1. #1
    Point Blank
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    PB (/29): MLB 2018 Begins: Separating Pitch Quality From Outcomes



    MLB 2018 Begins: Separating Pitch Quality From Outcomes…And no, Jose Urena wasn’t really any better in 2017…The chase is on to define the Chase humidor; the Kershaw Chronicles continue; and the LaMarcus Aldridge impact is a “yowzer”…


    Point Blank – March 29, 2018

    The first couple of strides in running a marathon might not seem all that important over the course of the race, but there is something special about MLB Opening day, a higher degree of pageantry than in the other sports, and those notions of hope springing eternal for even the worst of teams.

    There won’t be a lot flowing from the pockets today but there will be the commencement of some of the most intense tracking that takes place with any sport, the careful scrutiny across performances that MLB allows because of the information that is available. I’ll bring some of those methods in as the lead today, because even though Cubs/Marlins start early and some of you may not get the opportunity to read through in time, it is more about long-term processes than a single game.

    The guy that is throwing the first pitch of the 2018 season leads to a fascinating case study, and begs the question…


    Item: Was Jose Urena any better at all in 2017?

    I can already project what the television announcers will be saying as Urena takes the mound, riffs on the notion that he was among the most improved players in the sport last season. The bottom line numbers certainly set that narrative:

    W/L ERA
    2016 4-9 6.13
    2017 14-7 3.82



    Instead let’s use this as a welcome to one of the most important topics that will be under discussion here on a regular basis, the difference between the quality of pitches thrown, and the outcomes of those pitches.

    Baseball brings a unique geometry, the broken-bat bloop falling in for a hit, when the pitcher beat the hitter in the encounter but lost in the outcome; and the screaming liner caught by an outfielder in the power alleys, hitter beating the pitcher in the personal encounter, but losing in the outcome. Over time those bounces will tend to level out, the Spirits of Baseball not anointing anyone as saint nor condemning them as sinner, but it is in the process of that taking place over short cycles that edges can be found.

    Did Urena really pitch that much better in 2017? Hell, you can make the case that he didn’t pitch any better at all, and in fact may have been a bit worse:

    K/9 BB/9 GB% HR/FB SWS%
    2016 6.2 3.1 47.7 13.1 8.6
    2017 6.0 3.4 43.1 13.1 8.2

    Compared to the awful Urena of 2016, the supposedly improved 2017 version 2017 had fewer strikeouts, more walks, fewer ground balls and fewer swings and misses. That is hardly a recipe for improvement. First you should get accustomed to those categories, because I will use them a lot, some base rates that help to show how well a pitcher is throwing the ball vs. his past norms, before the geometry of the outcomes set in. Second is how to explain the 2017 Urena, and it brings another key category – BABIP.

    BABIP stands for “Batting Average on Balls in Play”, and helps to track the geometry. In 2017 the collective MLB average on all balls in play was .297, which is right around the historical standard. It isn’t all about randomness, some of it stems from teams playing good defense (Yankees at .280, Dodgers and White Sox at .281), or bad defense (Mets at .319 and Tigers at .320). To help set the Urena perspective, the Marlins were close to league average, at .298.

    What should the expectation have been for a mediocre pitcher with an average defense in terms of balls in play? Not great. Yet what happened? A .249 got posted.

    Let’s set some perspective on that .249. There were 75 pitchers that worked at least 160 innings, and these were the “leaders” in the category, putting that in quotes because it isn’t necessarily a skill set:

    Miranda .236
    Lynn .244
    Santana .245
    Scherzer .245
    Hellickson .246
    Urena .249

    There is a bit of rhyme/reason to BABIP. Fly-ball pitchers will fare better than ground ball guys, which makes some logical sense, because there is more trajectory room for a ground ball to skip through an infield than a fly ball to evade outfield gloves. But Urena isn’t a ground-ball guy, his 43.1 awfully close to the MLB average of 44.2.

    Is there a case to be made that success breeds confidence, which helps a pitcher to execute when he has to? Absolutely, and I believe that played a part in the 2017 Urena success in outcomes. But be ready on the trigger should baseball not treat him so kindly this season, and that confidence dissipates.


    Item: The chase is on at Chase

    Another key handicapping element that will be a discussion point often are the impact of the various parks on different elements of the sport. There aren’t any newcomers this season, and now there has been a year of tracking Atlanta, but there has been a change at an existing facility, a humidor at Chase Field. That link is worth reading through to help set some foundations.

    I will be wiping the slate clean in terms of my own tracking, all past numbers moved over to a separate file (“Old Chase”), until the impact begins to show. The auto-stat places will continue to crank out home/away from the Arizona pitchers and hitters, and also how opposing players have performed there, but those numbers may not merit carrying the weight that usually get attached.

    There has already been a major market statement being made, the 9’s disappearing across the board for Gray/Corbin. While watching that happen, it tells us to get ready for another of the challenges ahead – the MLB marketplace being a savvy one. In the past an 8.5 would have been low for an early-season game with the roof open, so there is some anticipation showing at the windows already.

    As the tracking takes place there is also something else you will want to bookmark, so that you can check whether the Chase Roof will be open or closed for any given game.


    Item: You can get the best value playing against Clayton Kershaw in Nevada
    Sub-Item: Getting that value the last couple of years might have busted you out

    It is also time to begin one of the other prime challenges of each MLB season, weighing the scales of value against the prospects of winning any particular game. And also one of the toughest tasks for guys on the other side of the counter, what to do with Kershaw games.

    With a 144-64/2.36 as the 2,000 innings plateau approaches, Kershaw isn’t just the best of his generation, but also in the discussion for best pitcher ever, should his next 1,000 innings stay on that track. In other sports it would mean something easy for the oddsmakers and Sports Book operators – they know he is great, they know the markets know he is great, so they can just set an exorbitant price and the rest takes care of itself.

    Except, of course, that baseball is a different beast when it comes to the impact of the odds because there isn’t a way to make Kershaw and the Dodgers lose. Since the All-Star break of 2015 how about this - L.A. is 50-12 in Kershaw regular-season starts. A bettor could have laid -400 in every one of those games and still walked away with a profit.



    I bring it up this morning because that surge is back in play again, and I can already see pronounced differences between offerings inside of Nevada and the rest of the betting world. You can lay the Dodgers -280 in a lot of key precincts around the globe, yet some Nevada properties are already showing -310. Why are they that far off? It comes down to parlays.

    Kershaw has been the bane of existence for some local shops not just because of the success rate in the individual games, but the fact that the Dodgers get wheeled into so many parlays on his pitching days. When it is a late game on the coast it leads to something that is hilarious for some of us, but not at all for the shop stewards – they check their system for open parlays that are still alive into the L.A. game, and cringe. By raising the prices they can’t turn the outcome of the game, but the shop stewards can at least make the parlays pay less, which salves their wounds a bit.

    What this also means is that someone looking for the best of the value against Kershaw and the Dodgers will find it here in Las Vegas, usually a few minutes before first pitch. The problem is that someone doing that for the last couple of years might have been able to claim that they had “value”, but they also would have suffered quite a loss despite seemingly having the best of the price. This is a unique phenomenon, and today begins the continuation of that tracking.


    Item: How much Thunder will OKC bring in this setting

    The NBA board brings a unique late-season challenge tonight. While there is so much focus put on teams in negative schedule situations, especially with travel involved, it is rare that we have to consider upgrading a team for freshness, or penalizing them for rust, when the opposite happens.

    Consider the cycle that the Thunder are in as they head to San Antonio for a key affair, a win moving them to within 1.5 games of Portland in the chase for the #3 seed in the West. OKC has had three days off since last playing. This is only the fourth game in 10 days, and the seventh over the last 16. It is also the first road game in nine days.

    The down time is all good, right? The opportunity for a team to get physically fresh before a key sequence, with the Thunder also facing the Nuggets at home tomorrow, and then a trip to New Orleans on Sunday. But is there also the risk of them being out of rhythm a bit, and the build-up for this trio of games creating too much pressure?

    Let’s look at takes from Carmelo Anthony and Billy Donovan that are pretty far apart. First the player: “Yes, we have to take it serious, we have to understand the situation we're in and our focus level has to be at an all-time high.” But then the coach: “There's not like there's this thing of, ‘Hey, we're going to San Antonio, then we got Denver, then we got New Orleans and boy we really gotta be different than we've been.' My point would be, well what have we been doing then?”

    You can understand the handicapping conundrum – this isn’t about just gauging the setting for any NBA team, it is gauging it for the Thunder, who have had fragile egos this season. And there is another major factor in this equation, the status of LaMarcus Aldridge, because it may carry far more weight than the general market perceptions.

    Aldridge was having one of the best offensive cycles of his career before being injured vs. Washington, and the cause for alarm is that even with his production the San Antonio offense has rated #22 across the NBA in March. But it isn’t just about offense, and the On-Off for Aldridge since the All-Star break tells an enlightening tale:

    Min OffPP100 DefPP100 Net
    Aldridge In 436 109.6 97.9 +11.7
    Aldridge Out 337 103.1 109.2 -6.1



    That is a stunning table, and it is why the eyes will stay glued to the screen, and the information flow, as the day unfolds. To set some added perspective, where does that -6.1 of the Spurs without Aldridge on the court place them among all NBA teams since the break, with some of those bottom teams in tank mode?

    24. SAC -5.7
    25. ORL -7.7



    If you want to know when PB is ready to go each day, as well as following along for some of the most important Sports Betting news as it unfolds, make @Vegaspointblank a part of your routine.
    Last edited by Point Blank; 03-29-18 at 10:50 AM.

  2. #2
    peterose4hof
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    David,

    I'm glad you brought up the humidor situation in Arizona. That's something I'll be looking at very closely. The only historical precedent we have to compare to is when the humidor was put into use at Coors Field in 2002. That year base hits dropped 7%, wOBA dropped 5% and the HR rate dropped a whopping 22%! Arizona is actually more humid than Denver so the effect could be even more pronounced. Naturally the humidity increases with the rising temperatures of summer so the effects will be felt more as the season wears on.

    This could be a situation where the guys behind the counter can never quite adjust enough. It's definitely something that should be on any baseball bettor's radar.

  3. #3
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterose4hof View Post
    David,

    I'm glad you brought up the humidor situation in Arizona. That's something I'll be looking at very closely. The only historical precedent we have to compare to is when the humidor was put into use at Coors Field in 2002. That year base hits dropped 7%, wOBA dropped 5% and the HR rate dropped a whopping 22%! Arizona is actually more humid than Denver so the effect could be even more pronounced. Naturally the humidity increases with the rising temperatures of summer so the effects will be felt more as the season wears on.

    This could be a situation where the guys behind the counter can never quite adjust enough. It's definitely something that should be on any baseball bettor's radar.
    We should also be watching the psychology of the pitchers as well, in particular the host D'Backs. Let's see if they are more aggressive at attacking the strike zone. First up is Patrick Corbin, with the big 2017 story for him, as was the case for several of the Arizona starters, less reliance on the fastball (a career-low 53.3%) and more sliders (a career-high 38.0%). There is a lot of tracking to be done, between pitch type and how often they are in the zone, to see how the pitcher's develop an awareness. It will be new for them on the first couple of passes, but watching how they evolve will be an important exercise.

  4. #4
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by peterose4hof View Post
    David,

    I'm glad you brought up the humidor situation in Arizona. That's something I'll be looking at very closely. The only historical precedent we have to compare to is when the humidor was put into use at Coors Field in 2002. That year base hits dropped 7%, wOBA dropped 5% and the HR rate dropped a whopping 22%! Arizona is actually more humid than Denver so the effect could be even more pronounced. Naturally the humidity increases with the rising temperatures of summer so the effects will be felt more as the season wears on.

    This could be a situation where the guys behind the counter can never quite adjust enough. It's definitely something that should be on any baseball bettor's radar.
    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    We should also be watching the psychology of the pitchers as well, in particular the host D'Backs. Let's see if they are more aggressive at attacking the strike zone. First up is Patrick Corbin, with the big 2017 story for him, as was the case for several of the Arizona starters, less reliance on the fastball (a career-low 53.3%) and more sliders (a career-high 38.0%). There is a lot of tracking to be done, between pitch type and how often they are in the zone, to see how the pitcher's develop an awareness. It will be new for them on the first couple of passes, but watching how they evolve will be an important exercise.
    And here come the Markets Being the Markets (I will start calling this MBM in the future) - the first 8's are showing for Colorado/Arizona at a prominent store. To note the impact, the first number I saw anywhere was 9.5, and almost all of the major shops opened at 9. Let's see how many others get knocked down to 8 over the course of the day, but it already shows that there is money still willing to play Under 8.5 on a game that had been sitting at 9, which we won't see much of as a course of general market behavior.

  5. #5
    straface23
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    Dave any thoughts about the NIT tonight? I see two solid defenses which has me leaning under tonight...

  6. #6
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by straface23 View Post
    Dave any thoughts about the NIT tonight? I see two solid defenses which has me leaning under tonight...
    Lots of thoughts, but none of them leading to a bet anywhere; a small Utah chime at +5 and a decent one at +6, which we won't see, but not close to anything on the Total.

  7. #7
    bdsbr
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    Hi Dave. Hope all is well.

    Slightly in jest, but is it ever too early to fade Big Game James? If my memory serves me, he was actually not half bad coming off the DL at the end of last season. Can the current Chwsx find any motivation for this year with management making moves for the future? Your thoughts and time are always appreciated. Thank you.

  8. #8
    Jspidey
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    Lead off hr for cubs haha. Following lead topic today interesting

  9. #9
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdsbr View Post
    Hi Dave. Hope all is well.

    Slightly in jest, but is it ever too early to fade Big Game James? If my memory serves me, he was actually not half bad coming off the DL at the end of last season. Can the current Chwsx find any motivation for this year with management making moves for the future? Your thoughts and time are always appreciated. Thank you.
    Welcome to the challenges of studying performers, and weighing in their past performances. I will probably be making Shields a lead topic soon if his stuff calls for it, because you will see a different pitcher on the mound today, a guy throwing a lot of side-arm pitches. How much difference will it make? That is one of many items brining the microscopes out today, but if there is a significant change, not just in the run prevention charts but all of the peripherals that build them up, then the Shields past data will have lost some relevance.

  10. #10
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdsbr View Post
    Hi Dave. Hope all is well.

    Slightly in jest, but is it ever too early to fade Big Game James? If my memory serves me, he was actually not half bad coming off the DL at the end of last season. Can the current Chwsx find any motivation for this year with management making moves for the future? Your thoughts and time are always appreciated. Thank you.
    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    Welcome to the challenges of studying performers, and weighing in their past performances. I will probably be making Shields a lead topic soon if his stuff calls for it, because you will see a different pitcher on the mound today, a guy throwing a lot of side-arm pitches. How much difference will it make? That is one of many items brining the microscopes out today, but if there is a significant change, not just in the run prevention charts but all of the peripherals that build them up, then the Shields past data will have lost some relevance.
    New delivery, same results...

  11. #11
    EagesCoastBias
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    Lots of thoughts, but none of them leading to a bet anywhere; a small Utah chime at +5 and a decent one at +6, which we won't see, but not close to anything on the Total.
    Dave, any value in a two teamer ml parlay in your opinion (of these 4 options)? Kershaw, OKC ml (without Aldridge), Penn state ml, GSW ml?

  12. #12
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by EagesCoastBias View Post
    Dave, any value in a two teamer ml parlay in your opinion (of these 4 options)? Kershaw, OKC ml (without Aldridge), Penn state ml, GSW ml?
    Thew word "value" is tough at this stage on a few of them, with big market surges already to OKC and the Dodgers taking much of it away. And I wouldn't trust my power rating on Golden State, since it is so difficult to ascertain what kind of playing rhythm the Warriors will be in, both from a health and a chemistry standpoint.

  13. #13
    EagesCoastBias
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    Quote Originally Posted by Point Blank View Post
    Thew word "value" is tough at this stage on a few of them, with big market surges already to OKC and the Dodgers taking much of it away. And I wouldn't trust my power rating on Golden State, since it is so difficult to ascertain what kind of playing rhythm the Warriors will be in, both from a health and a chemistry standpoint.
    Thanks for the response Dave! Appreciate it

  14. #14
    Point Blank
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    And since it has been one of the prime themes of the day, note that the Spurs have upgraded LaMarcus Aldridge to "Probable" for this evening, so expect that price to trickle back towards OKC -1/-1.5.
    Last edited by Point Blank; 03-29-18 at 06:47 PM.

  15. #15
    Lago
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    Thank god baseball is here! It's been a miserable never ending winter here in the northeast. Dam if the sun didn't come out today and the temperature cracked 60. God bless America.

  16. #16
    puffkit
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    for anyone not watching closely.....collette took a nasty spill for utah and had to be helped off the court....i grabbed some psu -5.5.

    watching this penn state team thru the NIT they seem like a villanova jr......they only lose garner so they will return a young core

  17. #17
    Jspidey
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    Quote Originally Posted by puffkit View Post
    for anyone not watching closely.....collette took a nasty spill for utah and had to be helped off the court....i grabbed some psu -5.5.

    watching this penn state team thru the NIT they seem like a villanova jr......they only lose garner so they will return a young core
    Im GAME i grabbed some

  18. #18
    Point Blank
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    And because 76er Futures are in a lot of pockets around here, some troubling news emerges this evening:

    Zach Lowe @ZachLowe_NBA

    Pending the results of surgery, Embiid could return to play in 2-4 weeks, per league source. First round obviously in some jeopardy.

  19. #19
    jakedittler
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    Ughh. I just jumped in at 16/1 two days ago. 2-4 weeks could be by the end of the first round correct Dave? The seeding might be the biggest issue.

  20. #20
    Point Blank
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    Quote Originally Posted by jakedittler View Post
    Ughh. I just jumped in at 16/1 two days ago. 2-4 weeks could be by the end of the first round correct Dave? The seeding might be the biggest issue.
    That is about the way the timing works out, but while the 76ers are capable of beating anyone in the E.C. in a playoff series with Embiid, is here anyone they can beat without him? There may also be an adjustment issue as he comes back, the prospect of possibly having to play with goggles. But the late-season schedule is a soft one, so it does bring the opportunity for Brett Brown to try to configure a rotation that they can win a first-round series with.

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