MLB Betting: Handicapping Starting Pitching Matchups

Ross Benjamin

Friday, February 13, 2015 4:24 PM UTC

Friday, Feb. 13, 2015 4:24 PM UTC

In order to make the most accurate MLB picks possible, we suggest understanding how to handicap the starting pitchers. Here are tips on WHIP, Strikeout-to-Walk ratio & more.

Handicapping Starting Pitching Matchups
It’s never too early to discuss handicapping strategies. I’m going to be focusing on finding MLB betting odds value through starting pitching matchups. I probably can write a 200-page book on this exact subject. I’ll do my best to keep my passion in check, and will just touch upon the most important aspects on this particular topic.


Understanding WHIP
One of the most overlooked aspects of MLB handicapping that’s applicable to starting pitching is the statistical category referred to as WHIP. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that term, WHIP stands for, walks, hits, and innings pitched. The calculation used in determining a pitcher’s WHIP is walks plus hits, and then divided by his innings pitched. Let’s use a specific example in order to illustrate exactly how a specific pitcher’s WHIP from last season was arrived at.

Example: Clayton Kershaw was the 2014 National League Cy Young winner. He pitched a total of 198 1/3 innings last season, allowed 139-hits, and issued 31-walks. The calculation formula is then to take the innings pitched (198.33), divide that number by his hits allowed (139) plus the walks (31) he issued. When taking 198.33, and then dividing it by the sum of walks and hits which amounts to 170, gives us Kershaw’s WHIP of 1.17 for the season.


The Benchmark on WHIP
When I look at this category daily, I like to go back to a pitcher’s previous three starts in order to determine what type of form he’s in. My benchmark figure is 1.50. Any pitcher with a WHIP of 1.50 or less I consider to be in good form, and 1.51 or more qualifies as bad form. Obviously the lower the number, translates to a better recent pitching form, and the higher a number becomes, the worse a pitcher’s recent form is perceived. The optimum MLB handicapping scenario would be to wager on a pitcher in good form over his past three starts, versus an opposing hurler in bad form.


Strikeout to Walk Ratio
This is also an underrated aspect of MLB handicapping in regards to starting pitching. Once again, I’m going to use the premise of looking back at a pitcher’s previous three starts when evaluating this specific handicapping aspect. I always would like to see at least a 2:1 or better strikeout to walk ratio before even considering wagering on the team of that starting pitcher. My optimal scenario would be a ratio of 4:1 or better over the last three starts. I never wager on any team with a starting pitcher that has walked more men than he’s struck out during his previous three starts. The logic of incorporating this into your daily MLB handicapping is quite simple. For example, if a starting pitcher has a strikeout to walk ratio of 4:1 or better over his last three starts, he decreases his opponents scoring chances by limiting walks, and minimizes the possibility of fielding errors, sacrifice flies, or moving runners into scoring position with his ability to strike out hitters at a high rate.


Recent History versus Opponents or Ballparks
Looking at a starting pitcher’s recent history versus a specific opponent, or in a specific ballpark, can always be a vital handicapping tool to apply to MLB picks. I prefer to look at both of those aspects by going back three seasons, opposed to career numbers. However, career numbers at a specific stadium certainly can’t be taken lightly, and takes a more significant precedence over career number versus a specific team. This MLB handicapping tool can become quite useful early in the season, when starting pitchers have less than three starts under their belts, and determining recent good or bad form is less of an exact science.


I’ve listed the four bullet points below in regards to what I look for in a favorable starting pitching matchup.

*Betting on a starting pitcher in good form over his past three starts. That hurler would have a WHIP of 1.50 or less, and in a perfect world, would also have a strikeout to walk ratio of 4:1 or better in those previous three outings.

*Betting against a starting pitcher in bad form and that constitutes a WHIP of 1.51 or more over his last three starts.

*Betting on a starting pitcher who has a successful history during the past three seasons versus the opponent he’s facing, and has also enjoyed success in the ballpark he’s pitching in.

*Betting against a starting pitcher who has an unsuccessful history during the past three seasons versus the opponent he’s facing, and also possesses a checkered past in the ballpark he’s pitching in.

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