As a baseball handicapper there is nothing that annoys me more than streaky pitchers. They can look for a long time like they can’t possible lose, and then before you know it – and for seemingly no reason – they can forget how to pitch for several games in a row. It can be tough to figure out when a good period is going to start or end, and you can lose some serious cash trying to pick when that turn might come. You don’t want to avoid streaky pitchers entirely, of course, because when they are losing or winning several in a row you can really pay off. To help you try to avoid being on streaky pitchers when the streak ends, here are six questions to help baseball handicappers explain and understand when pitcher streaks might start or end:
Is the schedule to blame? – Sometimes a starting pitcher isn’t being particularly streaky at all – he’s just the beneficiary or victim of the schedule maker. If a pitcher plays several bad teams in a row, or if he pitches in several pitcher’s parks in a row, then he could put together a very nice record even if he isn’t pitching flawlessly. On the flip side, a pitcher could be pitching very well but could still pile up the losses if his number seems to come up every time against an elite team. Overlooking the game schedule when making your sports picks is a mistake that a lot of casual bettors make, and it can be costly. If the pitcher that has been losing against good teams gets to face a bad team finally he could get the win without pitching any differently than he has been all along. That wouldn’t be a streaky pitcher – just one who isn’t pitching quite well enough to overcome a good opponent.
Does location matter? – The schedule might not be an issue because of who he is playing against, but because of where he is playing. Some pitchers are unhittable at home but terrible on the road, or vice versa. This can especially be an issue if the home field is a particularly generous park for pitchers. Before you get too excited or frustrated about a streak, then, spend time looking at where he has been pitching lately, and compare his road and home key stats.
Has the statistical story changed? – When a pitcher is in the midst of a winning or losing streak to need to look at his key statistics over that period to see if he is pitching differently than he has been over the course of the whole season. The key stats I like to look at include K/BB ratio, pitches per inning, WHIP, and innings per game. If those numbers are significantly better or worse during the streak than they were before then there is definitely something going on, and your job as a handicapper becomes trying to figure out what is causing the streak and if it is going to last. If the numbers are basically the same now as they have been all year, though, then it’s not really a pitcher who is on a streak because of his performance, but likely because of circumstance.
Has he been streaky in the past? – There are some pitchers out there who just always seem to be in the midst of some sort of a streak – whether good or bad. They are the manic depressives of the sport – either unhittable or seemingly tossing underhand. A MLB pitcher that has been streaky in the past is probably likely to be streaky again. By looking back at the highlights and lowlights of his past streaks – when they have started and how they have ended – you may be able to get an insight into how long this streak might last. If the pitcher hasn’t shown a lot of signs of streakiness in the past, though, then he might not really be in a streak an there could be other explanations for what is happening.
Is he healthy? – A pitcher is far more likely to go on a bad streak is he is not healthy, and he could start to find real success if he has been struggling but is suddenly healthy. It’s hard to know for sure how healthy a guy is unless you are in the training room, but there are clues to be had. Has he missed starts, or had starts pushed back a day or two for no clear reason? Has his typical schedule between starts been altered in a noticeable way? Has his delivery changed in a noticeable way? How about his velocity? Has his control suffered recently – fewer strikes and fewer Ks?
Has he been getting run support? – Pitchers can’t do everything by themselves, and they are only as good as the ball team behind them. Some pitchers have terrible luck – their team seems to take the day off at the plate when they are on the mound. The easiest check to evaluate the run support a pitcher gets is by looking at the runs the team scores on average in his game compared to the runs per game in the rest of the team’s starts. As a baseball handicapper you’ll find if the pitcher’s average run support is well below or well above the overall average then that is perhaps a good explanation for the winning or losing streak the pitcher is on.