff, and under this coaching staff and on a winner he should be dangerous. That top three is stellar, and then they add ridiculous depth - Lance McCullers Jr., Brad Peacock, Charlie Morton, and Collin McHugh could all crack the rotation on most any team in the league. Top-end excellence plus impressive depth makes for a deadly combination.
2. Washington Nationals: Max Scherzer has pitched at least 200 innings each year since 2013, and he has won the Cy Young three times since then, including the last two years, but I'm not sure we collectively recognize how good he is yet. He's an all-timer. And behind him in the rotation is Stephen Strasburg, who was third in Cy Young voting last year, and Gio Gonzalez, who had an ERA below three in more than 200 innings. This top three is at least as good as Houston's, and it's probably a little better. The problem, though, is that the rest of the rotation doesn't quite measure up. Tanner Roark has struggled, and the fifth starter position is a toss-up.
3. Cleveland Indians: Last year the Indians struck out a record 1,066 opposing batters, and now they are back with the same group of pitchers. Corey Kluber won his second Cy Young last year, and he was simply as good as a starting pitcher can possibly be for the last two-thirds of the season. I have no problem saying he is the best pitcher in the AL right now. Carlos Carrasco would be the ace on most teams, so to be the second choice here is such an asset for these Indians. And Trevor Bauer has seemingly accepted that he won't be the megastar that many anticipated, but he is as capable and reliable as you get with a third starter. Beyond that things drop off again, but Josh Tomlin, Danny Salazar, and Mike Clevinger all have enough going for them to keep things on track. Of the three teams so far, though, this team can least afford an injury to one of their top two starters.
4. Arizona Diamondbacks: I initially thought this was perhaps a bit high for the rotation, but I found no one to pass them. Zack Greinke is a special talent - albeit a bizarre one - who found his game again last year and should carry that forward. Robbie Ray struck out 218 batters in just 162 innings. Taijuan Walker finally is becoming the pitcher he has looked to be for a while now, and he has a devastating slider. And Patrick Corbin and Zack Godley are as good as any four and five in the league. This rotation doesn't have the high end of some others, but the average of the five is right up there with the best. There isn't a more happily settled rotation at this point in the league.
Dodgers: They don't have enough behind Clayton Kershaw, but a guy that special covers up a lot of faults.
Red Sox: They would likely be solidly higher if David Price could be trusted or if they had a solid answer that we could trust as the fifth starter.
Yankees: The top three of Severino, Gray and Tanaka is very sound, but they need far more from CC Sabathia than I trust him to give, and I don't trust the depth.
Blue Jays: Last year was a real disappointment for this squad due to injuries, but they had one of the best rotations in the AL on paper entering the year, and they got a little better this year. If they can get healthy and find form then they could be very interesting.
Mets: Last year was a total mess as everything that could have gone wrong with their young studs did. There is a lot of uncertainty, but, man, is there upside.
Cubs: The addition of Yu Darvish to a reasonably decent rotation is certainly interesting, and they are absolutely a strong contender. I don't yet completely trust Darvish after his injury and playoff meltdown last year, though.
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