Bet on Pitchers Who are Showing Signs of Improvement

On Monday night in Chicago, the White Sox beat the Indians 2-1 in 10 innings. Unsurprisingly, both starting pitchers, Corey Kluber and Chris Sale, pitched very well. Sportsbooks opened the game with an over/under of seven-and-a-half before it was bet down to seven.

The flawed line was a classic over-reaction to early season struggles and easy money for bettors.

Spotting bad numbers is not simple, and the opportunity does not present itself all that frequently. However, understanding what to look for can help you profit.

The best time to bet baseball is very early or very late in the season. Those are the portions of the long schedule where there is uncertainty. You may know that a team is better or worse than expected because of information about rookies, injuries, or off-season workouts that sportsbooks are unaware of – or unwilling to act on – in the early weeks of the year. The same can be said for the last several weeks of the season when September call-ups fill the lineups for some squads.

If you only have an advantage very early and very late in the campaign, how do you bet the majority of the season? Monday’s game provides the blueprint.

Kluber, last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, was off to a bad start. During a four-game-stretch between late April and early May, he allowed 19 earned runs in 24 innings. The Tribe lost all four games. However, he was coming off of an eight-inning, one-hit shutout with 18 strikeouts.

Sale, who’s been in the top six among Cy Young voting each of the last three years, had back-to-back rough outings against the Twins and Tigers on April 30 and May 6. He allowed 13 earned runs in 8.1 frames during those two starts. That said, he bounced back with eight strong innings, allowing three hits, and two runs, beating the Brewers in his final start before facing off against Kluber.

When players who have proven to be elite and are not aging out of their prime struggle, the safest assumption to make is that, given time, they will reclaim their place among the best in the game. The same can be true for veterans that have never been stars. If they start the year great, it is likely that, over time, they will regress to an average contributor.

The key to this strategy is recognizing when the tide is turning. By playing everyday, baseball is a sport that is prone to streaks. It is mentally draining and easy for a player to put themselves in a funk. It is easy to allow a small issue to balloon into a big one and a lengthy streak of poor performances can follow.

In hindsight, it seems inevitable that Kluber and Sale would break out of their slumps. After Kluber dominated a talented Cardinals lineup, and Sale subdued Milwaukee, the chances for a pitching duel seemed high. If you bet the game early, the 7.5 was a steal. Even at seven, the under was a great bet.

If they face each other again in a week or two, the o/u will be 6.5. Getting the better of the line when signs are present that good pitchers are beginning to go well is a prime opportunity to strike while an opportunity is available.

(Photo credit: Keith Allison (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/legalcode].)