How much stock should baseball bettors put into fading or following a pitchers against the MLB odds based on recent performances? SBR explores trends for a few good -- or bad -- arms.
A spectacular season blew up in Clayton Kershaw's face last October, and with his postseason struggles, the hopes of the Los Angeles Dodgers also imploded. A sore back held him out most of the first six weeks, but when he came back, it was pretty much lights out for opposing lineups.
The 27 starts preceding the two playoff losses -- one of which wasn't so bad -- were the stuff MLB bettors dream about. After falling behind the baseball odds early with three losses in his first six assignments, Dodger backers cashed 20 of the next 21 to reap nearly 16 units of profit during the regular season.
Finding pitchers to follow with that much success is a tough undertaking, and we can't expect the same return from even Kershaw in 2015. The 2-time defending NL Cy Young winner should begin the year with four of his first five starts coming against the Padres, Diamondbacks and Giants, teams Kershaw was 9-1 with a 1.96 ERA against in 11 tries a year ago.
Bullpens Another Fade Or Follow Factor
It's not always just as easy as choosing a starting pitcher to follow or fade, though that is certainly the bulk of the equation. Bullpens are playing an increasingly more important role in the outcome of games as managers continue to try and shorten games to six or seven innings, and they have to be considered for any MLB picks.
The Padres had one of the better relief corps in baseball a year ago, and even though they lost closer Huston Street, should return a deep 'pen once more. That might make San Diego newcomer James Shields an attractive play to begin the year following a decent spring with his new team. Shields should see assignments at Dodger Stadium and Wrigley Field sandwiching his Petco Park debut among his first three starts.
There may not be any big names pitching in relief for the Mets, but they're effective. And with names like Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom and Bartolo Colon in the rotation, it's Jon Niese who sort of gets lost in the shuffle. Niese has enjoyed a very good spring and should be poised to perform as one of the best No. 4-5 hurlers in any rotation. I'm following him.
Can Verlander Reverse 2-Season Curse?
It wasn't that long ago that Justin Verlander mowed through an American League schedule with the same relative ease as Kershaw did in 2014 over in the NL. The pride of Goochland, Virginia enjoyed a 2011 campaign that ranks right up there with the best of 'em, Verlander's 24-5, 2.40 season landing him the AL Cy Young and MVP trophies as part of a solid four year run on the hill.
The last couple of years have been rough, however, especially for anyone backing the Tigers when Verlander's turn in the rotation comes up. Including four playoff starts, Detroit is 34-36 in the contests, leaving gamblers down about 26 units vs. the MLB odds. Yes, you read that right. Twenty-six units, plus a little extra juice in most cases.
Verlander had a rough spring training -- 5 starts, 5.63 ERA -- and is already nursing a sore triceps muscle which could have him on the DL to begin the regular season. If he can answer the bell in what will be Detroit's second game, he should have the luxury of making three of his first four starts at home, the fourth coming in pitcher-friendly PNC Park during an interleague series with the Pirates. I'm fading him early no matter.
King Felix & Mariners Aim To Cap Capture NL West Flag
Seattle is expected to give the Los Angeles Angels the toughest fight in the AL West, and if the Mariners are going to take it, Felix Hernandez will no doubt be a big part. The winner of two AL ERA titles and a Cy Young in the past five seasons, Hernandez is coming off a season in which the M's were 22-12 in his starts, good enough to eke out about $3.25 for anyone playing the baseball betting board.
All three of his outings vs. Texas were losers, or there'd have been more cheddar for MLB bettors. Hernandez has historically struggled vs. the Rangers, Seattle 3-7 in his last 10 goes against Texas. He should face the Rangers twice in April, first at home during an April 17-19 series and then down in the Lone Star State near the end of the month.