Starting Pitchers 2021 as Vegas saw them and by best pitch type

There are so many ways to evaluate pitchers, but the way Las Vegas sportsbooks keep track of them is more unique yet still a quality number to keep an eye on. It is not a predictive number, but it does provide an interesting topic of discussion. Their numbers are based on team wins and losses, not individual performance. That is more of a good thing than a bad one but not a perfect gauge of performance by any stretch. Every game has a winner and a loser and there was a Moneyline attached to the starting pitcher for it as well. The result of the game gets credited to the starting pitcher, and it accumulates in terms of Moneyline dollars won or lost based on a 100 dollar wager. An example would be Pitcher A is -150, then -130, and then plus +125 in his first 3 starts. Let’s say he goes 2-1 losing the middle game. As a favorite of -150 and winning, he gets credit for a wager of -$150 to win $100 and he won, so he is +$100. He lost his 2nd start at -130. Thus, he is -$130 because of that game which is then added to the +$100 to get a running total now of $-$30. He then won his 3rd game at +125.  He gets credit for the full $125 as the wager was risking $100 to win $125, and that is added to his -$30 for a new running total of +$95 for the season. Now we can say if we had wagered on this pitcher every time he started, we would have won $95 if we were betting $100 per wager. Another way to say it is using $100 as 1 unit, so we would be at a +.95 units won. Now we get the drift of this, let’s look at the pitchers who were successful in 2021 in terms of money won. The first column is sorted by the number of games started so you can the bigger names. The second column is sorted by dollars won so you can who won the most.


The column on the left is sorted by games started then their dollars won. BOS Nathan Eovaldi started 36 games and won $236 or 2.36 units. He was 11-9 for BOS ly but his team was 19-13 when he started. As you can see, there is a dramatic difference between team wins and individual wins sometimes. He gained 8 team wins to only 4 team losses. LAD Julio Urias is 2nd on the list with 34 starts and +$762 or 7.62 units. He was the only 20 game-winner of 2021 going 20-3. He was 26-6 in team wins so saw no improvement there. Think about this though if you wagered him every game, yes, you would have made money. However, he made 34 starts and won (2 playoffs) and his team won 81.3% of the games and he still only netted 7.62 units. This is because he is a Dodger, and they were likely a favorite of -$200 or more when started most of his games. It means to get a $100 return; you must wager that $200! If you lose, you are -$200; now you must make that up, which will require 3 consecutive $100 wager wins, which is worth $600 ($200 per game)! You can go down the list there and look.

Looking at the right column that is listed by dollars won and not starts sees the most profitable pitcher in the game last year being SEA Chris Flexen with $1591 or 15.91 units. He made 31 starts going 14-6. His team wins record was 22-9! Here is a great example compared to Julio Urias (26-6) as a guy who recorded small favorite wins and didn’t lose when he was a bigger favorite. SEA was never a FAV over -195 and Flexen was no higher than -185 on the season, thus he presents a perfect wagering strategy! Do not wager games higher than -150 and try to find some underdogs to mix in! SFG Logan Webb was +$1193. He went 11-3 and his team was 21-5 in his starts! Huge gains in team wins thus his big gains in dollars win. Again, you can go through the list, but I bet you didn’t Tyler Alexander and Kris Bubic were 3rd and 4th!

Now let’s do the same exercise for the pitcher who lost the most money!

Again, the left column is sorted by games started and the right column by over dollars lost. There are going to be some big names on the left column. It’s just because a loss for the guys who are big favorites most of the time will have trouble overcoming those types of losses.

ATL Charlie Morton made 37 starts and was -$460 or -4.6 units. If you wagered every game on him, you would have lost nearly $500! LAD Walker Buehler is -$95. Those are some big named guys!

Looking at the right side, we see CIN Luis Castillo was a -$1254! Many times, a player who is in this deep will not get too many chances to continue throwing as he is not winning for his team. A perfect example of this is the next guy on the list, Jake Arrieta, who was $1179! He made 24 starts then was released. Tough luck guys show up on both sides. Pitchers like MIA Sandy Alcantara who is one of the best pitchers in the game yet plays for a team that can’t score runs so he loses more than he should be based on the way he pitches. He was $-579. The right side column will show some of the worst pitchers in the game. The left column will show the most losing pitchers in dollars of the major starters.

I think is just an interesting way to look at the pitchers so I thought it would be fun to show them this way. Another fun way is to show which pitcher is the best with Fastballs, or Sliders. We can rank them by pitch type. We will be using a data point that delivers us outs above average score. The more outs above average for a pitcher the better he is at that pitch. The scale is 0 = average so we are looking for positive results here.

Let’s look at Fastballs

PHI Zach Wheeler leads the list with 26 outs above average. Interesting to see MIL Adrian Houser the #2 pitcher on the list. Not surprising to see LAD Walker Buehler and MIL Brandon Woodruff as the net in line. Let’s look at Sliders

LAD Clayton Kershaw leads the MLB with 16.2 outs above average using his slider. I am surprised to see his name being number one. Hard throwers usually are the ones on this list at the top as their slider is very effective because of the velocity it is thrown with. Not surprising the next guys are all hard throwers. SDP Joe Musgrove, NYM Mas Scherzer, CHW Carols Rodon and so forth.

A few pitchers are working with the cutter so this will be a shortlist. Here it is.

MIL Corbin Burnes leads by a mile with 24.2 outs above average. CLE Aaron Civale is next with 14.4 and they are the only two with double-digit success rates. This makes them stand out against the crowd and is the main reason for their success. Batting lineups do face these cutter throwing pitchers often and when they are good, they stand out.

The curveball is next. It is effective as a change for some guys but the ones who make it move the most get great results. Here is that list. This is also a list that likely is shorter than you might have thought it to be.

ATL Charlie Morton leads this list with 26.6 outs above average. Now we can see why LAD Julio Urias won 20 games. He is 2nd on the best curveballs list! MIL Corbin Burnes has now made this list in the top 5 and the Slider list in the top 5!

The last one to look at is the change-up. Lost of guys throw it, but many are not as effective as others so this will not be a deep list either.

I would never have had NYY Jordan Montgomery as the number one outs above-average changeup, but there he is! He leads with 11.1. CHW Lucas Giolito does not surprise me at the #2 spot. A guy who usually leads here is way down the list. CIN Luis Castillo with 3.6. He is normally the top guy, so maybe we now know why he was not effective and was the pitcher who lost the most money if you wagered on him for 2021.

That wraps this up. It is interesting stuff to look at for sure. It can be part of the handicapping arsenal if used as more than fodder. You can match the effective pitch or pitches a starter throws against the team he will face. Just as we can see how pitchers throw, we can see how teams hit pitch types as well. Knowing if you are wagering on a plus dollar guy or a minus dollar guy can lead to a wager or away. These are not the meat and potatoes of the handicap, but if correlated with other things, they can make strong statements!

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