Can Bettors Trust Players Who Come Out of Nowhere?

When baseball players emerge as consistent performers late in their careers, there is usually a good reason for their quiet youth.

The Royals’ Chris Young (pictured while with the Padres) is the perfect example. He was a highly touted pitching prospect who couldn’t stay healthy; but, after some early-career struggles, he has been consistently effective for most of the last decade.

However, if you can’t pinpoint something that was holding the player back – like injuries with Young – there is reason to be pessimistic about their long-term success, case in point … 

Jesse Chavez

Oakland’s Jesse Chavez was drafted in the 42nd round in 2002. There is nothing special about his makeup. He bounced around, spending time in the minors and majors with five organizations between 2008 and 2012, before finding a home with the A’s permanently in 2013. His wife Crystal told the San Francisco Chronicle last year that she had no plans to quit her job as a longshoreman.

While Chavez started 21 games for the A’s last year, he faded badly as the year moved along. His final ERA of 3.45 was solid, yet Oakland traded for Jon Lester and Jeff Samardzija, in part, because of their lack of confidence in Chavez. Their concerns were well founded. This year, even without Lester and Samardzija, Chavez did not start the year in the A’s rotation.

The point is not that he can’t pitch, but rather his makeup indicated he wasn’t going to suddenly have amazing numbers after being a battler through most of his 20s. Riding a hot arm while it is going good makes sense, but watch for regression, and be ready to bet at the first sign of it.

Mike Bolsinger

This year, the Dodgers’ Mike Bolsinger has been significantly better on the mound than NL MVP Clayton Kershaw. That is pretty strange considering Kershaw makes more than $30 million a season, while Bolsinger was traded from the Diamondbacks for cash considerations after Arizona designated the 27-year-old for assignment in November.

In four seasons in Triple-A, Bolsinger went 17-10 with a 4.06 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. In ten games with the Dbacks last year, he was 1-6 with a 5.50 ERA and allowed seven home runs. Cy Young material, he was not.

This year, he is 3-0 in four starts with a 0.71 ERA. Drafted three times (in the 33rd, 34th, and 15th rounds), Bolsinger is now throwing a lot of curve balls, but there is really no way to explain his success. He’ll face the Cardinals on Friday and, while another good performance is possible, at some point the bottom is likely to fall out, and alert bettors should be able to see it coming.

The Takeaway

When you wager, it’s important to remember that most players are not as good as their best effort and not as bad as their worst. It is also important not to overvalue the most recent results. Over the long-term, players tend to produce about what you would expect based on their career numbers.

That said, if a guy is going good or is suddenly very cold, do some research on his makeup and history; it may help you learn whether you can trust his current form or not.

(Photo credit: TonyTheTiger (Wikipedia) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)