ARE YOU HANDICAPPING STARTING PITCHERS RIGHT?

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ARE YOU HANDICAPPING STARTING PITCHERS RIGHT?

Doing Blogs is Tedious work and at some times of the year practically impossible. The CBB Season is one of those times when lines are hopping and distracting myself from them is just not wise. We are now heading into “The Blog Season” and I will be having quite a few of them. This first one is important stuff so make sure to pay attention. I see a lot of people around the Net that Handicap Starting Pitching as their main thrust in picking MLB Games. I believe that most spend way too much time doing this, but more importantly, they spend WAY too much time doing it the wrong way. One off those ways will be spelled out in this piece.

HOW MOST HANDICAPPERS HANDICAP PITCHING
There are many ways that people handicap starting pitching but they generally are related to their performance. I guess that makes sense right? Afterall, it is important how well a Thrower is throwing now, it is important how well he has thrown over his career and this year, and it is important to know how he has thrown at home, and on the road. In addition, it can be important to know how he has done verses certain clubs. The Latter is used way too much but that is another Article altogether.

It is unfortunate though that this is exactly how Sportsbooks want you to look at games, because this is how they set betting lines. The fact is, if Pitcher A is on a 3 Game Win Streak, Odds betting him are not going to be conducive to longterm profit. Should we not be finding value betting a Moneyline Sport?

WE CAN FIND VALUE OPPORTUNITIES
I spend most of my time thinking outside of the box because that is where we learn to be better bettors and that is where we have the Advantage over The Bad Guys. I spend hours, even days, looking for situations that win and that does include with this sport having a Database on each and every Pitcher in both leagues. I have learned a lot of things doing this, and primarily the tendencies of each thrower as to how they react to good outings, bad outings, pitch totals, Home/Away performance, certain types of ballparks, certain types of hitters, etc…

One of the most important things I have learned by working extra hard is that Pitch Totals is a VERY IMPORTANT TOOL to use.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY PITCH TOTALS?
Most Starting Throwers are one Strict Pitch Counts. That simply means that regardless of how well or poor they are throwing in a particular game, the management is not going to let them exceed that number of throws in a game. However, this rule is bent to some extent. It is for instance bent when a Starter has a Shutout in the works. It is bent when a Starter has a large advantage over the particular hitters that are coming up in the lineup. There are other reasons why the rules are bent but these two are probably the most prevalent. There are also times when a Starter does not even come close to his Pitch Count. There are only 2 Reasons for this. An Injury, or Poor Performance. We are going to look at these two situations and we are going to have examples of each as to how that Thrower performs the next time on the mound.

A PITCHER EXCEEDS HIS PITCH COUNT
Starting throwers have different pitch counts but 95% off them fall in the 95 to 110 Throws per game. Exceeding this number of 110 most often means that a Thrower has Over-Worked, sometimes far Over-worked. In most cases it also means that he has thrown a Good Game, otherwise why would he be asked to Over-Work. This means 2 Things most often. It means that the next time he throws, he is likely to be Over-Valued by Oddsmakers. It also means that he is likely NOT to be as sharp. Are you following me? While Most Handicappers see a Pitcher coming off a Quality Start as a Good Thing, in this particular case, it might not be. I have randomly selected two Pitchers, one in the AL, and one in the NL, to do a case study on this. There are Edwin Jackson, and Derek Lowe. While the selections were random, I did choose two throwers that are “Better than Average” since these guys are the most likely to throw OVER their Pitch Count.

Edwin Jackson: Last Year on 5 Occasions, Jackson threw Over his Pitch Count. The Pitch Totals were 129, 149, 115, 123, and 115. While Overall his numbers for 2010 were good with an ERA of 3.24, following these 5 games his ERA was a Lofty 5.19. And the fact is, only one of these games were even close to being a quality outing, 3 runs in 7 Innings.

Derek Lowe: Lowe had just 3 games that exceeded his Pitch Count with 114, 119, and 112. But Boy did he Suck the next time on the mound. In fact while Lowe had one of his best seasons ever, maybe his very best in fact, garnering a 2.34 ERA for the year, the 3 Outings following these Over-extended Efforts produced 14 Runs in 14.1 Innings worked. Not only was his ERA Near 9.00, but he only managed to throw 4.7 Innings per game. And in fact, his Best Effort was 5.1 innings and 4 runs allowed.

A PITCHER FALLS WELL BELOW HIS PITCH COUNT
With 95 being the Bottom End of Pitch Counts, anything below 80 would be considered well below of what is expected of a Thrower and therefore I have selected that for our exercise. When a Thrower does not meet his Pitch Count it usually means 2 Things. It means that the next time he throws, he is likely to be Under-Valued by Oddsmakers. It also means that he is likely to be MORE sharp. Are you following me? While Most Handicappers see a Pitcher coming off a Poor Start as a Bad Thing, in this particular case, it might be a Good Thing. Why? Because his arm is likely to be more live, meaning his fastball has more zip, and his breaking pitches have more snap. It is also likely if he is a Quality Pitcher, that waiting 5 to 6 days to throw again, allows him time to reflect what went wrong and correct it. The Bottom Line here is that Good Throwers are Good Competitors and a Bounceback is often likely. Let’s look at Lowe last year

Derek Lowe: Last Year Lowe fell below his Pitch count 4 times. Those were on pitch counts of 78, 68, 79, and 78. While Lowe had an outstanding season last year with an ERA of 2.34, the four games following these 4 produced an ERA of just 1.77, or 5 runs allowed in 25.1 innings. His worst outing was 5.1 Innings and 2 runs allowed, his other 3 he allowed just 1 run each.

WHAT DOES ALL OF THIS MEAN?
Well first of all it does NOT mean that every pitcher shows this kind of activity following a High/Low Pitch Total game. However, many do and you have to get to know each one of them. Does this mean they are automatic bets or go againsts? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that some Hurlers exhibit Tired Arms after being Over-Worked, Live Arms after being Under-Worked, and almost in every case, they are Over or Under Valued based on each instance. Can this be a Tool in your Arsenal? Yes. How about an Over-Worked Starter being supported by a Poor Performing Bullpen? BINGO!

  • Are you saying that you basically need a thorough database to have a chance at handicapping baseball? Do you personally update your own database? or do you subscribe or pay for that type of services?

  • Just read this Greg several months after you wrote it (lol).  Another awesome article by Mr. Shaker!  Keep up the great work my friend!

  • I got a Twitter Question tonight and I thought it was notable so I wanted to pass it along.

    Very Important to note that These Pitch Counts are PITCHER SPECIFIC meaning that NOT All Starters react to high or low previous pitch counts the same way. For some they have no effect, for others the effect is is either high or low..and for some both ways...

    The Bottom line is that you must look at past performance to determine who has these traits..

  • Yeas Zobel I would lean over there for that reason and some favorable weather as well...

  • So with Halladay pitching over the norm the last time out do you feel the over tonight has a good shot?  This is the only way I would lean in this game.  Personally I don't trust Washington with their results so far this year.

  • cmmacdon, I am sure that it would somewhat help an Overworked pitcher but not affect and underworked thrower at all. However I don't take that into account with all of the numbers I have for pitchers. Primarily because of accessability of those stats..

  • This is awesome, Greg---very informative

  • Thanks for sharing and teaching Greg, I used this tonight to cash that over. I'm wondering if number of days between starts mitigate or accelerate these factors? So if the White Sox had had an off day in between the Rays and A's series, would that cancel out Jackson's overwork? and would it further help a pitcher who threw fewer than 80 pitches the previous time?

  • I like this blog.

  • WhiteSox win or lose, Edwin Jackson was NOT Good tonight Craig. Your OVER Bet, if you made it, was the best bet in that game..

  • Yes, very keen observation there Craig...

  • This was a great read the first time through, and I am revisiting it as Edwin Jackson takes the mound tonight after throwing 119 pitches his last outing.  I would otherwise like the White Sox tonight but am now thinking pass on this game with a slight lean over.

  • That sounds like a Threat Panda! Ha! I got many more Blogs to come. Baseball is sheer handicapping percentages. No Grey lines. Plenty of stuff to come..

    Notice?

  • Man, that was a real eye opener! thx for the lesson.  

  • great work mr. shaker... i hope this is only the first of many blog to come.  pitch counts, you've been put on notice.