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Baseball Betting: The Pitching and Defense Myth
Jun 1st, 2008

We recently wrote an article on WHIP versus ERA in handicapping. Despite the fact that baseball in the interest of the gambler is predominated by football and basketball, the questions we got in regards to that article exceeds the response of even our most popular NFL writings. 

The prevailing area under discussion was inquiring how to weigh offensive statistics relative to pitching.

There is an old cliché that pitching and defense are 80 percent of the game.  A similar timeworn saying is that good pitching beats good hitting.  Putting that to the test we find that Randy Johnson, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez must not be all that good because they have a combined sub .500 record in the postseason.  The two with the best winning percentage would be Clemens and Martinez who clearly had the best bats as support. All five have a higher ERA in the postseason than the regular season and 3-of-5 by .30 or more.

The supporters of this apocryphal footnote point towards how low scoring postseason games often are.  This inductive thought process never analyzes why such is. They ignore pretty important facts such how managers can greatly shorten their pitching staff, but cannot do the equivalent offensively.  A five man pitching staff becomes three, but a skipper cannot condense his batting order from nine to just five or six.  It is commonplace for an ace to pitch three games in a seven game playoff series.  How often do you ever see it during the regular season?  Sans rainouts or in a very rare case of the All-Star break, the answer is never.

No question the pitcher is the most important player on the field, but to say he and his teammates gloves are four times as important as their bats is poppycock but a boon for the books.

Most importantly there are two supremely substantial components relevant to the handicapper that do not enter the equation when run of the mill baseball fans are arguing this point over a cold brew. The referenced “good pitching” does not always come from good pitchers. Likewise, good pitchers don’t always bestow good pitching.

It is well beyond semantics that there is a major distinction between the axioms, “good pitching beats good hitting” than uttering “good pitchers beat good hitters.”

I will seize investing on hot pitching from a second-rate pitcher against besieged bats from a great offense, just as I would lay a wager against a slumping stud hurler especially when encumbered with nose-diving run support.

The value is there. We have ridden the likes of Pat Rapp, John Snyder, Scott Sanders, Rick Krivda…the list goes on as far as big dogs while they were in “the zone”.  No handicapper on the planet has had more success going against future Hall-of-Fame pitchers under the right state of affairs. 

We have written several articles on how fantasy and gambling information often overlap.  One thing the roto player gets a great sense of is how much pitching can be a total crapshoot. If one were to compile a list of the biggest surprises and disappointments every baseball season, there will always be a disproportionate number of pitchers on that list. Oddsmakers asymmetrically make their line based on this fluid dynamic, which gives sharp players wide-open opportunity.

All that leaves value for us. As Mike Foreman, of BetUs Sportsbook points out, “books have had to offer ‘Listed Pitchers’ and ‘Action’ wagers because a pitching change can make such a huge difference.” However you can’t specify, “Bonds must play”. 

We remind you again the basic math that makes a win-loss record almost irrelevant in baseball.  You need only hit 40 percent of 150 dogs (your price after the juice) to break even, but 60 percent of 150 favorites.  The difference between the sharps and squares in baseball is so often the sharps know how to win hitting 46 percent, while the squares often hit 65 percent and get buried.

The gambling aristocrats are those who anticipate when “good pitching” comes from inferior pitchers or when high society hurlers come up with bad pitching and/or get minimal run support.  As one need not have an above .500 record to have a winning record in baseball handicapping, and the whiz kids know they must anatomize how the oddsmakers assay the varying factors.

Substantiating which pitchers and teams the oddsmakers over or undervalue has one prerequisite that the dumb bunnies disregard—how much the linesmakers evaluate each dynamic to begin with.

Ah, but how to specifically handicap offense?  Guess what our next article is regarding?

Duffy’s plays are part of the Dream Team at GodsTips, the anchor of  He is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, Gamblers Zoo national radio show, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Pro Fantasy Sports Internet radio and Grogan’s Fantasy Football show.

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Joe Duffy is founder of featuring the world’s top sports service selections.
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