Although there are a number of different things to consider when trying to handicap the MLB, starting pitching seems to be the one tool that everyone uses over any other. It should come as no surprise considering just how important a starting pitcher is the outcome of a game, but anyone who has studied the game knows that simply looking at which starter has performed the best up to this point won’t get you very far.
One pitching statistic that seems to be overlooked, even by the experts, is the number of pitches a starter threw in his last outing. Because organizations are so concerned with keeping their players healthy, pitchers have a set pitch count going into every game. While a pitch count depends on who is on the mound, most starters fall in the range of 95-110.
Even though managers do their best to make sure a starter doesn’t go over their specified number of pitches, there are situations in which this doesn’t happen. If a starter appears to be in complete control late in the game, many times they will be allowed to go over their pitch count. We see this all the time when starters are working on perfect games and no hitters.
Other times, pitchers are allowed to go over their pitch count are when the bullpen has been overused or the closer isn’t available on that given night. There are also occasions when starters don’t reach their pitch count. This situation only happens because the starter is really struggling or when they are forced to leave early because of an injury.
There is a reason that pitchers have a set pitch count. When they go over or under that mark, there is a good chance it will impact their performance in their next start. It is certainly important to know how well a starting pitcher has done of late, but if you can add pitch counts into your handicapping arsenal as well, then you will be on the right track to winning in baseball.
When an amateur bettor sees a starter that just got a win after allowing 1 run over 8 innings, they instantly think this starter is on a roll and will dominate next time out. What they forget to look at is how many pitches this starter threw in that last performance. If the starter went over his typical pitch count, there’s a good chance he is going to have a tired arm and will fail to meet expectations.
The opposite could be said for starters who struggle in their last start. For example, if you have a starter who allowed 6 runs over 4 innings, many people will instantly assume that this starter is going to continue to struggle in his next start. The thing is, if this starter was pulled 20 pitches prior to reaching his pitch count, chances are he is going to have a live arm and perform much better in his next start.
It’s also important to realize that oddsmakers know that the public tends to over-emphasize how well a starter has performed recently when making their MLB picks. Starters who have been overworked are likely to come in way overvalued in their next game, while starters who were pulled early will likely show some value as either an underdog or small favorite.
I’m not saying that every time a starter goes over or under his pitch count it is going to have an impact on his next start, but it’s something you need to be aware of if you want to have long-term success betting baseball. I also suggest using this tool more for pitchers who are at least an average starter. A poor pitcher who has struggled all season isn’t likely to come out and dominate all of a sudden in his next start because he was pulled early in his last outing.