Every profitable baseball bettor understands the importance of the starting pitching match ups when evaluating which side to take in any game. Many sportsbooks even place so much importance on the starting pitching match ups that they call off any action when a starting pitcher is scratched.
But one of the biggest issues with evaluating starting pitchers is judging how they are going to perform in the early season. Many pitchers perform differently early in the season than in the middle and late season. Some are slow starters, and some need the hot weather to start doing better.
The lack of reliable injury information in Major League Baseball gets on my nerves. Major league pitchers are notorious for trying to pitch through things and not telling anyone when they are in pain or having problems.
A pitcher may not be performing up to par for weeks on end, and then all of a sudden you find out they are hurt.
So how do you tell the difference between early season struggles and something worse?
The best way is to track how starting pitchers perform in different parts of the season every year. If you know that a starting pitcher always starts slow you don't worry too much in the early going but you tend to bet against him.
How many innings did they throw last year, over the last several years, over their career, how old are they, did they pitch in winter ball?
All of these are important questions to have an answer to when evaluating early season performance.
A pitcher's legs are important, so observing how they walk and run can lend hints toward possible problems. You have to be prepared to use everything at your disposal to make smart bets. This includes all of the statistics you can find, all of the information you can gather and everything your eyes can tell you when watching games.
How do you use all of this to make profitable wagers early in the season?
Possibly the safest method is to not bet on baseball early in the season. Some sports bettors concentrate on basketball to fill the time and start betting on baseball after the first month or so of the season.
But the thing to remember is the sportsbooks will have the same difficulties with early season pitching match ups as everyone else. So if you just don't try early in the season you can miss out on lines that offer value.
And winning sports bettors are the best ones at finding value, so if you can learn to evaluate these games you can start the season off with some nice winning percentages.
Though they are not directly related to starting pitching, bullpens do go a long way toward teams winning and losing games. A strong bullpen has the ability to bail a starting pitcher out when they do have a down performance. The bullpen may be able to keep the game close enough for the offense to have a chance to win the game late.
On the other side, a poor bullpen can blow a game and a bad closer can quickly negate 7 or 8 innings of strong starting pitching. Because of the importance of the bullpen, you can use it to help decide which starting pitcher to back if they are close in predicted performance.
One area that's overlooked by most baseball bettors is the catcher for each starting pitcher. Some pitchers don't seem to change much based on the catcher, but some perform much better with one catcher over another. You can track this historically as well as during the current season.
I always consider the defense behind the starting pitchers when deciding how to bet as well. Baseball bettors sometimes get caught up in offensive numbers and predictions, but a run saved on defense is one less run needed to win. Just because a light hitting shortstop or second baseman is out tonight and being replaced by a better bat does not mean the team has a better chance to win.
I'm not a huge fan of many of the advanced metrics available about today's baseball game, but some of them can be used as guidelines to help make decisions. For example, wins above replacement (WAR) can be a valuable tool when considering whether a defensive specialist is more or less valuable than a better hitter with a weaker glove. (Just make sure you are using a WAR that includes defensive statistics.)
I never base my betting decisions solely on these types of calculations, but have used them to help me decide which way to lean on close match ups.
Tracking the average velocity of a starting pitcher's fastball over the past few seasons and the past few games can give you a great deal of insight into their overall performance. You should also track the opponents' batting average of balls in play, ground ball versus fly ball percentages, strikeout percentages and walk percentages.
When you track all of these statistics over the course of several years and for all of a starting pitcher's starts in the current year you will have an advantage over most sports bettors.
Like most areas of sports betting, the willingness to do more work than most people and track more statistics than most people is where you can gain a real edge during the baseball season. When you know more about the starting pitchers and their teams than anyone else you are in the best position possible to win at the sportsbook.
Make a commitment today to become a winning baseball bettor and you will be well on your way to profit.