MLB Betting: Hot pitchers to fade after the All-Star break

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, July 5, 2013 4:00 AM UTC

Friday, Jul. 5, 2013 4:00 AM UTC

There are quite a few pitchers with an ERA under 3.00 now, but regression is coming for some. We take a look at some candidates that had hot first halves that should be faded going forward.

We are almost at the Major League Baseball All-Star break, and through the games of Thursday, July 4th, 2003, there are 20 qualifying starting pitchers that have an ERA under 3.00, and not all of them will continue to pitch at that level. In an attempt to assist you with your MLB picks, we have isolated some hurlers that are likely to have regression the rest of the way and that thus should be overvalued in the near future, thus making them prime fade candidates.

As we have mentioned many times, stats such as Won/Lost record, ERA and WHIP are not really all that predictive, and yet many novice bettors base their wagers on those commonly available statistics. That obviously sets up value on the opposite side for astute gamblers that know what to look for.

So what exactly do you look for? Well, Sabremetric stats such as FIP, xFIP and WAR are much more predictive of a pitcher’s future performance than the common stats mentioned earlier, and thus we love going against pitchers that that have those categories running behind their ERA, as they tend to be overvalued.

As a refresher, FIP stands for Fielder Independent Pitching and it incorporates things that are within the pitcher’s control, namely strikeouts, walks and home runs allowed. FIP is scaled to ERA for a fair comparison and we update the FIP Leaderboard monthly. xFIP is simply ballpark adjusted FIP, while WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is a single number encompassing all of a player’s stats to measure how many added wins he produces against an average player.

We have isolated on six pitchers whose Sabremetric numbers do not look as good as their sub-3.00 ERA, so you can label these as the Super Six fades after the All-Star Game.

Jeff Locke, Pittsburgh Pirates: There is a lively thread on SBR Forum entitled “Fade Alert Jeff Locke” in which we have been participants, so it should not come as a surprise that we lead off with who we consider to be the poster child for regression this season. Locke might even be a participant in the All-Star Game, which we would like to see because it would even make him more overvalued after the break. Locke is 8-1 and is second in the Major League with a 2.12 ERA, but his peripheral simply to not match up with those numbers. He is striking out a low 6.09 batters per nine innings while walking a high 3.88 batters per nine, leading to an ordinary 3.86 FIP and 1.0 WAR and a downright weak 4.22 xFIP, leaving him with the highest negative disparity between xFIP and ERA in the majors. He has also benefitted greatly by allowing an abnormally low .233 BABIP (batting average on balls in play), which is not expected to continue.

Travis Wood, Chicago Cubs: Granted Wood is only 5-6 and he has not won since May 30th, but bettors love him because he has a 2.69 ERA and 0.98 WHIP while yielding just a .192 batting average. Wood is also working on a streak of six straight Quality Starts as of this writing. However, he is similar to Locke in that he does not strike out many (6.53 per nine innings) and he could stand to lower his walk rate (2.69 per nine), leaving him with a half-decent 3.51 FIP but with a distressing 4.37 xFIP. Perhaps most telling about what to expect from Wood the rest of the way though is that he has allowed the lowest BABIP in the majors at .216, so luck has certainly been on his side. Similar to Locke, Wood simply does not have the raw “stuff” to sustain anything close to that, so his conventional numbers should only get worse as this season goes on.

Mike Leake, Cincinnati Reds: Nobody could have predicted the previously mediocre Leake to be 7-3 with a 2.52 ERA and 1.13 WHIP at this point of the year, nor could anyone have foreseen him allowing two runs or less in 11 of his 16 starts with four scoreless outings. Then again, he is allowing batters to bat a rather high .247 overall, which is not great news for someone that usually pitches to contact with only 67 strikeouts and 21 walks in 103.2 innings. Sure, Leake’s 3.53 IP and 3.85 xFIP are not terrible, but they are still more than a full run higher than his ERA, and pitching half of his games at Great American Ball Park, which becomes more of a launching pad as the temperature and the humidity rise, certainly does not help matters. Evidence of how overvalued Leake has become already is that he was recently close to a Pick vs. Adam Wainwright and promptly lost, and we would love to see him continue to be that artificially highly regarded.

Bartolo Colon, Oakland Athletics: Colon was suspended for 50 games at the end of last season for testing positive for testosterone, but instead of just fading into the moonlight, he has come back to go 11-3 this season with a 2.78 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He is still yielding a .261 batting average though, which he has gotten around that by pitching to the huge dimension of Coliseum with men on base. That is evidenced by his high 4.10 xFIP, which as we mentioned is a ballpark-adjusted number. So what does this mean for the rest of the year? Well, Colon may or may not continue to pitch well at home, but he is certainly worth fading on the road, especially if he is pitching in smaller hitter’s ballparks. Even his conventional numbers are showing a home vs. away bias as Colon has a 3.16 ERA and 1.21 WHIP while yielding a high .279 average on the road, and those figures figure to get worse considering his peripherals.

Patrick Corbin, Arizona Diamondbacks: Just like Locke and Colon, we may actually see Corbin in the All-Star Game, further inflating the value of an average pitcher whose peripherals are running considerably worse than his common stats. Corbin finally suffered his first loss of the season vs. the New York Mets on July 2nd, leaving the southpaw at 9-1 with a 2.49 ERA and 1.01 WHIP while yielding a .209 batting average. However, Corbin has only 89 strikeouts in 115.2 innings and is surrendering a relatively low .243 BABIP, and while his 3.74 xFIP and 2.7 WAR are very acceptable, they are only that and far from the elite status that his common stats might suggest. Corbin has been the best pitcher in baseball to bet on so far this year, as betting one unit on him at the closing odds from Pinnacle Sports has netted +12.45 units, but that is almost certain to turn around as his prices continue to get undeservedly inflated.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, Los Angeles Dodgers: First let us say that Ryu may have the most natural ability of any of the six pitchers on this list, and that his regression should be slighter than that of the other pitchers mentioned. Slight regression is still regression though, so there is no reason to leave potential profits on the table. Ryu may be only 6-3, but it is his 2.83 ERA that we do not expect him to maintain. Ryu is allowing a nondescript .245 batting average and he has a rather ordinary 3.68 xFIP and 1.5 WAR, none of which seem like the resume of someone with his ERA.

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