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Money-making trends of pitchers vs. opponents

By Steve Makinen  () 

With the 2020 baseball season opening Thursday, let’s look at which pitcher-vs.-opponent matchups might offer bettors the biggest edges on the sportsbooks.

 

Anyone who has played or even watched baseball realizes that certain matchups are better for individual players than others. In MLB, analysis of individual matchups is conducted down to every pitch. Naturally, collection of this data should give bettors an edge in analyzing games. When a pitcher has fared well recently against a lineup — or has been hit hard —such trends sometimes get overlooked on both sides of the counter.

 

Here is a list of the best and worst pitcher-vs.-opponent matchups that should be available for wagering at some point over the next two months. I have included the pitcher’s record in the matchups, key stats, potential dates to keep in mind and my brief analysis. Keep in mind that these aren’t always the best pitchers against the weakest opponents or vice versa, and for that reason great value can be found in games that might not appear on the surface to be mismatches.

 

Note that I used data dating to 2015, or the last five seasons, but all trends are denoted by each pitcher’s most recent number of starts against that opponent. There is no sorting to each list, and all have shown fantastic return on investment by either following or fading the angle.

 

Top 10 Best Pitcher-vs.-Opponent Trends

 

Stephen Strasburg (Washington) vs. Miami

Record: 15-0 + 15 units, ROI: 100.0%

Key stats: 12-0 individual W-L, 1.54 ERA, 0.886 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/31-8/2, 8/21-8/24, 9/18-9/20

Analysis: Strasburg has dominated the overmatched Marlins, with his team posting 15 straight wins. He is 12-0 personally in that span with a 1.54 ERA. The Marlins scored five runs once in that streak but were shut out on four occasions. The last time the Marlins beat Washington with Strasburg pitching was in May 2015, a 2-1 decision.

 

Clayton Kershaw (L.A. Dodgers) vs. San Diego

Record: 14-1 + 12 units, ROI: 80.0%

Key stats: 9-0 individual W-L, 1.55 ERA, 0.791 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/3-8/5, 8/10-8/13, 9/14-9/16 

Analysis: Kershaw has nearly as impressive a streak against San Diego as Strasburg does against the Marlins, losing only once in 15 games. Kershaw took that loss when the bullpen failed to hold up in a 3-2 game last July. The .791 WHIP is the second best of any of these 10 top pitcher-vs.-opponent matchups. 

 

Stephen Strasburg (Washington) vs. Philadelphia

Record: 13-1 + 11.85 units, ROI: 84.6%

Key stats: 2.68 ERA, 0.960 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/25-8/27, 8/31-9/3, 9/21-9/23

Analysis: Another opponent Strasburg has dominated is Philadelphia. The Nationals are on a 13-1 run against the Phillies with Strasburg starting. Combined with his performance level against the Marlins, a savvy bettor might conclude that the powerful right-hander could be a viable option for winning the NL Cy Young Award this season. Strasburg’s stats haven’t been quite as prolific in this matchup, but an 84.6% ROI certainly warrants marking the calendar for matchups against Philly.

 

J.A. Happ (N.Y. Yankees) vs. Boston

Record: 13-4 + 10.95 units, ROI: 64.4%

Key stats: 8-2 individual W-L, 2.66 ERA, 1.061 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/31-8/2, 8/14-8/17, 9/18-9/20

Analysis: Happ has built an impressive resume against the Red Sox with three teams over the last five seasons. His teams are 13-4 against Boston since 2015, and he has posted a 2.66 ERA and 1.061 WHIP against what has arguably been one of baseball’s most potent lineups in that span. Fans tend to circle the Yankees-Red Sox battles on the calendar because of the rivalry, but bettors should do the same in anticipation of Happ’s starts in these series.

 

Kyle Hendricks (Chicago Cubs) vs. St. Louis

Record: 11-1 + 10.2 units, ROI: 85.0%

Key stats: 2.40 ERA, 1.068 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/7-8/9, 8/17-8/19, 9/4-9/7

Analysis: Two pitchers gain an entry on both the best and worst lists. The first is Hendricks, who has enjoyed great success against the Cardinals but has struggled against the Pirates. Regarding the matchup with St. Louis, the Cubs’ 11-game winning streak with Hendricks on the hill ended in September in a 5-4 decision. Hendricks allowed four earned runs in that game, the most he had given up to the Cards in nine starts. With these NL Central rivals set to face each other 10 times in two months, bettors and fantasy buffs will want to recall the eight straight decisions Hendricks has won in the matchup.

 

Carlos Carrasco (Cleveland) vs. Chicago White Sox

Record: 9-1 + 7.15 units, ROI: 71.5%

Key stats: 7-1 individual W-L, 1.58 ERA, 0.717 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/27-7/29, 8/7-8/9, 9/21-9/24

Analysis: Although the Indians’ nine-game winning streak with Carrasco on the mound was snapped the last time out, his record of success against the White Sox is still worth bettors’ attention. Look no further than the WHIP of 0.717 as to why this trend has merit. The Indians and White Sox meet in the second series of the season, and it would behoove Cleveland manager Terry Francona to line up his rotation so Carrasco gets an early shot at Chicago.

 

Jose Berrios (Minnesota) vs. Chicago White Sox

Record: 12-2 + 9.65 units, ROI: 68.9%

Key stats: 11-2 individual W-L, 2.40 ERA, 1.014 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/24-7/26, 8/31-9/2, 9/14-9/17

Analysis: Twins’ pitcher Jose Berrios, has achieved his best success against A.L. Central rival, the White Sox. Minnesota is 12-2 in his last 14 starts against Chicago, with Berrios factoring into the pitching decision in all but one victory. He also boasts an impressive 1.014 WHIP in those 14 starts, and has held the Sox to three earned runs or fewer in all but one of them. This will be the first of the trends in which bettors will be able to take advantage of this weekend, with Berrios scheduled to go on opening night in Chicago.

 

Max Scherzer (Washington) vs. Philadelphia

Record: 15-3 + 9.5 units, ROI: 52.8%

Key stats: 10-2 individual W-L, 2.46 ERA, 0.961 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/25-8/27, 8/31-9/3, 9/21-9/23

Analysis: In light of the Strasburg trend, the Phillies must turn things around against Washington’s best two starters to have any shot at competing in the NL East. Scherzer has been nearly as effective against Philadelphia, boasting a .961 WHIP in 18 starts since the start of the 2015 season. He has held the Phillies to one or fewer earned runs in eight of those 18 tries. Philly did knock Scherzer around in an exhibition game last weekend. The first potential matchup isn’t until a month into the season, or nearly halfway.

 

Robbie Ray (Arizona) vs. L.A. Dodgers

Record: 12-7 + 9.1 units, ROI: 47.9%

Key stats: 3.22 ERA, 1.191 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/30-8/2, 9/1-9/3, 9/8-9/10

Analysis: Arizona’s 12-7 record against the Dodgers with Ray starting since 2015 represents the worst mark of any of the top angles. However, with the Diamondbacks having accomplished all 12 of those wins as underdogs, an impressive ROI of 47.9% follows. Perhaps most impressive of any of the numbers Ray has posted against the elite Los Angeles lineup, he has allowed no more than four earned runs in any of his last 11 starts against them. His won-lost record of 8-4 against the team that has dominated the NL West in recent years speaks for itself.

 

Jake Odorizzi (Minnesota) vs. Detroit

Record: 8-0 + 8.0 units, ROI: 100%

Key stats: 3.53 ERA, 1.039 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/27-8/30, 9/4-9/7, 9/22-9/23

Analysis: The Twins have won all eight of Odorizzi’s starts against the Tigers. He is 4-0 in those games and boasts an impressive 1.039 WHIP. His 3.53 ERA perhaps isn’t reflective of how well he has pitched, and he has been backed by 6.6 runs of support per game in these contests.

 

Top 10 Worst Pitcher-vs.-Opponent Trends

 

Danny Duffy (Kansas City) vs. Cleveland

Record: 1-10 -8.75 units, ROI: -79.5%

Key stats: 8.17 ERA, 1.859 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/24-7/26, 8/31-9/2, 9/7-9/10

Analysis: Kansas City has named Duffy as its opening-day starter Friday at Cleveland. Based on recent results, that is a horrible mistake, as the Indians have blasted Duffy in recent years. The Royals are 1-10 in his last 11 starts against the Tribe, and he has factored into every decision. Perhaps the silver lining is that the lone victory came in his most recent attempt, a 9-6 decision in July. Still, after allowing four earned runs in that outing, Duffy’s ERA over his last five starts against the Indians is a whopping 9.53.

 

Anthony DeSclafani (Cincinnati) vs. Pittsburgh

Record: 1-8 + -7.95 units, ROI: -88.3%

Key stats: 5.28 ERA, 1.370 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/13-8/16, 9/4-9/6, 9/14-9/16

Analysis: Despite being favored four times, the Reds have lost six straight games to the Pirates when turning to DeSclafani. He has posted an ugly 5.64 ERA in that six-game skid and has been the losing pitcher individually in four of those games. This comes against a lineup that has been one of the most futile in the National League in recent seasons. Pittsburgh has put up six runs or more in seven of the last eight games the teams have played when DeSclafani has thrown. The opportunities to fade this pitching matchup won’t come until later in the season.

 

Madison Bumgarner (Arizona) vs. San Diego

Record: 4-7 -8.5 units, ROI: -77.3%

Key stats: 3.96 ERA, 0.947 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/24-7/27, 8/7-8/9, 8/14-8/16

Analysis: Bumgarner’s offseason move from San Francisco to Arizona didn’t save him in 2020 from having to overcome his recent struggles against the Padres, as with the heavy schedule of division games, the former Giant’s team will still face San Diego 10 times. It would figure that Bumgarner would receive at least two starts in those games. The interesting thing about these struggles is that the former Cy Young Award winner boasts a 0.947 WHIP in his last 11 starts despite the team’s 4-7 record. In four of the seven losses Bumgarner’s Giants suffered to the Padres recently, they were listed as better than -200 favorites. This trend will be available this weekend, in all likelihood on opening night in San Diego. These teams will square off 10 times in the first three weeks.

 

Jake Arrieta (Philadelphia) vs. N.Y. Mets

Record: 2-8 -9.35 units, ROI: -93.5%

Key stats: 4.35 ERA, 1.350 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/14-8/16, 9/4-9/7, 9/15-9/17

Analysis: The two teams Arrieta has pitched for most recently have struggled against the Mets, although with a mark of 2-2 in the last four games, perhaps the tide is turning. But before that recent four-game stretch, Arrieta’s teams had lost six straight times as favorites against New York, leading to the ugly unit count and corresponding ROI. With the Phillies and Mets boasting postseason aspirations in the shortened season, Arrieta turning his performance around could impact the playoff race.

 

Jose Urena (Miami) vs. Atlanta

Record: 0-7 -7.7 units, ROI: -110%

Key stats: 0-5 individual W-L, 7.80 ERA, 1.667 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/14-8/16, 9/7-9/9, 9/21-9/24

Analysis: Urena’s ugly stats match up perfectly with the Marlins’ 0-7 record in his seven most recent starts against the Braves. In fairness, the Marlins have scored only a total of 15 runs in those games, so Urena would have had to pitch like a true ace to have any success. Like most games in the trend, expect Urena and the Marlins to be heavy underdogs in any head-to-head matchup against the Braves.

 

Robbie Ray (Arizona) vs. Colorado

Record: 5-11 -10.05 units, ROI: -62.8%

Key stats: 5.47 ERA, 1.700 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/10-8/12, 8/24-8/27, 9/25-9/27

Analysis: Ray has enjoyed some success against the NL West’s best team, the Dodgers, so it’s somewhat of a surprise to see how much he has struggled against Colorado. The Diamondbacks’ 5-11 record with Ray on the hill against the Rockies has produced over 10 units of loss for bettors and an ROI of worse than -60%. His performances on the road have been most sketchy, as he has been unable to go six innings in any of his last six starts while going 1-5. Keep that in mind for these teams’ only series in Colorado from Aug. 10-12.

 

Nick Pivetta (Philadelphia) vs. Washington

Record: 0-9 -10.2 units, ROI: -113.3%

Key stats: 0-7 individual W-L, 10.34 ERA, 2.215 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 8/25-8/27, 8/31-9/3, 9/21-9/23

Analysis: Pivetta’s starts against Washington over the last three seasons have been downright ugly in every sense. Not only have the Phillies lost all nine games, he is personally 0-7 and owns a brutal 10.34 ERA to go alongside a WHIP of 2.215. These are easily the worst stats of anyone on the poor trends list. The combined score of the nine games has been 71-28, so not only has Pivetta not been getting the job done, the Phillies’ bats haven’t either.

 

Aaron Nola (Philadelphia) vs. Washington

Record: 5-14 -10.3 units, ROI: -54.2%

Key stats: 4.22 ERA, 1.288 WHIP

Potential starts: 8/25-8/27, 8/31-9/3, 9/21-9/23

Analysis: With Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg boasting great records against the Phillies recently, some of Philadelphia’s pitchers naturally have caught the wrath. Staff ace Nola has been among those struggling, with the Phils losing the last six games as part of a 5-14 slide in his last 19 starts. He is only 0-2 personally in that recent six-game skid with a WHIP of 1.394, so he hasn’t been getting great lineup or bullpen support.

 

Kyle Hendricks (Chicago Cubs) vs. Pittsburgh

Record: 1-7 -9.95 units, ROI: -124.4%

Key stats: 1-5 individual W-L, 3.22 ERA, 1.075 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/31-8/2, 9/1-9/3, 9/21-9/24

Analysis: Hendricks’ recent success against the Cardinals gets somewhat offset by his inability to beat the Pirates. The Cubs are just 1-7 in the last eight games Hendricks has started against Pittsburgh, resulting in a loss of 9.95 units and -124.4% ROI. However, this is another spot where Hendricks’ individual numbers don’t reflect the team’s struggles, as his 1.075 WHIP is very respectable. Considering that the Cubs scored 14 runs in the lone win in this 1-7 trend and a total of 11 in the seven losses, offensive support has been the bigger issue.

 

Jacob deGrom (N.Y. Mets) vs. Atlanta

Record: 2-8 -9.7 units, ROI: -97.0%

Key stats: 1.74 ERA, 0.876 WHIP

Potential starts vs. opponent: 7/24-7/26, 7/31-8/3, 9/18-9/20

Analysis: Having won back-to-back Cy Young Awards in the National League, there are few teams against which deGrom has not proven reliable for bettors. Atlanta is an exception, however, as the Mets are just 2-8 in his last 10 starts in head-to-head play despite scintillating numbers from deGrom. Unfortunately for him, besides a 10-run outburst in a June 2019 win, the Mets haven’t topped the three-run mark in any of deGrom’s nine other starts. This tough luck combined with having been favored in nine of those 10 games has left a trail of ugly results for backers.

 

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