MLB Betting: Overrated Starting Pitchers for 2014

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, April 11, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

Friday, Apr. 11, 2014 4:00 AM UTC

One key to winning in baseball betting is avoiding overrated pitchers at inflated prices. Here are five hurlers that may have overachieved last year and are good 2014 fades.

The 2014 Major League Baseball season is now under way and a couple of weeks in, and bettors that take the summer off while waiting for football to start up again in the fall can be missing out on some nice profits on the MLB odds. Theoretically, baseball should be easier to beat than the ATS sports with no point spreads to worry about, and yet it does not receive nearly as much betting volume per game as football and basketball.

One reason could be that many gamblers have failed miserably in this sport that only requires you to pick winners. Remember that no sport is as dependent on one position as baseball is on starting pitchers, but some gamblers falsely believe that betting ace-type pitchers and pitchers that had great seasons the year before is the road to success, and then these same bettors are astonished to find themselves losing money even with a winning straight up record!

Many of these bettors also make their selections based on common baseball statistics such as ERA and WHIP and then wonder why the pitchers cannot maintain those numbers. Well there is a good explanation for both groups of losing gamblers as the first group tends to overpay for “stud” pitchers without considering the odds, while the latter group is using widely available stats that in actuality are not very predictive anyway.

Just like other sports, the key to winning in baseball is finding value, and using conventional stats available to everyone including the sportsbooks is not the way to find that value. Thus we have created a list of pitchers that we feel overachieved mostly based on their sabremetric stats last year, stats that are becoming more easily available in recent years but are still apparently being underutilized, and are thus overrated to begin the 2014 season.

Here are five of our overrated pitchers for this year for now.

Jeremy Guthrie - Kansas City Royals: It is a little hard to believe that Guthrie has been in the majors 10 years already and he comes off of a 15-12 season with those 15 wins being a career high. Furthermore his record could have been even better as he did not get much run support the first few months. Still, Guthrie did that while having both the highest FIP (4.79) and the highest xFIP (4.55) of any qualified picture in the Major Leagues! Guthrie had a terrible ratio of just 4.72 strikeouts per nine innings to 2.51 walks and he allowed a high 1.28 home runs per nine, and yet he somehow had a career year record-wise with a winning record both pre-All-Star (8-7) and post-All-Star (7-5) break. Guthrie projects to be the Kansas City third starter right now behind James Shields and the newly acquired Jason Vargas, but we do not expect another 15-win season as his peripheral numbers last year were basically in line with his career numbers, and as long as that continues, his record should more closely resemble that of a pitcher with a 72-89 career mark.

Miguel Gonzalez - Baltimore Orioles: Gonzalez drew many raves when he first came up two years ago when as a rookie he was a key reason for the Orioles earning a surprising wild card berth, and he then followed that up by going 11-8 with a 3.78 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in his sophomore season last year. However, the truth is that his sabremetric numbers took a dip in his second season and in fact they were not very good. He had a decent but not great 6.30 strikeouts per nine innings and a rather high 2.78 walks per nine while allowing far too many fly balls for someone that did not strike out a ton of batters, with a groundball rate of only 38.9 percent. And many of those balls in the air left the yard as he allowed 1.26 home runs per nine frames, which is the danger of being a fly ball pitcher in a good hitters’ park in Camden Yards. Gonzalez finished with just a 4.45 FIP and 4.31 xFIP last season despite the good looking ERA, which is never a good sign for the future.

Mark Buehrle - Toronto Blue Jays: One can say that Buehrle may have been on lists like these many times throughout his career and yet has continued to surpass expectations every time despite having what to the naked eye appears to be less than impressive “stuff”. But this time the cause for alarm seems more genuine, not because Buehrle saw his ERA rise to 4.15 in his first year with the Blue Jays and he is now 35-years-old, but because he posted both a FIP (4.10) and xFIP (4.09) over 4.00 for the second straight season, a far more valid reason than his rising ERA this he is on the downside of what has been a surprisingly good career. And yet he still gets some respect from the oddsmakers because of his past accomplishments, creating some nice opportunities to fade a pitcher on the decline at some nice prices, which is the very essence of using sabremetrics to our advantage. This is a pitcher that has always relied on control, bur his walks were up to 2.25 per nine innings last season and because he was forced to groove some pitches behind in the count, his home runs allowed jumped to 1.06 per nine.

Jorge De La Rosa - Colorado Rockies: De La Rosa is considered in most circles to be the ace of the Colorado staff right now, especially with Jhoulys Chacin out until at least early May with a shoulder injury, but that is all relative because the rest of the Rockies’ starting rotation is so weak. This is not to say that the southpaw De La Rosa is not talented as he did go 16-6 with a 3.49 ERA while pitching in the altitude of Colorado last season. What is interesting though is that his ERA outperformed his FIP (3.76) and especially his xFIP (4.08), with the latter being the bigger surprise for any pitcher that calls Colorado home, as most have a lower xFIP than ERA because the latter is skewed by the altitude. The problem for De La Rose is control, as he had a dull ratio of 6.01 strikeouts per nine innings to a very high 3.33 walks, and that offset his knack of keeping the ball in the ballpark as he did allow only 0.59 home runs per game. Still his xFIP is not very ace-like, and he will continue to be overvalued as long as he serves in that role for the Rockies.

C.C. Sabathia - New York Yankees: Some may question how a pitcher can be called overrated when coming off of a season where he went 14-13 with a terrible 4.78 ERA with the league batting .272 off of him, but some feel that last year was an aberration as Sabathia is after all still the ace of the mighty New York Yankees! Well, we do not buy into that because the reason for his sudden decline was not really a fluke when you consider that he lost about two full MPH on his fastball, going from 93 MPH in 2012 to a more hittable 91 MPH last season. Remember that Sabathia has always been a workhorse throughout his career and so it should not be entirely surprising that he lost some velocity at a fairly young age given his heavy workload in prior years. The problem is that he has not yet learned to adjust, especially vs. right-handed batters, as he continues to try and overpower them while now lacking the fastball to do so. Unfortunately, we do not look for Sabathia to bounce back but rather expect him to decline even more this season unless he develops a better off-speed pitch.

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