MLB Betting: Using Advanced Stats to Improve Your Handicapping

Mark Lathrop

Monday, June 26, 2017 12:06 AM UTC

Monday, Jun. 26, 2017 12:06 AM UTC

Sports betting and MLB betting gets more intense and profitable when you know which numbers to analyze.

If you are reading this you’ve likely read my work handicapping pitching matchups and MLB picks using a variety of advanced statistics. I do this because many of these stats are better predictive numbers than a traditional statistic like ERA, which just tells you what happened in the past. After all, we are trying to tell the future here and profit from it. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at the 2017 season and find the mean (half of pitchers above/half below) on many of my favorite indicators through the first 77 games. Knowing a good ERA when you see it has been ingrained into us for a while, but recognizing an average FIP number is not as intuitive. All of these numbers are for qualified pitchers with at least 14 starts on the season.

FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching (4.28)

I use FIP almost exclusively over using ERA, because it tosses out most outcomes that can be luck based – like the sequencing of hits allowed - and focuses on strikeouts, walks, HBP, and home runs allowed. It then approximates the pitcher’s ERA based on a league average batting average on balls in play. The mean FIP so far this year is 4.28 and belongs to Adam Wainwright of the Cardinals. The best FIP in the MLB belongs to Chris Sale at 1.97 – a full 78 points ahead of 2nd. The worst FIP in the league belongs to Ricky Nolasco of the Angels at 5.96.

HR/FB% - Home Run to Fly Ball Rate (13.4%)

This stat has seen some increases over 2016 due to the higher launch angles becoming prevalent in the league. The mean HR/FB% for qualified pitchers is 13.4%, belonging to CC Sabathia of the Yankees. The worst HR/FB% is 24.1%, which belongs to Masahiro Tanaka of the Yankees. The best HR/FB% in the MLB belongs to Michael Fulmer of the Detroit Tigers at 4.9%, a full 1.5% better than 2nd place.

BB/9 – Walks per 9 Innings Pitched (2.89)

I’ve been using a filter on walk rates as a trigger for taking Overs so far this season. Turns out the mean BB/9 rate through 77 games is 2.89, belonging to John Lackey of the Cubs. The worst walk rate in the league among qualified starters is 5.12, put up by Edinson Volquez of the Marlins. The best BB/9 rate in the league so far is the 0.71 rate that Josh Tomlin has put up for the Cleveland Indians. Only 10 starters have a BB/9 under 2.00 though the first 77 games of the season.

GB/FB – Ground Ball vs. Fly Ball Ratio (1.33)

If you’ve got a game that is negatively going to affect pitching based on weather conditions such as wind, you’ll want to zero in on the ground ball versus fly ball ratio of each starter. After all, you can’t hit a home run easily on the ground. The mean GB/FB ratio is 1.33 and belongs to Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks. The lowest GB/FB ratio belongs to Dylan Bundy of the Orioles at 0.70. Interestingly enough, Bundy also has one of the highest infield fly ball rates in the league, so he is trying to induce this type of contact. The highest GB/FB ratio in the MLB belongs to Lance McCullers of the Astros at 3.23. McCullers leads the MLB with a 63% ground ball rate and has put up an amazing season thus far.

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