MLB Betting Advice for 2019: Toughest Aces to Handicap
The biggest single key to success in baseball betting is being able to understand and evaluate starting pitchers. No guy has a bigger impact on the outcome of the game than the starting pitcher. Sometimes pitchers are easy to evaluate - we know that a strong starter in top form is easy to trust and that a bad pitcher with a rough matchup is very tough to appreciate. The spring isn't a great time for betting on baseball , but it is a very good time to start getting ready to bet on games once they matter. That means that it is a great time to look at the pitchers at the top of rotations. And when we do that there are some aces, and guys who could be aces, that are very tough to judge right now. Here are four that stand out.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: Kershaw is the best pitcher of his generation - at least. But he is turning 31 this spring, and he hasn't been healthy for the past three seasons. There are reasons for concern. And, most significantly, he has had serious issues to start the spring. He experienced shoulder soreness before spring training games even started and was shut down. A week later he still isn't throwing. He's not planning to have an MRI as of yet, which can be an indication that the problems aren't necessarily long term. But it is tough to think of too many times when a shoulder injury to a star pitcher - especially an older one - hasn't had a lasting impact. Kershaw is coming off his worst season since 2010, and now his health picture is far from clear. This makes me very nervous.
Miles Mikolas, Cardinals: This is a crazy story. Mikolas played parts of three very undistinguished seasons for the Padres and Rangers. His career was going nowhere in a hurry, and he had reached the end of the line. He headed to Japan for three years. He found some success there and was able to return last year as a 29-year-old to join the Cardinals. His season last year was a complete shock. His 18-4 record gave him the best win percentage in baseball, he walked just 29 batters in 32 starts, and he was at or near the top of the NL in several statistical categories. No one saw it coming, but now everyone will be watching him, and we have to see if he can keep it up. On top of that, the all-star from last season has a new four-year, $68 million contract, and all the pressure that comes with that. Last year could be an indication of what is to come - proof that miracles can happen in Japan. Or he could struggle now that teams have more film on him and know what to expect.
Kyle Freeland, Rockies: Freeland was probably the biggest surprise in a very surprising, and very good, Rockies rotation last year. In just his second year as a starter, he took massive strides forward, posting a 17-7 record with 173 strikeouts while significantly improving in most statistical categories. Denver hasn't traditionally been a friendly place for pitchers over the long term, though, so we certainly can't be sure that he can continue his upwards trajectory or even maintain what he did last year. He obviously has talent, and his arm is still young and relatively fresh, but I will need to see several strong starts before I will even think about truly trusting him.
Yu Darvish, Cubs: Things started to go off the rails for Darvish in the 2017 playoffs. After being traded to the Dodgers from Texas at the deadline, he seemed to be tipping pitches in the playoffs. He might as well have been tossing underhand given how opponents were teeing him up. That didn't stop him from being a coveted free agent. Ultimately, he signed in Chicago for six years and $126 million. And Darvish didn't earn a cent of it in the first disastrous season. He played only eight games last year, posting an ugly 1-3 record, and was statistically the worst he had been in his career by far. He worked hard all offseason and even ditched his interpreter and will be taking interviews in English for the first time. He' determined to get back on track, and the Cubs could definitely use the help. But he will turn 33 this year, and has had injury issues in the past, so it is far from certain that he will get back to his best - or at least good enough to earn that fat contract.
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