Is the Time Ever Right to Lay -220 or better in MLB?

Part one of a 2-part series on betting baseball. Jay looks at the top pitchers and evaluates if laying a big price is worth the risk.

With the numbers you see for big name, top-tier pitchers like Clayton Kershaw, Jake Arietta, Madison Bumgarner, Felix Hernandez and Chris Sale, it seems easy to lay the big money line prices and cash winning wagers. But baseball betting is just not that easy. Laying big prices comes with plenty of risk, and there is often a tax betting on the top-tier pitchers with little value on the money line. And while winning is the name of the game, finding value while winning is the way to profit over the long term.

The beauty of betting baseball is the greater number of wagering options available. Betting baseball also affords us many games to choose from on a daily basis, with every day a new opportunity to evaluate the endless stats and determine where the value lies. You can build on yesterday's success or put its failures behind and start fresh. You can bet on the money line and total, but also the run line, first 5-innings money line or run line and first 5-inning total at most reputable online sportsbooks. Team totals are also available.

MLB oddsMany recreational bettors like to bet on the best pitchers and the best teams. But laying big prices comes with risk, and knowing that a sports book gives a -180 moneyline favorite a 64.2% chance to win is part of evaluating that risk and a team's chances of winning. A -200 favorite will be given approximately a 66.7% chance of winning while a -230 favorite is expected to win 70% of the time.

As we pass the quarter pole of the MLB season and head into June, we're seeing some very strong starting pitching. When these top pitchers take the mound, you're often laying a pretty price to support them, and especially when their team is playing at home. I've outlined the surface stats of the top-tier starters through the opening part of the season (30% of regular season complete). The top-10 starting pitchers have earned run averages (ERA) of 2.25 or better. Six of the 10 have dominating WHIP's of 1.05 or less (league average approx. 1.30).

Pitcher Team Won.Loss ERA WHIP BAA IP K/BB OPS
C. Kershaw LAD 7-1 1.48 0.66 .171 79 95/5 .429
D. Pomeranz SD 4-4 1.170 1.04 .164 53 60/25 .508
J. Arrieta CHC 9-0 1.72 0.90 .168 68 67/21 .481
N. Syndergaard NYM 5-2 1.94 0.98 .227 60 76/9 .559
J. Hammel CHC 6-1 2.17 1.17 .220 54 47/21 .637
M. Bumgarner SF 6-2 2.17 1.12 .216 66 77/20 .621
R. Hill OAK 7-3 2.18 1.11 .206 58 65/21 .571
F. Hernandez SEA 4-3 2.21 1.19 .205 57 47/25 .608
J. Quintana CWX 5-4 2.22 1.02 .227 65 60/12 .580
C. Sale CWX 9-1 2.25 0.84 .179 72 69/14 .510

ERA – Earned Run Average
WHIP – Walks plus hits per innings pitched
BAA – Batting average against
IP – Innings pitched
K/BB – strikeout/walk
OPS – combination of pitchers on-base percentage and slugging average allowed

As most astute baseball bettors know, there is much more than surface stats when it comes to evaluating pitching. The pitchers are also often times ahead of the hitters in early season baseball. As spring gives way to summer, we now have a more established baseline of statistics and trends to evaluate and guide you.

Three measurements that can help you better determine a pitchers value is his OPS, WHIP and BAA. When you combine these stats of a strong starting pitcher, and have the support of a solid lineup or one in good current form, you can begin to parlay your profits with less risk on the moneyline and turn -180 or even -220 wagers into plus prices or an even money opportunity on the run line (-1.5 runs).

MLB betting

The pitchers in the chart above will most often be high-priced favorites when pitching at their home ball park. Along with many other strong starters, they will also be laying some sizeable chalk on the road depending on the opposing pitcher and team. As you seek out value in betting baseball, it's rarely going to come supporting the best or perceived top starting pitchers when laying in the range of -220 or greater.

Understanding a pitchers xERA, home/road splits, left/right handed batters, ground ball/fly ball profiles and how to evaluate them at various ball parks and with certain umpires is digging even deeper into the pitching pool of information. Try to avoid laying big prices like -290 on Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers when facing a solid and now less underrated starter like Drew Pomeranz of the division rival Padres. That was the case on May 1 when Los Angeles held on for a 1-0 victory. Instead, find better opportunities against poor pitchers if you insist on laying a premium price, and consider the moneyline when the situation looks most favorable . . . after you have done your research.

Check our Part 2 - How to Profit Betting on MLB Run Line Wagers!

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industries most insightful analysts. Follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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