Handicapping Starting Pitchers for MLB Bets

Posted by Eric Williams on June 16, 2016 in

The key to winning a bet regardless of sport is finding an advantage that you can pounce on. Obviously an online sportsbook knows this, however, and adjust their betting lines accordingly. I’m here to tell you that probably the biggest team advantage in the four major American sports is wagering on a superior starting pitcher in any baseball game.

Taking a Closer Look at Handicapping Starting Pitchers for MLB Bets

There really are no individual advantages in betting NFL or college football games. Sure, you generally want to bet the team that has the better quarterback. But that QB is only as good as his offensive line, running backs, wide receivers, defense, kickers and even coaching staff are. There’s a reason only two teams in NFL history have gone unbeaten in a regular season. There are so many moving parts in an NFL game that a quarterback can only do so much. Why do you think Hall of Famer Dan Marino never won a Super Bowl? He never had enough around him.

Basketball and the NHL are a little easier to wager in terms of which side has the best individual talent. Of course there are only five basketball players per side on the court at one time. So if one team has LeBron James and the other has a bunch of no-names, then you should be betting on LeBron’s side. Stars win in the NBA. Take a look at all the NBA champions in the past 30 years and you will see pretty much all of them had at least one superstar.

In hockey, the most important player on the ice is the goalie; a hot goalie can carry an inferior team to a long winning streak and even to the Stanley Cup. You could have Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin on the same team, but it’s going to lose if you have a terrible goalie in net.

With all that said, in my opinion the greatest single-game advantage in sports betting among the major U.S. sports is backing a stellar pitcher at home against a lousy one. And in a National League park is even better. Why the latter? Because American League teams have big-hitting designated hitters. Those guys obviously have a better chance to touch up a good pitcher. But in the NL, the pitchers have to bat. That means at least two easy outs through the first 5-6 innings until the starting pitcher is pinch-hit for.

Of course you should prefer to back that star pitcher at home because his team would potentially bat last in the game and can win without the other team having a chance to tie. Plus home crowds will cheer loudly while opposing batters are at the plate, helping to distract them.

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Lastly, you want that star pitcher on a good hitting team so his offense provides plenty of runs. It does a starting pitcher no good throwing eight shutout innings if his offense doesn’t score, either.

Using all those criteria, the best pitchers to wager on this year would be guys like the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw, the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester, the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg and the Giants’ Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto. Although I must say the pitcher who has won the most money wagered on him this season at +927 units is Baltimore’s Chris Tillman. That’s because Tillman has pitched as an underdog a few times, while you will never get someone like Kershaw as a dog on betting lines.