Sonny Gray headlines our list of MLB frauds

MLB Fraud Detector: 3 Statistical Imposters & How To Profit Off Them

Pro baseball is one constant analysis of sample sizes. Since the MLB season is so long, pitchers and hitters inevitably experience raging hot stretches and freezing cold spells. That's how it goes.

But what happens when that hot streak keeps going and going? Do we simply acknowledge this player is now one of the best in the league? Nope. 

So, we wait for the house of cards to tumble inwards? You betcha.

There are a lot of MLB frauds this year (guys whose numbers exceed their capabilities). Let's examine a few cases and derive a strategy to profit from their impending downfalls. 

MLB Frauds: Sonny Gray

Sorry, Twins fans. I'm just not buying Gray's impeccable season.

Why Sonny Gray is a fraud

Like a lot of pitchers in baseball, Gray worked very hard early in his career, dropping a couple of 200-inning seasons, but has struggled to stay healthy recently. Think Madison Bumgarner, but less extreme.

This year, Gray's among the best arms in baseball, twirling a 2.15 ERA while allowing just one lone home run in 67 innings. That's freakin' ridiculous, and, frankly, I'm not sure the 33-year-old can hold opposing bats at bay forever.

For a guy who relies on home run suppression, Gray's underlying hard-hit numbers aren't great. He's in the 38th percentile in average exit velocity and ranks in the 35th percentile in hard-hit rate. 

Opponents are also hitting .321 off his four-seam fastball. While Gray has other hard pitches, it's never great when your main heater is consistently being smacked around.

How To Bet Gray Going Forward

In the future, I'd fade the Twins when Gray pitches. That doesn't seem like the most astute analysis, but the right-hander hasn't been profitable through a dozen starts, generating -$174 for bettors who placed $100 on each of his starts.

On a more granular level, I'd look to bet the OVER on his hits allowed. With some red flags on the hard-contact numbers, there's an avenue to exploiting his markets through prop betting.

MLB Frauds: Mitch Keller

This one is too easy.

Why Mitch Keller is a fraud

Keller was a feel-good story around MLB just a few weeks ago. The Pirates righty earned national praise for his career turnaround, pivoting a career 4.50+ ERA into a sparkling 2023 season. Not so fast.

The wheels have come off in Keller's last four outings, during which opponents have slugged .505 off him and he's posted a 6.56 ERA. 

Give him credit, the strikeout numbers have remained way up (10.6 K/9), even during this lousy four-game stretch, but it can't hold forever. 

I see issues in Keller's average exit velocity allowed. In 2022, when the righty finished with a 3.91 ERA, he allowed an 85.9-mph average exit velo. In 2023, that's up slightly to 86.3 mph. Those numbers, in a nutshell, are good, but there's isn't enough significant change to show me Keller is any different in 2023.

When the arm gets tired and the whiffs fade, the Pirates could be in trouble.

How To Bet Keller Going Forward

It's not as simple as fading the Pirates, since Keller is still the most profitable pitcher in MLB (+$593) and Pittsburgh has the eighth-easiest remaining schedule in baseball.

Instead, I'd look at his props, especially the strikeout totals. Watch for Keller's innings count later in the season. The 27-year-old has never exceeded 159 innings in his career, meaning he's bound to run out of steam eventually. In his last start on June 6, Keller tossed 5.1 frames but struck out just one hitter. That could just be a blip, but I'd watch his next outing closely to see where to go from there.

MLB Frauds: Isaac Paredes

The 2023 Rays are wagon, but a few pieces, like Paredes, aren't quite how they seem.

Why Isaac Paredes is a fraud

The Rays' offense is flat-out terrifying, leading MLB in most major categories including home runs (108). Paredes, Tampa's heavy-hitting corner infielder, is a big cog in that machine. He's not a middle-of-the-order star like Randy Arozarena or Yandy Diaz, but he's still important to the club's success.

Here's the thing: he's been lucky this year. Per Baseball Savant, Paredes' .259 batting average plays more like a .214 xBA, while his .459 slugging translates to a .333 xSLG. Either as a product of ballpark factors or sheer luck, Paredes has overperformed. His .126 SLG-xSLG is third among qualified MLB hitters.

How To Bet Paredes Going Forward

I'd rule Paredes out of any MLB home run betting, as his slug and homer numbers are juiced from luck, inaccurately elevating his per-game home-run prop value.

Beyond that, I'd consider fading him on total bases props. He's hit the OVER 0.5 bases in 31 of 56 games this season (55% success), which is quite good, but if the line ever moves to 1.5 O/U, that's an automatic fade for me.