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Handicapping Starting Pitchers for MLB Bets

Most team sports have a key position player where performance can make the difference between winning or losing a game. In hockey, there is no position more important than goalie, while in football, teams live and die based on the strength of their quarterback. In baseball, no single position impacts the game more than the person responsible for filling the Gatorade dispenser. Jokes! It’s the starting pitcher. It’s always the starting pitcher.

How to Handicap Starting Pitchers

There are many factors to consider when handicapping a starting pitcher. Both standard stats as well as some advanced analytics apply. Look to a pitcher’s recent performance, his past performances vs a particular opponent, how that opened fares vs right-handed or left-handed pitching and how hot that team has been offensively. Other stats to consider are ERA, strike-out-to-walk ratio (K/BB) and a more advanced stat that baseball bettors are catching on to is FIP (fielding independent pitching).

You’ll also want to keep in mind that pitcher can’t win without run support. Look how the team has performed offensively and how they’ve done against the opposing pitcher. Check out the team’s overall record in games that the starter is pitching in. An example would be Jacob deGrom in 2108. He was one of the best pitchers in the league but failed to get run support from his teammates. deGrom did however, get a haircut.

What about the rest of the pitching Staff?

In the past, the focus was almost exclusively on starting pitchers because you knew when Justin Verlander was on the mound, you were going to get seven or eight quality innings. Starters were given four days off and expected to perform at a high-caliber level all season otherwise they would lose their rotation spot to some wide-eyed kid.

Fast-forward a few years to the late twenty-tens when pitch counts are all the rage and younger pitchers are making their MLB debuts every six seconds. These newbies are making their introductions on strict pitch counts, and hurlers in the bullpen are now specializing in middle relief, setup and closing. This leaves starters to pitch fewer innings per game than ever before, in turn, making baseball betting more challenging.

Shorter appearances by starters has also increased the popularity of five-inning game betting lines, where MLB moneylines, totals and runlines are set based on the first five innings of a contest, when a starter is most likely to be on the mound.

If you prefer to stick to traditional betting instead of the first five innings, look to the bullpen and see how’s they've performed in recent games against certain opponents.

Pitching Resources at OddsShark

Often, novice baseball bettors will look to a starter’s overall stats as a guide to betting on the games. However, to fully understand what a starter brings to the mound, it is important to understand the pitcher’s recent performance, home/road and stadium splits, and historical trends vs their opponent. You should also consider injuries, streaks, weather and of course, the odds.

Like in the best baseball movie of all time, Bull Durham, when Crash Davis told Nuke LaLoosh to use clichés in interviews, OddsShark wants you to use the top handicapping tools for starting pitchers. We have a number of resources available to help you with your research on today’s probable starters. We’re just happy to be here to help the ball club. We gotta play ‘em one day at a time. There’s no crying in baseball. Wait. Wrong movie.

MLB Pitcher Betting Pages
  • Pitcher Logs: These logs cover every starter in baseball, complete with their stats from each start, the OVER/UNDER in each, and the how profitable that pitcher has been for bettors.
  • Probable Pitchers: Here you’ll find a pitcher’s ERA, handedness, and record.
  • Pitcher Run Support: This page analyzes the average number of runs scored by a pitcher’s team over each start, as well as each pitcher’s win/loss record and ERA on the season.
  • Pitcher Money Won/Lost: Here we track how much money a pitcher generates on the MLB money line, regardless – or irregardless as they say in Red Sox country – of their win/loss record.
  • Database: Our Database allows you to look up how the pitcher has performed at home, on the road, as a favorite, an underdog, vs any opponent in any month and more.

OddsShark also provides betting previews on all aspects of each game, including recent head-to-head matchups between teams, details on the last three starts of each team’s probable pitcher, as well as details on each probable pitcher’s recent starts vs that day’s opponent.

What about the Intangibles?

While the above analysis is beneficial, a sense of the intangibles is also critical. Sometimes, a team has a pitcher’s number, or pitching in a certain stadium inexplicably spells trouble for an individual hurler – like how Citi Field is a left-handed hitter’s paradise or how the elevation and expansive dimensions at Coors Field are responsible for more runs scored. There’s also a Shake Shack inside Citi Field with crazy lineups that don’t make sense until you eat the burger and are like “WHOA. Now, that’s a burger.”

Successful baseball betting requires in-depth knowledge of starting pitchers and bullpens, including insight that often only comes from watching the games. But, you may not be able to watch every game, and for that there’s OddsShark’s MLB Game Center to keep you up-to-date so you can monitor your bets.

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