In this edition of the MLB Betting Blog, handicapper and sabermetrics extraordinaire, Mark Lathrop goes over how he spots when it is time to start betting against starting pitchers. This goes hand-in-hand with tonight's MLB picks.
I find it easier to spot pitchers to start betting against than to bet on, and one of the reasons why is the important indicator of reduced pitch velocity. There are many negative effects of reduced fastball velocity: Increased read and reaction time for the batter and less difference between off-speed pitches just to name a few. Also, if the reduction in velocity is due to a mechanical issue or injury a loss of control and walks could quickly become another negative factor.
Dating back to May 2nd and spanning 9 starts, Dodgers starter Alex Wood has been perfect ATS and 8-1 on the run line. He’s been incredibly effective, and now is consistently getting betting odds of more that -200 to back him. However, I’m seeing signs that Alex Wood may be a good ‘sell high’ candidate in the near future with value on taking the other side of this huge chalk. The easiest thing to see is that Wood’s fastball velocity continues to tumble, and in his last start averaged only 91.5 mph. His fastball started the year at 94.3 went down into his short DL-stint, then continued to go down after returning from the DL June 10th.
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Another converted reliever that is losing velocity as the season progresses is Joe Biagini of the Blue Jays. He has lost decisions in seven of his last nine starts, so putting him on the fade list for your upcoming MLB picks now isn’t capturing the best value. But still, Biagini continues to lose juice on his fastball and he simply can’t overpower hitters like he did as a reliever. This has led to a .274 BAA and 5.88 ERA in June and a 7-run dud in his first start in July. Toronto has lost 7 of his last 10 starts, with six of those being as a moneyline favorite – sometimes a heavy favorite. Biagini has already exceeded his innings pitched in 2016 of 67.2, so look for this trend to continue as the year goes on.
There are many ways to fade a pitcher, but in the case of Alex Wood it may not be viable to just bet against the Dodgers because of the run support. Look at first 5 inning team totals for opponents as a way to bet against these starters and isolate the trend we are trying to capture. Full game team totals can also have value as a blowup start usually leads to extended bullpen usage. If Biagini or Wood goes up against a strong team I will look to the moneyline to capture value if they are a listed underdog.
2017 MLB Record, 125-117-7, -2.43 Units