Determining the Best Prop Bets for Individual Pitching Wins
The Major League Baseball season is just about upon us. The opening games actually take place on March 20 and 21 in Tokyo between Seattle and Oakland, with the rest of the teams actually kicking into gear the following week. With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins.
Proposition bets are a favorite pastime of baseball bettors before the beginning of the season. It is the time of year when everything is possible, and everybody still has the hope of being a pennant-winner. Spring is a time for new beginnings, after all.
That’s the case for bettors as well. Before the season gets underway and gets into the nitty-gritty of daily games, it’s a good time to take stock of the individual players that you think are going to excel in the season to come. And it makes sense that you also might have a strong opinion on those players who might not live up to their preseason expectations.
Proposition bets give you the opportunity to speculate on how those players might do. You can find over/under bets on statistics like home runs and hits. But we’re focusing on the rubber for the sake of this article, in particular, the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins.
How it works is that oddsmakers set a line that they feel will be a rough estimate for how many wins a pitcher might come upon during the season. You then have the choice of whether that pitcher will exceed that total (go over) or fail to match it (go under.) At the end of the season, you’ll have an opportunity to see how well you did and, hopefully, collect your winnings.
Now is a good time to assess what the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins might be. After all, most of the top free agents (though not all; we see you, Dallas Keuchel) have settled into their spots, and most injury situations are clear. If you wait too long, you might miss out on some excellent betting opportunities.
With that in mind, we’re here to take a close investigation of the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins. We’ll talk about the factors that you should be looking for when you make your selections. And then we’ll give you five over and five under bets that we believe will be winners when all is said and done at the end of the 2019 season.
How To Pick Pitching Win Over/Unders
There is a reason that many people ion the sabermetric community believe that the pitching win statistic ought to be either deemphasized or outright eliminated. It is a somewhat unreliable measure of pitching excellence. Just ask Jacob deGrom, he’s the one who got the minuscule running average and the total wins in 2018.
That said, there are a few indicators that you should focus on before making your selection. Using these tools, you should have a reasonable idea on your own of who the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins will be. By that, we mean both those who will sail by their predicted number and those who will fall woefully short.
deGrom was just one example last year of a pitcher who failed to get much run support from his team, thus harming his win totals. But there are many other examples of pitchers who pitched well for inferior squads and had their win total suffer as a result. By the same token, those teams with big offenses can propel mediocre hurlers to impressive records.
And it’s more than run support, which can be fluent from game to game. The better teams in the league tend to have solid defenses that will limit the damage done on batted balls. They also tend to have excellent bullpens, which means that a pitcher who leaves the game with a lead can reasonably expect that lead to be protected so that they can come away with a victory.
Vegas knows all of this, of course, and tends to bake team ability into the line of each pitcher. You know that there’s going to be a premium placed on hurlers from top squads like the Red Sox or Dodgers. By contrast, the lines are probably going to be set at a low number for pitchers from perennial also-rans such as the Marlins.
Yet you can take advantage of this by spotting teams that you think are going to either underperform or outperform their expectations. If you think that there’s a team not getting too much respect from prognosticators but is in for a good year, chances are the over/under for their pitchers might be a bit skimpy. And if you think that there are teams getting too much credit, there are probably going to be pitchers from those teams who will make good under plays if your theories are correct.
Innings On The Mound
The idea that pitchers who pitch more innings give themselves more of a chance to win is pretty self-explanatory. First of all, a pitcher who pitches a lot of innings has probably started a solid number of games, which means more chances for wins. And that same pitcher is also likely going relatively deep into ball games, which opens up more opportunities for victories as well.
There are a lot of factors that play into this concept. You have to be able to diagnose the health of a pitcher going into the season, as well as try to project their chances of getting hurt. Some pitchers seem to battle some kind of injury issue every year, while others skate through without ever spending any time on the disabled list.
Efficiency is also a big part of pitching a lot of innings, especially in terms of pitches thrown. Especially in this day and age, the pitchers that run up high pitch counts put them in danger of reduced opportunities for victories. After all, the pitcher has to at least make it through five innings before they can even have a shot at the win, and chances are they won’t get there if it takes them 25 to 30 pitches to get through every inning.
You can also locate sleeper pitchers this way. Guys like Mike Leake don’t tilt the needle much when it comes to excitement, simply because they hardly strike anybody out. But their pitch-to-contact methods help them to get through innings at a much more efficient rate than the Chris Archers of the world, who might strike out a lot of guys but take a boatload of pitches to do so.
We talked a little bit about sabermetrics and how those who follow it can be a little frustrated with the win as a statistic. But the bottom line is that using the so-called “peripheral” statistics can be an excellent way to determine who might be undervalued or overvalued in terms of their over/under baseline. And this is what you can exploit when you make your prop bets.
What are some of the best peripheral stats to check out? Fielding independent pitching, or FIP, is a good place to start. It boils a pitcher’s performance down to the things they can control, which are strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed.
Along those same lines the stat that is commonly known as BABIP, or batting average on balls in play. The idea behind this stat is that balls hit by a batter will fall for hits or will be put away for outs based on luck more than anything else. A pitcher whose BABIP is high has been unlucky, and one who has a low BABIP probably caught more than a few breaks.
Strikeout-to-walk ratio has been around a lot longer than some of the other stats we just mentioned, but is nonetheless a good one to note. A pitcher who strikes out hitters is removing the element of luck from the occasion. And the ability to limit free passes keeps extra runners off the bases.
The idea behind using any or all of these stats is to compare them with the wins that the pitcher amassed in that same time period. If there is a discrepancy either way between the number of wins that a pitcher collected and the way that they actually pitched based on their peripheral stats, you could have a good betting opportunity on your hands.
Now that you know some things to look for in terms of hunting for wins, we’re going to take a look at what we believe to be the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins. First, we’ll give you five pitchers that we think will go over their lines, as determined by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook. Then we’ll follow it up with a look at five more pitchers that could come up short of their over/under setup.
Jon Gray, Colorado (11.5)
Gray was an enigma last year. While the rest of the Colorado pitching staff soared, Gray, probably the most highly respected of the group, couldn’t get untracked. He spent just about the entire year with an ERA above five; it eventually settled at 5.12.
Gray’s peripherals were much more reasonable, however, with a FIP in the threes and more than 3.5 strikeouts per walk. And even with all of that, and a trip to the minor leagues, he still managed 12 wins, which would put him on the over of the listed total above. With better luck this season, Gray should coast by the 11.5 number for an easy betting win.
Sean Newcomb, Atlanta (11.5)
It was a tale of two halves last year for Newcomb, the talented Braves lefty who looked like an All-Star until June, then cratered down the stretch. Newcomb’s biggest issue is his command, as he walked nearly a batter every two innings. He helped to mitigate that by limiting hitters to under a hit an inning.
This is a guy with serious stuff, one who could be ready to make the same kind of leap that Mike Foltynewicz made a year ago for the Braves. He has a great team around him. And, like Gray, he also managed 12 wins a year ago with all of the negatives, so once those negatives switch to positives, 15 to 17 wins seems more likely.
Steven Matz (7.5)
Just a few years ago, Matz was mentioned in the same breath as other Mets aces Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Matt Harvey. Injuries then interrupted and left Matz a shell of himself in 2017. But he started to right the ship a year ago, especially after returning from a forearm strain in late summer.
Like deGrom, Matz suffered as well from a lack of support from the Mets, something that should be rectified this year with guys like Wilson Ramos, Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie in the fold. Matz should bring his rate stats down significantly this season, allowing him to work deeper into games and coast to double-figure wins even if he does miss some starts to injury.
Nick Pivetta (9.5)
We’re back in the National League East with a player with serious breakout potential. Back in 2016, fellow Phillie Aaron Nola had impressive peripherals that contradicted an ugly win-loss record and ERA. His numbers lined up with his talent level in ’17 and he became one of the best in the game last year.
It feels like Pivetta might be on a similar path as Nola. He already misses bats with the best of them; check out his 188 strikeouts in 164 innings a year ago. If he can keep the ball in the yard a little bit better, which seems like a likely development, he should thrive with the improved Phillies for double-figure victories.
Madison Bumgarner (10.5)
The past two years have been filled with injuries for Bumgarner, who had been the model of durability and consistency in his career up to that point. But it’s important to note that both of the injuries were of the freakish variety. There is nothing structurally wrong with MadBum, unless you think all those past postseason innings are piling up on his arm.
You might be concerned that Bumgarner’s strikeouts were down last year, but his velocity wasn’t. If he avoids the odd injuries, he should make 200 innings once again. And that most definitely means 11 wins or more, either with the Giants or with someone who trades for him at midseason.
James Paxton (13.5)
Paxton goes from being a relatively unheralded but extremely effective starter to the prize acquisition of the Yankees. Right off the bat, that could set off warning flags, as there is a long list of excellent players who struggled under the glare of the Big Apple. That alone should give you pause about such a relatively high number.
On top of that, you’ve got a guy who pitched all of 160 innings a year ago, and that was his career-high at age 30. The odds just aren’t good for him to pitch enough to muster 14 wins. Expect a couple DL trips and take the under.
Jon Lester (13.5)
Lester’s 2018 is the ultimate example of a guy whose peripherals said just the opposite of what his more traditional stats showed. Looking at the surface, you see a guy with 18 wins and a 3.32. But his other rate stats were almost identical to 2017, when he clunked along to a 4.33 ERA.
The other big problem area is his dropping strikeout totals. If he isn’t going to miss bats in Wrigley Field, the results could be downright ugly. It seems like Lester is about to hit the wall at age 35 after a lot of innings pitched, making at least 14 wins seem like a real long shot.
Nate Eovaldi (10.5)
It’s fun to play the extrapolation game, taking a small sample size worth of statistics and imagining them writ large over a 162-game season. You might salivate at the Eovaldi who pitched so well down the stretch and in the postseason working the whole year with the Red Sox support system around him. In that world, Eovaldi would seem like a prime over candidate.
But Eovaldi’s overall career has been pedestrian at best. Not to mention the fact that it usually takes him two years to compile 200 innings because of his multitude of injuries. The 2018 postseason was wonderful indeed for Eovaldi, but don’t let it color your opinion of him going forward.
Mike Foltynewicz (12.5)
We referenced Folty in the section about his teammate Sean Newcomb. His 2018 seemed to come out of nowhere, at least until you consider that the guy was a high draft pick and top prospect. Once he put it all together, the numbers fell in line.
But some early preseason arm issues are concerning, as it looks like he won’t make the Opening Day start. Could it be a case of leftover fatigue from a stressful season? I’d be willing to bet on a big regression more than an improvement on what was already a fantastic year.
Mike Fiers (9.5)
You would think that the probable Opening Day starter on a team that made the playoffs a year ago would be a cinch for at least ten wins. But Fiers is a special case. First of all, that team, the A’s, rode their bullpen and hitting more than any consistent starting pitching to get where they needed to go a year ago.
Fiers had a nice comeback season last year, but he’s two years removed from a 5.22 ERA. And his strikeout rate is dropping with each passing year. This looks like a case of Vegas trying to sneak one by you, something that shouldn’t happen if you examine all the statistical evidence against Fiers as an ace.
Now that you know the top 2019 MLB prop bets for pitching wins, you can make your proposition wagers with confidence. Keep in mind that it’s all about looking behind the obvious statistics when you make your choices. Think of it as your own version of Moneyball, since you’ll likely be in the money once you get your overs and unders in order.