Even the most casual of fans probably has a good idea that baseball is a numbers game. While statistics are important when it comes to handicapping any sport, that fact is particular true when it comes to wagering on Major League Baseball. The key to handicapping baseball is to understand which numbers matter more than others so that you can narrow your focus to the key stats that can help you improve your bottom line. We took the time to separate the numbers that matter the most from the rest of the pack. Here is a look at the most important advanced stats for handicapping baseball.
Right/Left Handed Pitching Splits
Baseball is a very complex game with countless factors that go in to determining the result of each contest. One of the most overlooked aspects of MLB matchups is the fact that individual players and teams as a whole perform differently versus right and left handed pitching. There are plenty of different sites that track right/left handed pitching splits. Some teams perform better against righties and some teams perform better overall against lefties. Make sure you follow them and adjust your predictions based on how teams have performed versus either right-handed or left-handed pitchers depending on who is on the mound.
Sometimes the simplest statistics are the most telling. When it comes to evaluating baseball matchups, runs per nine innings is as simple as it gets. How many runs do the teams playing one another average per game? Batting average and on base percentage are important factors but at the end of the day it’s all about production. Make sure that you track runs per nine innings when handicapping each and every MLB matchup.
WHIP (Walks + Hits Per Inning)
The majority of casual baseball fans will focus on ERA when it comes to evaluating pitching matchups. However, ERA doesn’t always tell the whole story of how a pitcher has performed. After all, there are incidents when a pitcher gives up more hits than they should only to get bailed out by his defense and not give up a run. At the same time, there are situations when a pitcher performs well but is forced to pay for his mistakes that make his ERA look much worse than his overall performance went. When evaluating pitcher matchups, it’s important to keep an eye on WHIP, which is the average number of hits and walks a pitcher gives up per inning pitched. The more runners a pitcher allows on base, the more likely it is they will give up a run. Rather than looking at overall ERA, keep an eye on WHIP as a better indicator of future potential for pitchers.
Run Support Average
While it’s very easy to get caught up in the individual statistics recorded by pitchers, the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter how well a pitcher performs if he isn’t getting the run support required to win games. Every single season there are pitchers that perform at a high level but don’t get the run support numbers they need to pile up the wins. At the same time, there are always pitchers that struggle with their ERA but still win a ton of games because they have elite offenses lifting them by putting up substantial run support numbers. For as enticing as it is to pay close attention to pitcher statistics, run support is a key number that you should consider just as important when evaluating pitching matchups.
Strikeouts Per Nine Innings Pitched (K/9)
K/9 is among the most underrated statistics for pitchers because it isn’t always used as effectively as it should be. It’s important to keep in mind that a pitcher with a high K/9 will usually thrive against an opponent with poor plate discipline. At the same time, a team with good plate discipline could make a pitcher that relies heavily on K/9 pay for their desire to take care of business on their own without getting much help from their defense.
G/F rate is one of the most useful stats for grading pitching matchups. The G/F ratio measures the tendency of ground balls given up by a pitcher versus the number of fly balls they give up. If a pitcher has a 1.00 G/F rate, that means he is just as likely to give up a fly ball as he is a ground ball. The closer the number is to 0.00, the more likely the pitcher is to give up a fly ball over a ground ball. This statistic is best used in combination with evaluating whether a pitcher is playing in a hitter-friendly park or not. In smaller ballparks that favor the hitters, fly balls can be extremely dangerous. Keep that in mind when attempting to forecast how a pitcher will perform in a given matchup.
Another number worth paying attention to is how the pitchers performed in previous starts. This is true not just for one game prior but for portions of a season at a glance. Sometimes past performance is one of the best indicators of how future performances will go. Keep that in mind when handicapping pitcher matchups.
Additional Handicapping Elements
As is the case in most team sports, baseball teams tend to perform better at home than on the road for the most part. There will always be a couple of teams that perform slightly better on the road but for the most part that rule applies across the board. Keep track of home/road splits as an obvious factor in every MLB matchup.
While weather isn’t technically a statistic, there are sites that track advanced statistics depending on specific weather conditions such as temperature, winds, etc. Whether it’s a team from a warm-weather destination struggling in cooler temperatures or a team that can really hit home runs raising expectations a little higher because of favorable wind conditions, it’s important to understand the impact that weather can have on the games.
In addition to tracking home/road splits and weather, there are a number of sites that track how teams perform based on the umpire calling the game. While all umpires are supposed to call games the same way, the reality is that they are all different and that matters regardless of how objective they try to be. Some umpires have a tight strike zone, which tends to result in tougher outings for pitchers. Some umpires call the strike zone a lot looser, which will typically lead to better pitcher performances. It might not be as big of a factor as some of the other statistics on this list, but tracking results based on the umpire behind the plate could give you one more additional edge when handicapping baseball.