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Using MLB Matchups for Betting

Figuring out how a pitcher compares to a hitter comes down to much more than simple stats like ERA and batting average (learn how to calculate those stats). If you are going to bet baseball intelligently, these things should be considered.  But, if you really want to be good at MLB handicapping then you must also delve much deeper to determine what is going to happen in a particular game. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when pinpointing the best batter-pitcher match-ups.

Recent Performance

First and foremost is knowing how a pitcher and the line-up he is facing have fared in recent games. More often than not, a team that has been piling up runs and wins for the past 7 days will be salivating at the mouth for another chance to pad their numbers. On the other hand, a struggling team who just can’t seem to make solid contact will likely still be mired in a slump come game-time.

When dissecting a pitcher’s recent performance, a good gauge is to look at his last 3 to 4 starts. I’ll use Danny Salazar of the Cleveland Indians as an example. When you look at the All-Star’s ERA, record, and WHIP alone, he appears to be a sure bet to shut down a sub-par team.

Looking at his last 4 starts paints quite a different picture. He gave up 8 hits and 6 earned runs in just 5 and two-thirds innings against a mediocre Yankees team. Two starts later, he lasted just 4 innings while giving up 5 hits and 4 runs to the Nationals. This was a tougher test, but he still did not perform anywhere close to his standard. Finally, in his most recent outing against a terrible Twins lineup, he lasted just 2 innings while giving up 6 runs on 6 hits, 3 of them home runs.

This goes to show that a player mired in a slump, no matter how much talent he may possess, can be a liability to any sports bet. Salazar did have one productive outing against the Royals in this stretch, but more often than not the recent numbers speak for themselves.

If it’s the beginning of the year and there isn’t a lot to go by, then you have to rely on your offseason preparations.  This means finding teams you think will be better and worse than they were last year.  You then try to find matchups of one playing the other and take advantage of weak lines.

Previous Matchups

After looking at the recent performance of all the players you are researching, the next thing to consider is how the pitcher and lineup have done against one another in the past. More often than not, a player who has “owned” a pitcher in the past is likely to do so again. Ballplayers are able to read certain pitchers much more easily than others, so past success is an indication that a batter may have a pitcher figured out.

Stats and numbers are good benchmarks for assessing player performance, but the stadium where the game will be played and the weather for that day are just as important. Let’s use Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, as an example this time.

Certain pitchers struggle in certain parks, but Coors Field may be the stadium pitchers fear the most. Even the greatest pitchers in the league have struggled here due to high elevation and thin air, which allows the ball to travel much further than a more pitcher friendly park like Citi Field. If you combine this with a gusting wind blowing towards the outfield, a pitcher could be in big trouble, especially against a power hitting team.

This field advantage can also be looked at from a hitting perspective. When you look at the home and away splits for the Colorado Rockies, almost every member of their lineup has fared exponentially better at home. Since they play half of their season in arguably the most hitter-friendly park in Major League Baseball history, it makes sense that their home run, RBI, and batting average numbers will be abnormally high.

Understanding how different stadiums affect different players will give you a big leg up on the odds-makers who are hoping you don’t know about all these added factors. Once you have assessed how well a player is likely to perform at a particular stadium, there are still a number of other important things to factor in.

Type of Pitcher v. Type of Hitters

A pitcher who is known to rack up strikeouts facing a lineup that is more likely to strike out than others can be a key point to target. Teams that struggle to make contact will naturally find themselves in even more trouble against a pitcher who prides himself on making batters whiff. Conversely, a lineup that doesn’t strike out much and is known to put the ball in play will often fare well against a strikeout pitcher who relies on batters missing his pitches.

Home run tendencies are another important aspect to consider when assessing batter-pitcher match-ups. When you combine a pitcher that is known to throw a few “meatballs” per game with a lineup that is stacked with power, the score can pile up pretty quickly. If you do decide to bet on a pitcher with a high home run tendency, make sure he is playing a team that is based more around contact and small ball than a team that is built to knock ball after ball out of the park.

Handedness Splits

Once you have considered all of these different aspects of the game, there is still one more vital component to take into account. Take a look at how a lineup fares against right-handed and left-handed pitching. In almost every case, a quick search of a players home and away splits will reveal that they are much better at facing a pitcher of the opposite throwing hand.

A left-handed batter will usually have a better chance of getting on base when facing a right-handed pitcher, and vice versa. This is because the batter has an extra split second to decipher the release point of the ball, due to the line of sight provided by the pitcher’s arm angle.

Analyzing batter-pitcher match-ups is much more than just simple stats. Knowing how to analyze all the different little aspects that go into winning a baseball game will give you an advantage over bookies and have you raking in a profit on a regular basis.