Pitchers – Good and Bad; Win Totals in MLB; Final Four Betting Report




April Pitchers Report

By Marc Lawrence


Major League Baseball trades places with March Madness as the sports flavor of the month in April. And as we usher in America’s favorite pastime, let’s open the season with one of our favorite handicapping angles – good month/bad pitchers.   Listed below are hurlers that have enjoyed a two-to-one or better success ratio in team starts the last three seasons during the month of April. On the flip side, we’ve also listed pitchers that struggle in April team starts, winning 33% percent or less of their efforts. To qualify pitchers must have made a minimum of 10 starts, with at least one start each April over the last three years.

Note: * designates a categorical repeat appearance by this pitcher, maintaining status quo from last season’s April list.


Colon, Bartolo (9-3)   Now with New York Mets, Colon won 18 games last season and posted a career-low ERA of 2.65. The amazing part is the rotund right-hander is doing this at age 40 and throwing fastballs 85 percent of the time. Word is Oakland catchers just kept calling fastballs and Colon decided on his own what kind of movement he wanted. Crazy!

*Correia, Kevin (10-5)   The soft-tossing Twins starter does not walk or strikeout many batters, gives up more hits than innings pitched and is a junkballer deluxe. Yet for some reason, he usually pitches pretty well in April before setting into normal patterns.

Hammel, Jason (13-3)   Signed as free agent by the Chicago Cubs in February, he is expected to begin in the bullpen as a long reliever and start only out of necessity.

Kershaw, Clayton (11-5)   The best pitcher in baseball has the full package, able to command the fastball to certain locations, a cliff-diving curveball and if he regains the feel for the changeup, well, Kershaw becomes even better. Not good news for MLB hitters.

*Lohse, Kyle (11-4)   Like most pitchers that leave St. Louis as free agents, Lohse regressed putting on a Milwaukee uniform. At 35, he’s unlikely to pull a Colon, but if he continues to throw pitches just outside the strike zone that are tantalizing to batters, he should produce a winning first month of the season.

Nova, Ivan (8-4)   The Yankees are hoping for big things from Nova, after he a recorded a 2.70 ERA in his last 16 starts in 2013. His more mature attitude and sinker has elevated his game.

*Sabathia, CC (11-5)   A slimmed down Sabathia hopes to return to prior form as the ace of the Bronx Bombers. The fastball lacks the same velocity, which is why he’s worked on slowing down his changeup even further to have a greater separation to the batter’s eye. The still tall left-hander, of a solid spring camp, knows how to pitch and needs to spot his tosses effectively.

Scherzer, Max (11-5)   Scherzer became an elite pitcher last season, which is why Detroit is still a threat to win a World Series. While some will question his intelligence in turning down 140+ million to stay with the Tigers, his curveball was devastating last season and he dominated right-hand hitters to the tune of a .165 batting average.

*Shields, James (13-4)   The Royals ace just knows how to pitch, working up and down and changing speeds effortlessly. This season he is playing on an improved Kansas City squad which has confidence from last year, Shields should start fast again.

*Weaver, Jered (9-3)   If the Angels are to return to the postseason, Weaver has to be a 17-18 game winner. His fastball and punchouts continue to decrease and he spent the spring trying to air it out, while doing a better job with location. His curve just rolls off the table and if he regains the bite of his dipping change, he could have a return to prior form.


*Buehrle, Mark (5-11)   Talk about your innings-eater! Buehrle has pitched 200 or more innings in 13 consecutive years… the only other pitcher to that since 1980 is Greg Maddux. The crafty lefty has started poorly the last three seasons it might continue north of the border again.

Floyd, Gavin (5-10)   Floyd attempts to return from reconstructive elbow surgery for Atlanta and is likely out of action this April, hoping to return to action in May.

Hughes, Philip (4-8)   Still only 26, the former Yankee gets a chance to start over in a less stressful environment in Minnesota, which could allow him just to pitch. One problem, the Twins stink.

*Jackson, Edwin (5-11)   Jackson was 8-18 with the Cubs last season and his 4.98 ERA was his highest since his final year in Tampa Bay in 2007. What are his prospects for improving at 30 years old on one of the worst teams in baseball? You decide.

Latos, Mat (4-9)   After having off-season elbow surgery, Latos had surgery to repair a torn meniscus cartilage in his left knee on Valentine’s Day. Latos will begin the season on the disabled list, and he will remain in Arizona after the team leaves camp. The plan is for him to have at least five starts in spring before pitching in the regular season.

*Saunders, Joe (5-10)   With injuries and underachieving pitchers, Texas is forced to turn to Saunders, who is coming off a 11-16 season in Seattle, where his ERA was 5.26 and he surrendered 26 percent more hits than innings pitched (232 vs. 183). Given his past, the Rangers better score runs if they expect to win when Saunders starts. FYI: he compiled a sky-high 3.69 WHIP this spring.



white sox stink


Win Totals to Watch

By Kyle Hunter


Even though the Major League Baseball season technically started last weekend in Australia, the official season gets underway in earnest this coming week though, and there’s nothing quite like Opening Day. The weather starts to brighten up, and the boys of summer get the long grind of the baseball season started.   One way I like to make money on the diamond is with regular season “Win Total” bets. I believe these are even easier to handicap than individual games, because there is much more of a margin for error.   Listed below are my top “Win Total” wagers for the upcoming season.

Chicago White Sox – Under 76 ½ Wins  

Several books have the White Sox line at 76.5 wins, and I think that is several games too high. Remember, the White Sox won only 63 games a year ago. The American League Central used to be one of the easiest divisions in baseball, but that is no longer the case. Detroit is an elite team that will likely win at least 90 games this year, and the Indians and Royals are both very capable of winning more than 85. Somebody in the division is going to have to take their lumps, and I expect it to be the White Sox.

Chris Sale is a great starter, but behind him I’m not a bit impressed with this rotation. Felipe Paulino, Jose Quintana, Erik Johnson, and John Danks will be the final four starters for the White Sox. The bullpen is arguably even worse than the rotation. The closers role is still wide open even as there are just a few days until the regular season begins. Whoever gets the job will likely be unreliable.   The White Sox offense expects to get a boost from Jose Abreu this year, but I’m afraid there is too much on his shoulders. This is lineup full of guys who strike out way too much, and they have never been very good at hitting with runners in scoring position. My single favorite win total this year is the White Sox under 76.5 wins.

Washington Nationals – Over 89 ½ Wins

Just about everything that could go wrong for the Nationals did go wrong last year, and they still made it to 86 wins. Washington’s starting pitching depth is as good as anyone in the National League. Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmerman, and Stephen Strasburg all have the stuff of a number one pitcher. The Nationals didn’t make a bunch of moves in the offseason, but they didn’t need to. Doug Fister is a big upgrade from Dan Haren in the rotation, and he’ll be a very good number four starter. The bullpen got a boost when the team signed Jerry Blevins as well.   The Braves are the only team who could compete with the Nationals in the NL East, and the Braves are having a multitude of injury issues this year. Philadelphia, New York, and Miami should lose quite a few games. All this equals a bunch of wins for the Nationals. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit to see this team win 95-100 games this year.

Cleveland Indians – Over 80 ½ Wins

The Indians definitely aren’t getting much respect from the oddsmakers this year. This is a team that won 92 games last year, and yet the oddsmakers set this line at 80.5 wins. What gives? Clearly, the oddsmakers think the Indians were one-hit wonders under Terry Francona last year. I disagree. While the Indians may not get to 92 wins again, seeing this team win 12 fewer games than last year is hard to imagine. Francona has established himself as one of the best managers in baseball, and there is plenty of talent here.   Keep in mind; the Indians are going to get to beat up on the Twins and the White Sox often this year. Asdrubal Cabrera had a down year in 2013, and I expect much better from him this year. Jason Kipnis should continue to become one of the better offensive second basemen in the league. The pitching rotation isn’t great at the top, but there is an abundance of depth. I think the Indians get to at least 85 wins.



Vegas bookmakers post opening Final Four lines. How did they do?

The Linemakers look for early value

Kentucky’s young squad has gained plenty of respect around Las Vegas.

Florida opened as a 6.5-point favorite over UConn in the first of Saturday’s Final Four matchups, a spread that overvalues the Gators, according to The Linemakers on Sporting News’ Kenny White.

The second tip in Arlington next weekend has Kentucky laying 2 points against Wisconsin, and in this case, the favorite is under-valued, Kenny says.

Upon the Huskies’ win over Michigan State in Elite Eight action on Sunday, White made Florida a 4.5-point favorite over UConn, suggesting value on the underdog.

UConn now has three consecutive outright wins when getting points. The Huskies were +5 vs. the Spartans, +1 vs. Iowa State in the Sweet 16, and +4.5 vs. Villanova in the round of 32. They’ve covered six of their last seven games, five of those as dogs.

The Huskies’ de facto home-court advantage at Madison Square Garden was not factored heavily enough into the point spread during these last two rounds, The Linemakers believe. White actually made UConn the 1-point favorite over Michigan State on Sunday.

(That helps explain why Kenny has Florida as a shorter favorite over UConn than Michigan State actually was.)

The seemingly low opening total of 125 for Saturday’s early tip may have tantalized OVER bettors, as the number was pushed to 126.5 in early wagering at the LVH SuperBook. But before you go to the window with that same bet, know this: Florida and UConn have been two of this season’s best UNDER teams. The UNDER is 22-11-1 in Gators games overall, and 23-13 for the Huskies. Saturday’s Michigan State game, though, was the first of the tournament that stayed UNDER for UConn. UNDER cashed nine games in a row – and 13 of 14 – for UConn before the NCAA tourney.

In games with totals in the 120s or lower this season, Florida is 9-3 to the UNDER.

There have only been three UConn games with totals in the 120s – all against Cincinnati and all stayed UNDER the number.

Kentucky, meanwhile, has earned some believers during its tournament run, as the Wildcats have gone from 4.5-point dogs against both Wichita State and Louisville to 2-point favorites against Michigan and now Wisconsin.

There may not, though, have been enough of an adjustment on Calipari’s jelling team. Mr. White’s line has Kentucky -3.5, suggesting some value in laying the shorter price.

Wisconsin is 4-1 ATS as a dog this season, with wins against Arizona on Thursday, and at Iowa, at Michigan and at Virginia in the regular season; their one loss in the role was to Michigan State in the Big Ten tourney.

Kentucky is 16-11 ATS as a favorite this season.

The total opened 139 at the LVH.

TBS has the television coverage on Saturday. UConn-Florida tips at 6:09 p.m. ET, with Wisconsin-Kentucky following 40 minutes after the completion of the first game.


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