Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, June 22, 2018 at 1:00 PM
In past years, I wouldn’t have recommended the strategy I’m going to outline for you today here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. It didn’t work then, though some people swore by it as they threw their money away. In certain situations, it’s going to work very well in 2018.
What’s the strategy?
Focus on team won-lost records by pitcher. What’s the team’s record with their best starting pitcher on the mound. What’s the team’s record with the second-best, and so on down the line. In past years, this record was way too polluted by run support. An average pitcher might win two-thirds of his games over a few months simply because his team happened to score a bunch of runs during his starts. Somebody else in the same rotation would be of the same quality, but might be losing two-thirds of his starts because of bad run support.
Inexperienced gamblers who could make up a narrative to explain any short-term fluke would say “they love hitting for so-and-so,” or, “they don’t like such-and-such so they don’t try to score any runs for him.” I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve heard variations of that explanation given over five different decades (starting in the 1970’s, up to and including this season).
Those narratives would usually bite the dust over a course of months. Even year-to-year, one guy might go 20-7 one year, 12-15 the next posting very similar pitching stats. He was the same guy doing the same things. Great run support one year, mediocre or bad the next. There’s no such thing as a pitcher who “always” gets run support because his teammates are enthusiastic, or a pitcher who “never” does because he’s a jerk in the clubhouse.
Why is this year different?
It’s now very clear that smart managers are structuring their bullpens to lock down the last three innings. Starting pitchers aren’t left in too long to get tired, or to let a dangerous lineup see them for a third time through. Starting pitchers try to go 5-6 innings, then hand off to relievers. On the best teams, starters will provide six good innings and the bullpen will post three zeroes to finish things off.
This has helped limit the influence of run support on victories. The New York Yankees are a great example of late. They’re ON FIRE even though the offense has mostly been in a slump outside of a couple good games vs. Seattle. Yankees starting pitchers automatically win with run support, but can still win anyway with just a few runs on the board. If they carry a lead into the seventh, it’s almost always going to be a win…even if that lead is just 2-0 or 3-2.
As a result, starting pitchers now have a greater ability to inspire a victory as long as they can get into the sixth inning. Team won-lost records by pitcher are telling you who can get there and who can’t. On lesser teams, it’s telling you who doesn’t have a quality bullpen.
This week’s exercise is to work through one of the many baseball stat sites to determine won-lost records by pitcher in each rotation. It will take some time. Homework is supposed to! Use covers.com, or baseball-reference.com, or even the player stats pages at espn.com to figure this out. Maybe do a division per day through the week…or a couple. I’m confident you’ll agree with me about this important dynamic…and you’ll find several pitchers who aren’t getting enough credit in the money line when they start. There are some pitchers who should be -200 because of great bullpen backup who are only laying -140 or -150.
If you think that’s too much homework (toughen up!), here’s a shortcut. First find out which teams have the most successful bullpens by way of ERA, holds, saves, etc…then focus on the starting pitchers for THOSE teams. This will at least isolate a few arms you can start winning with that you may have been avoiding.
We’re in the middle of a very unique season. Elite teams like Houston, the NY Yankees, and Boston might make a run at 110 wins because they’re trying to avoid a Wildcard and/or earn home field advantage in the playoffs. Over in the National League, I expect a few of the projected powers to get hotter than they’ve been down the stretch (similar to what the Dodgers did last year), and basically play like the Astros or Yankees over several weeks. Decent starting pitchers on this type of team could “break the system” in terms of past market expectations. It’s already happening for some guys…and could get even more extreme.
If you’d like additional assistance, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. Ask about packages that take you through the All-Star Break or the full baseball season. Of course, it’s never a bad time to ask about early-bird football too. All the work you do this summer for college and pro football preparation will pay off through the fall.
The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. You know I wouldn’t put you on any wild goose chases. The homework I choose has a specific goal in mind every week. The sum effect of your weekly homework is going to make you a much more successful bettor. I’m grateful that so many of you have experienced this already. If you’re relatively new to the coursework, welcome aboard!
Have a great and fruitful weekend. Our next class get-together will be on Monday.