MLB Betting: Pitchers to watch in April

LT Profits Sports Group

Friday, April 5, 2013 4:00 AM GMT

The 2013 Major League Baseball season is under way, so it is time to look at hot April pitchers. These are hurlers that have gotten off to quick starts out of the gate over the past three seasons.

The 2013 Major League Baseball season has begun, and while many bettors struggle with their MLB picks this early in the year or even sit the month out entirely before beginning to get involved with baseball around the beginning of May, we have always felt that was a mistake as now is when the lines are the softest and they will only get tighter as the year goes on.

One of our favorite approaches to betting MLB in April is to look for hot April pitchers. You see, pitchers are creatures of habit and more often than not it is the same pitchers that start out hot every season and the same pitchers that need more time to get into their peak form and thus start out slowly.

Well, we have gone over the last three Aprils and have come up with a list of the six pitchers that have had the best team records over all of their April starts between the 2010 and 2012 seasons. By “team records”, we mean that these are the records of the team in games that these pitchers started, and not their own personal records, as the former in more important for wagering purposes.

We are fairly confident that five of these six pitchers will have there usual hot starts and should be worth following, although we have some concerns about the sixth hurler, which we will get to later.

So with no further ado, here are the six pitchers with the best team records during the month of April over the past three seasons, along with their current teams and three-year April team record. Note that two of these pitchers are now with brand new teams, including the one heading the list.

James Shields, Kansas City (14-2): All of Shields’s April success came with the Tampa Bay Rays the last three years, but he was traded to the Kansas City Royals during the off season. Well, his Royals’ debut was both great and unlucky, as he allowed only one run in six innings with six strikeouts and no walks, but he took the 1-0 loss. It was still a promising start for Shields, who last season personally went 4-0 in April with a 3.31 ERA, 3.46 FIP and 0.7 WAR with 7.13 strikeouts per nine innings compared to just 2.04 walks, with Tampa Bay winning all five of his starts. That came on the heels of his April of 2011 where he posted a 2.14 ERA, 2.90 FIP and 1.2 WAR despite only going 2-1 personally, although the Rays as a team went 5-1 in those starts. You have to figure the run support will come eventually as the Royals have a nice young lineup.

Jered Weaver, L.A. Angels (12-3): There has been some concern about Weaver losing his velocity over the past year or so, but apparently that has not effected his pitching any as he held a good Cincinnati offense to one run on two hits over six innings in his 2013 debut, although he did not get a decision in a 3-1 Angels victory. He had just four strikeouts in that contest after averaging 9.08 strikeouts per nine innings last April, but as his strikeouts decreased over the course of last year, Weaver still sparkled in his other key stats so he could still come close to his 2.02 ERA, 2.31 FIP and 1.2 WAR of last April over this coming month. His best April came two years ago in 2011 when he recorded a 0.99 ERA, 2.17 FIP and a terrific 1.8 WAR, and although he may not achieve those gaudy numbers again, he continues to prove that he can pitch without an overpowering fastball.

Roy Halladay, Philadelphia (12-4): Halladay is the one pitcher out of these top six April pitchers that we are concerned about. First the specifics as Roy actually pitched very well last April despite going just 3-2, as he put up a 1.95 ERA and 2.77 FIP with a 1.00 WAR. However, he then went on to have his worst season in quite some time amidst rumors of some serious health issues, as he finished 11-8 with a lofty 4.49 ERA, although his FIP was still commendable at 3.69. Then, he was not good in his first start this season in Atlanta where he was charged with five earned runs in 3.1 innings, although the one positive from that outing was that his velocity was up, resulting in nine strikeouts out of the 10 outs he recorded. That is the only reason why we would take a “wait and see” approach with Halladay right now instead of just dismissing him altogether. Still, you cannot wait too long as he probably only has four April starts left.

Kyle Lohse, Milwaukee (11-3): Lohse is the second pitcher in the top six to change teams, as he goes from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Brewers. Lohse was the St. Louis opening day starter last season and he promptly took a no-hitter into the eighth inning! He went on to go 4-0 this calendar month with the Cardinals going 5-0 in his outings, although his 1.62 ERA may have bee fluky given his more ordinary 3.33 FIP and 0.6 WAR. Still, he also had a 1.64 ERA in April of 2011, that time accompanied by a 2.58 FIP and 1.1 WAR, so we see no reason why his April success should not continue with his new team. Lohse is scheduled to make his Milwaukee debut Friday vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks after not signing with the club as a free agent until one week before opening day. Early indications though are that he will be allowed to go close to 100 pitches, so apparently he is not too far behind schedule.

Cole Hamels, Philadelphia (10-4): Hamels is the second member of the Phillies in the top six, and he is now considered the ace of the staff as he took the opening day start this year. Granted, he was rocked for five earned runs on seven hits while getting touched up for three home runs in only five innings by the Braves, but unlike Halladay, we have no worries about Hamels and expect him to regain his fine April form the rest of this month. That form allowed both he and the team to go 3-1 last April as he put up a 2.73 ERA, and even better 2.26 FIP and a 0.9 WAR. That was basically on par with Hamels’ April 2011 numbers when he went 3-1 with the team going 4-1 with a 3.13 ERA, 2.24 FIP and 1.0 WAR. The fact that his FIP has been running better than his ERA is a positive sign as we feel FIP is more predictive of future success.

Ricky Nolasco, Miami (10-4): The sixth and final member of the top six also probably the biggest surprise, but Nolasco has now become the ace of the Marlins staff, and he may actually provide the best value on this list. That may already be apparent from his 2013 debut, when as a +230 underdog vs. the Washington Nationals, he went toe-to-toe with Stephen Strasburg but lost 2-0 on two bad pitches to Bryce Harper that both left the yard. The biggest problem for Nolasco this April is the pathetic Miami offense this year, but he should almost always pitch well enough to give Miami a chance if they can only plate a few runs, so we would not hesitate to continue backing him at big prices like he was in his first outing.