On April 7, Cubs right hander Jake Arrieta pitched Chicago to a 2-0 win over St. Louis at Wrigley Field. Making his first start of the season, Arrieta allowed only six base runners in seven innings and struck out seven. In a match-up against Lance Lynn, the Cubs were a very tepid favorite.
However, those who look at split stats knew that Chicago held a strong chance of winning.
While betting on baseball combines crunching numbers, looking at match-ups, and getting a feel for how individual teams and players are doing, there is a temptation to become an amateur Billy Beane. Going overboard on analytics in a game of chance is just as faulty as ignoring data all together. That being said, since pitching is the most effective way to handicap a baseball game, digging a bit deeper on starters is almost always a good idea.
Arrieta entered his first start of 2015 coming off of a career year. At one time a top prospect of the Orioles, the 29-year-old floundered in Baltimore before being traded to the Cubs in 2013. In his first full season with Chicago, Arrieta went 10-5 with a 2.53 ERA. However, those numbers only touch the surface of how good Arrieta was under certain circumstances, specifically at home and early in the year.
In 2014, Arrieta posted a 1.46 ERA in 12 homes games. He went 6-1 at Wrigley Field, holding batters to a .166 average. In 13 starts before last season’s All Star Game, Arrieta was 5-1 with a 1.95 ERA. Needless to say, pitching at home, early in the year, is a very good thing for Arrieta (and those who bet on him).
Meanwhile, Lynn was better at home than on the road last year, and performed at his best after the All Star Break. That doesn’t mean he isn’t capable; in fact, he pitched very well against the Cubs, but the numbers illustrate a decisive advantage for Arrieta.
Almost every day during baseball season, by taking a look at split stats, you can find ways to skew the odds in your favor. That doesn’t mean you will win all of them, but if the goal is to make money in the long run, going a step beyond your normal analysis is worthwhile.
Last Thursday, the Mets beat the Nationals 6-3. It would have been nice to know that Stephen Strasburg has a career ERA of 3.56 on the road versus 2.60 at home. Last season, Strasburg was 9-3 in Washington and 5-8 pitching everywhere else. It won’t work every time, but I’ll take my chances playing him in DC, and fading Strasburg on the road.
(Photo credit: John on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)