Pitchers who pay off

June 20, 2019 01:27 PM

All positive betting trends eventually come to an end, with Lucas Giolito serving as the latest example.

The waves of money that followed the most profitable starting pitcher in baseball finally crashed Wednesday, when the White Sox right-hander was hammered in a 7-3 loss to the Cubs at Wrigley Field. The bill seemed overdue.

Giolito’s transformation from lost cause to “Cool Hand” Lucas is one of the season’s most surprising stories. Giolito had won eight straight starts — four of those as an underdog — before the Cubs interrupted his streak on a cold, rainy and windy night in Chicago.

Even after the setback, Giolito is 10-2 in 14 starts, and he ranks No. 1 in the major leagues in Return On Investment (ROI), which is the most important category to bettors and oddsmakers.

There are countless statistical ways to evaluate pitchers. The common system for baseball bettors grades pitchers based on money won and lost on the moneyline, using a base $100 wager on the pitcher each time he starts. The White Sox are 11-3 in starts made by Giolito, who still tops all pitchers in the money standings at $1,055, according to Covers.com.

Giolito, for example, was a 170 underdog in a 4-0 win at Houston on May 23, meaning a $100 bet resulted in a $170 win. He threw a four-hit complete game and struck out nine against the Astros in his finest performance of the season.

His most recent start against the Cubs was his worst. Giolito allowed four first-inning runs and was drilled for three home runs before exiting in the fifth inning. To put that in perspective, he had allowed a total of three homers in his previous nine starts and had surrendered a total of four runs in 29 innings in his previous four starts.

What happened at Wrigley Field could be considered a fluke because Giolito’s turnaround appears to be for real and it began in the offseason.

“Giolito made some adjustments to his mechanics, but more importantly to his approach to pitching,” said VSiN analyst Josh Towers, a former major league pitcher who this week accepted a job as pitching coach for the Mets’ Class-A affiliate in Columbia, S.C. “He started using his change up more, as well.”

In 32 starts for the White Sox in 2018, Giolito finished 10-13 with a 6.13 ERA. He ranked among the worst starters in the majors, leading the American League in walks (90), earned runs (118) and walks rate per nine innings (4.67).

Giolito shifted to a more compact delivery, ditched an ineffective sinker he used too often and is perplexing batters with an improved changeup that complements his mid-90s fastball. The potential was always there for the 6-foot-6 prospect who was a 2012 first-round pick by the Washington Nationals.

In 85.1 innings, the new-look Giolito has a 2.74 ERA and 1.02 WHIP and has allowed only 58 hits and 29 walks while striking out 104. Even while getting battered by the Cubs, he struck out nine, including Kris Bryant three times.

Some surprising names highlight the pitcher money-won standings. Minnesota right-hander Jake Odorizzi ranks No. 2 at $948, Milwaukee’s Brandon Woodruff is No. 4 at $808 and Baltimore’s Andrew Cashner is No. 6 at $734. The Orioles own baseball’s worst record yet are 8-6 in Cashner’s starts, so sometimes it can pay to bet on bad teams.

It also pays to bet on an ace. Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw ranks No. 3 in ROI at $862, according to Covers. Los Angeles is 11-1 in Kershaw’s starts and he has been a heavy favorite each time.

The highest-ranking Yankees pitchers are Chad Green (No. 17, team record 5-0, $520) and Domingo German (No. 21, team record 9-3, $479).

Other profitable pitchers to watch closely in the ROI top 20 are Cleveland’s Shane Bieber, Atlanta’s Mike Soroka and Oakland’s Frankie Montas. The A’s are 10-4 in starts made by Montas, who has an explosive fastball and is making a Giolito-like rise by posting career-best numbers.

The Cubs handed Giolito his first loss since April 6, but he went 9-0 with a 1.67 ERA in his previous 11 starts, so his betting backers should stay faithful.



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