It’s no secret that baseball is a numbers game. I think most handicappers would agree that no sport requires more knowledge of stats than baseball.

I’ve taken some time to put together a list of some of the most popular stats that handicappers use when breaking down MLB games.

Pitching Stats

ERA & WHIP:

Most people like to judge a pitcher by his ERA, but it’s not as strong of a stat as you might think. Instead I like to focus more on a pitchers WHIP, which is the average number of hits/walks per inning pitched.

There will be stretches where you will see a starter have an ERA around 3.00 and WHIP of 1.50. This is typically a sign of a pitcher who has been lucky in his previous starts. The more runners you allow on base, the better chance you have of giving up a run. The closer a pitchers’ WHIP is to 1.00 the better.

G/F Rate:

This is a very useful stat that doesn’t get enough attention. G/F Rate is a stat used to see if a pitcher tends to give up more fly balls or ground balls.

A pitcher with a 1.00 G/F rate means he is just as likely to give up a fly ball as a ground ball. The closer the number is to 0.00 the more likely the pitcher is to give up a fly ball over a ground ball and as you might have guessed the larger the number the more likely the pitcher is to give up a ground ball.

This stat is best used when you combine it with the elements of the game. Whether they are playing in a pitcher/hitter friendly park or in a game where the wind is blowing straight out.

K/9 & HR/9:

These two stats are worth tracking and can also be of use when used correctly. K/9 indications the number of strikeouts a pitcher is averaging for every 9 innings

As you might have guessed, HR/9 is the average number of home runs that a pitchers allows over 9 innings of work.

It’s best to use these stats by comparing them to the opponent and ballpark of a given start.

A pitcher with a high HR/9 is typically not a strong bet in a game being played in a hitters park. There are also teams who as a whole lack plate discipline, which give starters with a high k/9 a big advantage when they take the mound.

Run Support Average:

While the starters have little control over the numbers of runs their offense scores, every year we see pitchers who go out and get 5+ runs on a consistent basis and others who repeatedly don’t get any run support at all. The number of offensive runs scored per start is what is known as a pitchers run support average.

A lot of this is luck, but there are some things that can lead to this. You would expect to see an offense perform better when the starters work fast and keep them off the field for long periods of time and struggle a little more when they are playing behind a starter who takes his time between each and every pitch.

BABIP:

BABIP stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play (excluding home runs), which is an advanced stat that gives you a good idea of how lucky or unlucky a pitcher has been.

Basically pitchers don’t have a whole lot of control over a ball that’s put in play, unless it’s a home run. Some starters are lucky and have line drives hit right to a defender and others who get unlucky and give up bloop singles.

The average BABIP of a pitcher is .300. If you find a starter who is well above or below the .300 mark, odds are that the number will eventually make it’s way back to the average.

Previous Starts:

This is a common stat that I think just about everyone who handicaps baseball uses. Not only is a good idea to keep track of how a starter has done in previous starts during the current season, but it’s also a good idea to look at how that starter has done in previous starts against the same opponent.

Bullpen:

It’s always a good idea to know how a team’s bullpen has been performing. There’s nothing worse than betting on a game where you feel one side has a clear advantage in starting pitching, only to have the bullpen blow the win late. Avoiding big bets on teams with a tired/overused bullpen can save you a lot of money. Make sure you have a feel for how deep a starter will go into a game and whether or not the bullpen is poised to finish the job or surrender the lead.

Hitting Stats

Team Performance Against Right/Left Handed Pitching:

This is also a stat that can be used for judging whether or not a starting pitcher is worth backing, as it goes hand and hand with previous starts against the same opponent.

You can go to several sites and click on a pitchers stats and get their history against the opponents of a team they are playing. This is always a good thing to double-check early, as team rosters change quite a bit from one season to the next.

Batting Average & On Base Percentage (OBP):

These are to standard stats that are worth looking at. I like to focus a little more on OBP, as team who get on base a lot can run up a pitchers pitch count and get to the bullpen earlier in the game.

Runs/9 innings:

Having a good idea of how many runs a team scores is another simple stat that can’t be overlooked. I recommend focusing more on this stat based on the specifics of the game being played. It’s more useful to know how many runs a team averages against a right/left handed pitcher, in a day/night game or at home/away.

Other Elements

Home/Away:

It’s no secret that for the most part teams generally perform better at home than the do on the road. However, there are always a couple teams who play better on the road than they do at home. This goes for individual players as well.

Hitter/Pitcher Park:

It’s important that you know whether a team’s home stadium is a pitchers or hitters park, or you are going to find yourself making a lot of poor bets. I highly recommend taking some time to research this, as it’s something you only have to look up once.

Weather:

This isn’t technically a stat, but it’s certainly a key handicapping tool that too many amateurs overlook. Taking a couple extra minutes to see which way the wind will be blowing and the expected temperature for the game can help you find some hidden gems on the over/under and keep you from backing a fly ball pitcher when the the wind is blowing out.

Umpire:

There are several sites out there that keep track of an umpire’s home/away record and average runs/game when they are behind the plate. I like to focus more on the runs/game, as this typically is a direct result of what kind of strike zone the umpire has. Those that have a tight strike zone, will typically lead to more walks and a greater chance of a pitcher leaving a ball over the heart of the plate.

Day/Night:

This stat can be used for both teams and individuals. The general consensus is that it’s harder to see the ball during the day for hitters, which typically leads to lower-scoring games. However, there are some starters who struggle to pitch well in the afternoon and thrive when they take the ball at night.

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