MLB Picks: Most Important Pitching Stats for Over-Under Bettors

Doug Upstone

Thursday, April 30, 2015 7:01 PM GMT

When reviewing sportsbooks betting odds for totals, there are any number of valuable statistics to use. Today we will drill down on some of the numbers and methods I use for MLB picks.

I will confess I am not a volume totals bettor; rather looking for very specific situations that will help me beat the MLB odds.

 

Understand the Starting Pitchers and Ballparks
When making sports picks for baseball, the starting pitcher is the key element for a starting point. First, one can assume a winning team has at least two very good starters and possibly a third. Teams with a losing record invariably have their ace and possibly one other above average starter. As a general rule, the initial thought is think UNDER with one of these hurlers.

When building your case, consider present form for this pitcher, who the opposing pitcher and team is and how they are playing. From a purely statistical perspective, you want your top pitchers to have an ERA under 3.00 in the NL and under 3.30 in the AL. If you’re the starting pitcher which has this low an ERA and has a WHIP of 1.25 or lower, he most certainly will have UNDER tendencies. Why the WHIP matters it is an indication of the volume of hits and walks allowed per innings pitched.

When you move further down in the rotation, this is where the oddsmakers totals tend to rise which makes sense because the starting pitchers are not as good. The best way to analyze a total for middle of the rotation pitchers or backend hurlers is compare recent results versus the norm.

Seeing it is still young in the season, I would suggest the best way to use this method is to make sure this pitcher has a minimum of eight starts. Let’s personalize this and take an ordinary pitcher like Kyle Lohse of Milwaukee. Forget his current stats and let’s assign his career ERA of 4.32 and WHIP of 1.31. While some may argue there is no such thing as a – due factor - the fact is performance tends to return to the norm. Let’s say Lohse is struggling like he is currently with an ERA which is at least one run higher than normal and WHIP that is 0.30 higher over three starts. Typically, this where a pitcher like Lohse would be “due” for a better performance and if matched against an opposing pitcher in the same predicament, a total of 8.5 or 9 should be an inviting target for an UNDER play with our MLB picks.

Of course other elements are in play like ballparks, where games played at Dodger Stadium or Petco Park are going to see consistently low numbers and Coors Field which will be the complete opposite with higher figures.

 

Bullpens Have Changed Wagering on Totals
MLB baseball handicappers have had to adjust to the specialization of the game over the past decade because of pitch counts and the way bullpens are now constructed. Prior to 2000, a starting pitcher would go until he would lose his effectiveness. This could be at 80 pitches or 110 pitches, as long hopefully he reached at least the seventh inning.

That has changed in the modern game, if a ball-chucking starter reaches basically 100 pitches, if it is the fifth inning or the eighth, he is all but certain to be pulled by the manager.

Bullpens are assembled with reverse engineering, starting with a closer (9th inning) setup men (7th and 8th innings) and middle and long relievers. The simple way to use the guys coming out of the pen is match the characteristics of the starting pitcher with the ERA results of the bullpen.

For example, if the starting pitchers have poor results and the team they play for has a bullpen ERA’s over 4.00, chances are you will see more OVER’s in those spots. Conversely, starters with good numbers and pens with ERA’s in the two’s will have more UNDER’s characteristically.

 

Let the Sportsbooks Help You on Totals Plays
When WagerWeb or some other sportsbooks posts a certain total, understand what they are saying. When you find a posted total of 6, this is a strong indication of a low scoring contest. Though the early season record is only .500, year after year betting UNDER’s on these kind of numbers is profitable and the two best example’s this season have been the Clayton Kershaw vs. Madison Bumgarner matchups which were both at 6 and were UNDER’s.

Thus far all the totals which have been 9.5 or higher have involved Colorado playing at home. Normally, betting the OVER is profitable, but this season the UNDER is 6-3 to begin the season. Whether the oddsmakers are putting up what should be the typical number or not is for conspiracy theorists. Nonetheless, the reason this has occurred is the Rockies staff has overachieved. Watch for when the weather warms up, these low figures will blossom and Coors Field will return to the norm, especially when Colorado starts playing more out of division teams who only visit one time a year or less if they are from the American League.

From a strategy standpoint of betting totals, look to these stats and numbers to maximize your profits this season.