Tired Bullpen: Baseball Handicapping

The common adage in baseball betting is that starting pitching is everything. Starting pitching remains the most important element of baseball wagering, but in today’s era, bullpens are more important than ever before because starters are pitching less than in the past.

Remember that it’s very rare for a starter to go the distance. So why handicap the game with that in mind? Bullpens throw at least one third of the game in most cases, making their evaluation a major part of any successful handicapping strategy.

When assessing bullpens, many factors come into play, and it’s not as simple as collective ERA. The makeup of the ‘pen is more important than bullpen ERA, as is bullpen fatigue: A tired bullpen can go a long way in taking away a team’s value on a given night.

It’s integral to know the overall situation with a team’s bullpen, but also which arms are fresh and ready to pitch on a given night. A club could have a great bullpen ERA with a money closer and solid setup relievers, but if the big guns have pitched a lot lately and are getting the night off, they’re not going to factor into the game.

A particular situation that could make a team fade bait is the combination of a tired bullpen with the fifth starter throwing. In that scenario, the manager often leaves the starter in longer than usual to give the bullpen a rest, especially if it’s a getaway game and the team is looking ahead to a key series.

Make sure to look back at a team’s last few games to get a sense of the shape of the bullpen. Ask yourself the following questions: Have the starters been having rough outings lately, thus pushing the ‘pen harder than usual? Is the ‘pen deep? Is the bullpen dealing with injuries?

Winning more MLB bets can depend on handicapping bullpens. And it takes training to avoid the pitfalls that can damage your bankroll.