How to Use Advanced Baseball Statistics to Your Advantage

Sabermetrics is something that’s been around for a long time, but it’s making a serious comeback. Seasoned punters have long used statistics to their advantage, but the field is still a bit too murky for beginners to fully grasp. It can be difficult to really gather up enough resources to make a decent bet based on the statistics offered to you. But what if you could clear the field and get something to work out to your advantage? There’s no need to fear statistics, after all, if you can learn how to interpret them profitably.

In order to understand why they’re profitable, you have to understand what they represent. If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll hear a few radio announcers and sports commenters talk about these statistics during the game.

Tracking performance of star players helps you figure out where you want to place your wagers. A strong team with strong statistics is going to give you a better return on your investment than a team with weak numbers. Yet you can’t just take numbers at face value. That wouldn’t be true analysis. You have to look at the context that wraps around those numbers. There’s a few different statistics that you can use to your advantage. Let’s run through those real quick.

1. WAR (Wins Above Replacement)

This statistic gets quoted quite a bit on television. It’s wins above replacement, a measurement of a player’s offense and defense abilities, relative to all of the actual players that could replace him. That’s an important distinction because not everyone can replace the player in question. You want to look at players with a decent WAR score as players that are going to bring value everywhere they go. So if a player gets traded, then you already know that they’ve got something interesting to offer the team. You may wish to adjust your wagers accordingly.

Baseball Statistics

2. BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play)

Batting average on balls in play is another measurement that gets quoted often. This measures how many of a batter’s “active” balls go towards hits, or which balls in play go against a pitcher for hits. It excludes homeruns. It’s used primarily to track the performance of pitchers.

3. WHIP (Walks Per Hits Pitched)

This is one of the statistics that is easily understood. You want to know how many walks a player actually creates based on the hits pitched. Pretty straightforward, compared to some of the other more esoteric statistics.

Baseball is filled with statistics. You could spend an entire day looking at teams based on statistics alone. In fact, there are many professional analysts that do exactly this. It may take you a while to really get this system down pat, but it’s definitely worth adding to your toolbelt if you’re really serious about baseball betting.


Biased MLB Hall of Fame Voting

This past Hall of Fame (HOF) voting that featured three big time athletes linked to performance enhancing drug (PED) use told us a few tales about HOF voting. The first and most talked about lesson is that these writers don’t seem to want cheaters in the hall.

Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa were all on the ballot for the first time and all failed to get over 40% of the vote, despite having undisputable HOF numbers.

Of course there is the belief that some players don’t deserve to get in the first ballot and get “punished” by having to wait until their second or third year eligible to finally be voted in. This is one of the more ridiculous practices by some of the voters that gives off the thought they seem to think these retired players’ year will be ruined by not getting into the HOF. That is just one of the practices used by the voters that is talked about among baseball fans, however, there is another one that is even more problematic for keeping the integrity of the HOF in tact.

MLB Hall of Fame
One more unfortunate fact about HOF voting is that since the voters are writers, who have a relationship with almost all of the players being voted for, they let their personal opinions about the players affect their voting. This has been known for a while but was even more obvious in this year’s voting as Bonds, Clemens, and Sosa, all have numbers good enough for the Hall of Fame, all were linked to cheating during their careers, yet all ended up with a different number of votes.

Bonds and Clemens ended up with only an eight vote difference, each ending with 206 and 214 respectively, however, Sosa, a member of the 600 home run club, only recorded 71 votes.  This deep drop off from a player who has the numbers for the HOF can be attributed to only a few things, his corked bat incident in 2003 which resulted in him being ejected from the game, being viewed as a bad teammate and bad leader, or being disliked by most writers.

Sosa’s drop off is not due to his involvement with PED’s, as both Bonds and Clemens were linked to them, which they denied being true, as did Sosa. The most realistic explanation for his lack of votes must come from the personal opinion the voters hold of him.  Sosa has over 600 home runs, is a member of the 30-30 club, hit 60 home runs in a season three times, and was part of the 1998 home run race with Mark McGuire among many other career accomplishments.

It is a no-brainer that Sosa belongs in the same class as Bonds and Clemens as the most dominant players of their time, and is really a shame that voters would let their personal opinion of a player affect their voting for something as prestigious and important as the Hall of Fame.

If interested, complete HOF voting results ( can be seen along with the results of the 101 writers who made their ballots public .


Hold off on Blue Jays High Expectations

The Toronto Blue Jays are the team that has made the most noise so far in the baseball offseason. They pulled off the blockbuster trade with the Miami Marlins that brought star shortstop Jose Reyes to Toronto along with proven starting pitchers Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle. The Blue Jays recently brought in N.L. Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets in another steal of a trade earlier this month.

Although the Blue Jays have been one of the more active teams this offseason, it must be remembered what division they play in, the tough A.L. East. The A.L. East is so tough because of the relentless spending of money by the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, who are expected to be competitive every year.  For this upcoming season, the Blue Jays will also have to worry about the Baltimore Orioles who had a surprisingly good season last year and of course the Tampa Bay Rays who have their own star power as well.

Toronto Blue Jays
The Miami Marlins are a perfect example of a team getting praise and hit with lofty expectations before the season started based off just their offseason moves. The Marlins were picked by many to make the playoffs and maybe even prove to be a contender, doing that same thing right now to the Blue Jays could result as another error in judgment.

The Blue Jays going into the season are going to dump a lot of pressure on Jose Bautista who only played in 92 games last season due to a wrist injury. The problem with needing Bautista to hit another 40 home runs and 100 RBI’s like he did in 2010 and 2011, is that he suffered a wrist injury after those impressive seasons, and is now 32 years old. If the Blue Jays aren’t going to get those power numbers out of Bautista, that means first basemen Edwin Encarnacion will have to duplicate his numbers from last year that totaled 42 home runs and 110 RBI’s in his best season in eight years in the majors, which would be another high expectation to hold.

While I applaud the Blue Jays’ effort in trying to win games now and put everything on the line. They simply play in too tough of a division to go all in and not bring in a reliable big time star like Josh Hamilton. The additions of Reyes and Melky Cabrera were smart and will definitely make their lineup more threatening, but if Bautista is unable to return to his Silver Slugger form of 10’ and 11’ this team could be in for a season similar to the Miami Marlins last year.


The Next Great Rotation Blossoming in Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Reds announced Sunday December 8th that former closer and power pitcher Aroldis Chapman would become a starting pitcher next season and will join Johnny Cueto, Bronson Arroyo, Mat Latos and Homer Bailey in the Reds’ rotation.

Before this move the Reds already had an adequate rotation that played a large part in the Reds’ ability to win the N.L. Central last season.

Now with the added heat of Chapman’s fastball to the rotation, this Reds’ pitching staff has gotten better and scarier. However, with the move of Chapman to the rotation, that means that struggling fifth starter from last year, Mike Leake, now doesn’t have a definite role on the team. While no official announcement has been made on Leake’s role for next season, it appears now that he is out of the starting rotation and may have to start the year in the bullpen.

The good news for Leake, and the rest of the Cincinnati Reds’ organization and fan base, is that of all the pitchers previously mentioned minus Arroyo, are all under the age of 27. That means this squad of five young pitchers, including Leake, still have plenty of time left in their careers to cement this Reds’ pitching staff as one of the best in history.

As the San Francisco Giants showed us baseball fans this past season, pitching is the most important part of winning a World Series. The Giants were able to be crowned as the best team in the world despite their lack of offensive power because of how good their pitching staff was. This has also been seen in the past when the 1990’s Atlanta Braves featured starting pitchers Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, and John Smoltz, who were all considered the best of their time and were a large reason the Braves won the World Series in 1995.

With the steroid era gone and power numbers dropping, baseball is becoming a pitchers game again. Looking at a list of the past 10 World Series Champions it shows that good pitching is needed to win championships. The talent seen on the Reds’ pitching staff today shows the potential to reach not necessarily the individual accomplishments of the Giants and Braves’ pitchers, but no doubt have the opportunity to have the same team success as those two because of their pitching rotation.

The Reds not only have a young up and coming pitching rotation, they already have accomplished players in the field that will continue to help this team win. First Basemen Joey Votto has been an All-Star the past three seasons including an MVP Award in 2010. Outfielder Jay Bruce is another position player that has the ability to hit for power as he did this past season when he won the N.L. Silver Slugger Award.

The move of Chapman to the starting rotation is one that will be scrutinized all year long because of the great success he had last year as the closer. However, over the long run, if the Reds are able to keep their main pieces intact, this move should help the team improve and better their chances at a World Series title.


Tim Lincecum’s Surprising Drop in Production

Tim Lincecum five years ago was earning himself the nickname “The Freak.” Lincecum was just breaking into the majors in 2008 as a dominant starter with the wicked wind-up and throwing motion. All the talk was about how his stride was longer than his height, and that the motion his dad helped him develop causes minimal stress on the arm while acting as a catapult to launch the ball.

This season was the first year Lincecum struggled as a starting pitcher since he became a full time starter in 2008. His ERA for the year was 5.18, and for the second season in a row he lost more games than he won. However, in 2011 his 13-14 record was more of a description of the team as a whole considering Lincecum managed a 2.74 ERA throughout the year as he ended with a Felix Hernandez stat line of minimal wins combined with an impressive ERA.

Five years ago when Lincecum was relatively new to the majors but already on his way to winning the Cy Young, he was blowing hitters away with a high-90’s fastball that the sub-6 foot tall pitcher was dealing out. Lincecum came into the league as a power pitcher and that’s how he led the San Francisco Giants to the 2010 World Series.

Now Lincecum’s velocity has dipped to the low-90’s and hitters are finally catching up. While some pitchers take a hit to their velocity in order to improve accuracy, this doesn’t seem the case with Lincecum. Lincecum had a career low number of walks in 2009 with 68 in over 200 innings pitched. Since 2009, as his velocity has dropped, his number of walks has risen up to the 90 batters who received a free base in 2012.

With such a large and seemingly impactful drop in fastball velocity over the years, it is becoming apparent that Lincecums body has not kept up with how demanding his throwing motion is. How else can you explain his fastball reaching 100 mph in college, and now sitting in the low-90’s as a 28 year old?

Lincecum never had a power pitchers body, he was able to make up for it though by his long stride and the slingshot action of his arm. He had the delivery that with enough time put in, any athlete could perfect and see similar results. He showed you didn’t need a big body with muscles, that even a short player weighing 175 pounds with enough flexibility could throw the ball past any major league hitter.

The only thing that seemed to be working against Lincecum was age, as players grow older they become less flexible, weaker, and have to rely on their smarts to be a successful major league pitcher. The motion Lincecum uses takes more energy and athleticism than the other more traditional deliveries pitcher’s use in the majors. That is why at the young age of 28, when he should be entering his prime, Lincecum is apparently leaving it.

With the Giants coming off their second World Series win in three seasons, that will hopefully be enough motivation for Lincecum to train hard this offseason and try to get back to the level he played at as a young major league pitcher. The fortunate thing for both the Giants and Lincecum, is that 2013 is Lincecum’s last season under contract for the Giants.

With a salary of $22 million in 2013, the Giants will have one more year to see if Lincecum can return to his Cy Young form of 08’ and 09’ before they make the decision to either re-sign him, or let him walk as a free agent.


2013 MLB Hall of Fame Ballot

The upcoming 2013 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame vote will be a telling case for the future of the Hall of Fame, and athletes accused of using performance enhancing drugs. Three former sure fire Hall of Famer’s: Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens, are all on the ballot for the first time in 2013. All of them have also been accused of using some sort of performance enhancing drug. That is why this ballot should tell the tale for all future potential HOF’s and if the voters are ok with players cheating.

Although this will be a focal point for baseball fans, what should be considered is that there are already players in the HOF that used performance enhancing drugs. Players in the 80’s and later admitted to using illegal drugs such as cocaine and speed so they would have more energy come game time.

Yes the drugs used in the past and the present are different, but in the end they do the same thing, help the athletes maintain a high level of play for a whole season. While steroids and HGH help a player build muscle and recover faster, the cocaine and speed would let the body wear down, but in return it gave the athletes the energy needed for a long season.

The only real question to differentiate between the two types of drugs, is which era of players was smarter. The drugs used today are all about building the body stronger so it can maintain itself better. In the past the drugs used were just a quick fix for an afternoon game that would be repeated most of the season. When looking at the choices of the players from that perspective, it seems the players that are being voted on now are the smarter of the two groups.

Once you look past the PED use of athletes, and think about what the HOF represents you begin to see that is the baseball history museum. It has balls, bats, jerseys, and plaques of players inducted, players that either dominated the game or changed the game.  Which is exactly what Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens accomplished, they dominated the game, and also created excitement again in the game of baseball with the outrageous amounts of home runs they hit.

These three players not only deserve to be in the HOF because of their accomplishments, they were also a part of baseball history, a history that deserves to be represented in the Hall of Fame because together they changed the game of baseball.


MLB Offseason: Teams that need to make a move

The Major League Baseball offseason is when teams have the chance to change the look of their club in a big way in hopes of winning a World Series, or a time for teams to sit complacent and hope the talent they currently have is enough.

The Blue Jays are a great example of a team that is playing to win now, while their biggest free agent transaction this year was a steal in getting Melky Cabrera for $8 million a year, their bigger news came when they traded a group of prospects in return for big names such as Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle. Below are three teams that should follow the Blue Jays as teams that make a splash this baseball offseason.

1)    Baltimore Orioles

The Orioles were the surprise team of baseball last year as they were able to finish with a 93-69 record, which was good enough for a Wild Card spot. They ended up beating the Texas Rangers in the Wild Card game and eventually fell to the New York Yankees in five games in the ALDS.

The Orioles are a young team with talent that is year after year competing in one of the toughest divisions in baseball, the AL East. With the Blue Jays as the most improved team so far, the Orioles need to strengthen their pitching staff at the minimum if they want to compete next year for another playoff spot.

2)    Texas Rangers

The Rangers are most likely going to lose Josh Hamilton in free agency and will be without their best player from last year. The Rangers had one of the best offenses in all of baseball last year and if Hamilton walks they will need to find a way to subsidize the loss of power from their lineup for next season.

Obviously replacing Josh Hamilton is going to be near impossible, but if they are able to upgrade offensively at a couple positions and have a healthy and improved young pitching staff, then the Rangers should be able to see more success next year.

3)    Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers already have two star players in Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, but in order to be a better team they will need get a better supporting cast this offseason. One player that I can see the Dodgers going after and someone who will instantly make them a serious contender would be starting pitcher Zach Greinke.

Last season the Dodgers made a nice trade when they acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins who went into fire sale mode. They have owners that care about winning and are also getting close to signing a huge TV deal worth $6-7 billion. This team has the money to sign Greinke and the winning attitude to pay whatever it takes. Should be interesting to see how they spend their money this offseason.