Baseball Bettors Beware of These Misleading MLB Stats

Baseball bettors having success handicapping MLB games depends upon the ability to effectively evaluate what statistics tell us. The majority of bettors do not do this well. Many of them get led down the wrong path by stats that are often overvalued. We examine these misleading stats here.

Key Points

– Baseball bettors should strive to get a complete picture of a matchup before placing a bet.

– A single pitching statistic on its own will not give bettors enough to make a sound decision.

Strikeout to Walk Ratio

Most casual baseball bettors don’t pay much attention to a pitcher’s strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those that do look at this number generally believe that a higher ratio is better. There’s some truth to that.

A pitcher who strikes out more batter than he walks often has a chance to win more games. As a general rule, pitchers with a 3-to-1 strikeout-to-walk (K/BB) ratio are considered pretty reliable. 

Usually, pitchers with better K/BB numbers throw fewer pitches in a game. This means they can go longer in a start. Again, that puts less stress on a bullpen and gives a team a reasonable chance to win.

Just because a pitcher doesn’t have a great K/BB ratio doesn’t mean that he or his team loses more games. A pitcher with a low K/BB ratio might be effective at getting hitters to hit ground balls. Those lead to putouts in the infield. 

The bottom line is that bettors cannot rely solely on a pitcher’s K/BB numbers when handicapping a game. The statistic does not tell a full enough story about a pitcher.

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Baseball Bettors Fall for the WHIP

Much like the strikeout-to-walk ratio, WHIP is a great way to quickly gauge how strong a pitcher is. It’s an easy way to understand what might be expected of a pitcher under normal circumstances. 

Actually, WHIP is most likely the best single predictor of pitcher quality. The acronym WHIP stands for walks and hits per inning pitched. By adding up the walks and hits and dividing by the number of innings, the statistic becomes quite simple to grasp. 

The most potent statistics are frequently the simplest. For a pitcher, there are two crucial cutoffs for WHIP. You can presume that a pitcher is a moderately decent pitcher if his season WHIP is less than 1.50. He is considered elite if his WHIP is less than 1.00, which is an uncommon and amazing feat. 

What WHIP translates to is the number of base runners a pitcher allows in an inning. Each base runner represents a scoring opportunity for the opponent. The fewer baserunners, the fewer chances an opponent has to score.

If a pitcher’s WHIP is less than 1.50 and his strikeout-to-walk ratio is greater than 2:1, even if you didn’t know anything about him, you would be able to tell that he is a capable pitcher. Does that guarantee a win? There are some great pitchers with outstanding WHIP numbers playing for teams that have trouble scoring runs.

ERA Is Often Overvalued

While most bettors aren’t looking at K/BB ratios and WHIP numbers, they are looking at ERA. It is the most accessible and well-publicized statistic for pitchers. But, it has a serious issue with context. It is certainly something to consider when betting on MLB early in the season.

A pitcher’s ERA doesn’t actually tell you how effective he is at winning games. There are just too many other factors that can play a role in the result of a MLB game.

Pitchers in Colorado typically have higher ERAs than their peers because they play in the most hitter-friendly ballpark in the majors. A pitcher could have an ERA of 3.85 and have a record of 5-15. However, another pitcher could have an identical ERA but have a record of 15-5. 

Simply put, ERA isn’t strong enough to forecast anything on its own. You are making poor, potentially expensive choices if you use it to make bets. Comparing two pitchers and going with the one with the lower ERA is a strategy that will get you beat. 

Baseball Bettors Looking at Quality Starts

Another pitching statistic that bettors can find is Quality Starts. Like WHIP and K/BB ratio, the average bettor likely doesn’t even know what a Quality Start is. 

A Quality Start is very simply one in which a pitcher goes at least six innings without giving up more than three earned runs. What about a pitcher that produces five shutout innings and then exits the game? That is not a quality start. Same for a pitcher that pitches a complete game, allows four runs, and wins the game.

Typically, a pitcher with more quality starts usually has a higher number of wins. ERA is usually lower for pitchers with more quality starts. Baseball bettors have to get a complete picture of a pitcher. Therefore, they have to look at both Quality Wins and ERA before making a betting decision. It’s one of many creative strategies used to jumpstart your results.

The whole point here is that baseball bettors cannot be misled by a single statistic. Get a complete picture of a pitcher by looking at K/BB, WHIP, ERA, and Quality Starts before making betting decisions.