Low Value Pitchers That May Provide ROI

Jacob Wheatley-Schaller takes a look at 3 staring pitchers that may provide baseball bettors some quality starts in favorable moneyline situations this MLB betting season. Their records many not indicate value, but Jacob has dug down into the numbers to find some good MLB betting advice for the true sports bettor.

Koji Uehara (Orioles)

Baltimore isn’t exactly synonymous with quality starting pitching, and Uehara didn’t get much hype when the Orioles signed him this past winter. But the 34-year old righthander has an excellent statistical history in Japan, with 1,376 strikeouts in 1,549 innings over 10 seasons. Certainly, that isn’t against MLB-level competition, but there are ways to adjust for that, and those systems think Uehara can make a real contribution to a major league rotation. The projection system CHONE projected him to a 3.60 ERA; that’s as a reliever, so it’d be expected to be a bit higher as a SP, but even with that adjustment it’s impressive. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA was a bit more pessimistic, with a 4.72 ERA in 135 innings, but that’s still good enough to be an average starter.

On the surface, it looks like Uehara has gotten off to a poor start, with a 5.29 ERA in 8:6 K:BB ratio in three starts. But that’s more understandable when you look at the lineups he’s faced; the Yankees, Rangers, and Red Sox. Two of those were also on the road, in incredibly tough environments (Arlington and Fenway), so even in the tough AL East it only gets easier from here. It doesn’t seem like anyone really thinks much of Uehara right now, so this is definitely a good buy low opportunity.

Carl Pavano (Indians)

Speaking of guys nobody thinks much of at the moment, Pavano is probably the ultimate candidate. He was famously a bust in his four seasons with the Yankees after signing a large contract prior to 2005. But really, most of that bad reputation was built based on never being on the mound, rather than not performing when he managed to make it out there. When he actually pitched for New York, he wasn’t good enough to live up to the gaudy contract, but he wasn’t Carlos Silva ’08 out there. Many came into the year saying that a team could never contend for the division title with Pavano as their nominal #3 starter, and while having him in the middle of your rotation may not be ideal, it’s really not the end of the world. CHONE projects him at a 4.60 ERA, which is entirely respectable for a mid-rotation starter.

Like Uehara, Pavano’s current line isn’t going to blow anyone away; 0-2, with a 9.69 ERA. But he too has faced a very difficult schedule, with all three starts coming on the road, one in vaunted Arlington and another one in the new bandbox in the Bronx. That start against the Rangers, his first outing of the year, was an unmitigated disaster, as he recorded just three outs while allowing nine runs. But since then, he’s actually been quite good. In Kansas City he did give up four runs over six innings, but his peripheral stats were much better than that, with eight strikeouts against zero walks. And regardless of how you look at it, he pitched very well against the Yankees, allowing just four hits over six innings to go along with four strikeouts and a single walk. He would’ve recorded his first win in that game, except the Indians’ bullpen blew the game as soon as he left. The rest of the year, though, Pavano should outperform the underwhelming expectations most currently have of him.

Manny Parra (Brewers)

Parra has gotten off to a very poor start, with an 0-3 record and 8.16 ERA in his first three starts. And while he’s been a bit unlucky, as just about anyone with an ERA over eight will have been, mostly he’s just been plain bad. The thing about getting off to such a bad start, however, is that his record and ERA are all anyone will pay attention to, especially as the season progresses and people start trusting the sample size of the current year’s stats a bit more. “0-3, 8.16” looks terrible now, and it’s bad enough that even if he pitches well over the next month or so his 2009 statistics still won’t be very impressive.

So there’s that to take advantage of, people substantially lowing their expectations of him after three starts. But there’s also not much of a reason to think he’ll keep struggling like this. After putting up a 4.39 ERA as a 25-year old last year, the projection systems expected a solid year out of Parra. And while his performance thus far has been poor, he’ still the same pitcher he has been in the past, with a 91-92 mph fastball, 76 mph curve, and 84 mph changeup (all data from FanGraphs). So if you can get past his ugly record and ERA, there is likely going to be a good deal of value in backing Parra in the near future.
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