How to Bet on Baseball and Win: Beating MLB Pitcher Strikeout Total Props without a model

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Kevin Davis
Kevin Davis is an NYC-based sports bettor who travels to New Jersey to lay his legal sports bets. He is a former elected official, who is also a fourth-generation sports handicapper. As a sports handicapper Davis focuses on international baseball, MLB, NBA, College Football, and Canadian Football. Davis is an analytical sports bettor who builds his own mathematical models for betting on sports. He is a profitable sports bettor who enjoys sharing his insights with aspiring sports handicappers.

Kevin Davis shares his tips on how to bet on baseball and win by beating MLB Pitcher Strikeout Total Props without a model.

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The most popular bets on baseball are moneyline, run line, and run total bets. These bets are the simplest – you are either betting on a team to win (moneyline), to win or lose by a specific margin (run-line), or you are betting on the combined number of runs scored between two teams (run total). However, with thirty teams, and nine position players per team, there are several player proposition bets that you can make. My favorite category of MLB player props are pitcher strikeout props.

While I have a statistical model for betting on baseball games that also gives me player prop bet projections, you do not need a model to beat pitcher strikeout props. A model just makes betting much easier. All you need to do to beat MLB pitcher props is to project a pitcher’s usage, strikeout rate, opposing lineup strikeout rate, and to shop for the best lines.

How MLB Pitcher Props Can Be Beaten?

If you do your homework, MLB pitcher props can be beaten. But, if you do not do your homework, you will lose more money on pitcher props than moneyline and total bets.

The theoretical hold is how much the sportsbook should make from their customers on a market. For moneylines, the hold is around 2.38%, for totals and run-lines, the hold is around 4.55%, but for pitcher props it is around 6.52%. That means that for every $100 bet, sportsbooks expect to make $2.38 on moneylines, $4.55 on totals and run-lines, and $6.52 on pitcher props.

Despite the sportsbooks having a larger edge on pitcher props, in my opinion they are the most beatable baseball bets without a model. You do not need to have intimate knowledge of an entire team or ballpark; you just need to analyze one player.

Additionally, you can beat pitcher props by reading the news. For example, if a reliever or minor league is being promoted to the starting rotation, you can find out if the team has stated how many innings they expect to use that pitcher. You can also monitor pitchers coming off the IL to see if teams will be more cautious with their usage.

Here are my four steps on how to bet on baseball and win, with a focus on MLB pitcher props.

Step 1: Projecting A Pitcher’s Usage

The most important criteria for measuring if a pitcher goes under or over their strikeout total is to measure how many innings a pitcher will pitch for. There are three outs in an inning and nine innings in a game. Theoretically a pitcher could have 27 strikeouts in game. However, that has never happened and the record for strikeouts in a game by one pitcher is 20.

The reason why this has never happened is because starting pitchers do not pitch the whole game. The average MLB team as of May 2021 uses the average starting pitcher for around five innings per start. However, some teams use starting pitchers differently.

The LA Dodgers and San Francisco Giants use their starting pitchers for almost six innings per game, the most in the league. While the Toronto Blue Jays rely on their starting pitchers for around 4 1/3 innings per start.

Even though teams have specific tendencies for starting pitcher usage, teams also have tendencies for how often certain pitchers are used. Shane Beiber, Jacob deGrom, and Trevor Bauer have started out the season averaging around seven innings per start. Other starting pitchers are “openers” who pitch for only three innings while the bullpen handles the rest of the game. Besides openers and heavy usage pitcher, there are several pitchers who pitch for around five innings per start.

The key to measuring usage is to study the teams, and the individual pitcher stats. Additionally, you should look at their game logs to see how often they were used in previous games. Did they pitch a good game but only pitched for four innings? Did they pitch a bad game and were they taken out? Is this the type of pitcher that their team will leave in their game for several innings even if they have a bad night? These are the important questions that you need to ask when projecting a pitcher’s usage.

Step 2: Measuring the Pitcher’s Strikeout Rate

Now that you have measured the starting pitcher’s usage, your next step is to use their strikeout rate with their usage to figure out how many strikeouts they should throw in a typical game.

When looking on a site like Baseball Reference or FanGraphs, you want to look for a pitcher’s SO9 or K/9 as these are abbreviations for strikeouts per nine innings. The typical pitcher will throw nine strikeouts per nine innings while a power pitcher like Jacob deGrom or Gerrit Cole could have around 13 to 15 strikeouts per nine innings.

After you look up a pitcher’s strikeout rate, you want to check their game logs to see their recent performance. The pitcher could be on a hot streak and will regress to the mean and throw for fewer strikeouts or the opposite. Additionally, you want to check past seasons and pre-season projections to see if their current rate matches up with past performance.

Once you have your own strikeout rate in your head, you want to pro-rate it for their usage. This may sound tough, but it’s as simple as dividing their strikeout rate by nine and multiplying it by their projected usage. If a pitcher is expected to pitch for five innings and they have a strikeout rate of nine strikeouts per nine innings, they should have five strikeouts on a typical night (9/9 strikeout rate=1 strikeout per inning x 5 innings = 5 strikeouts).

Step 3: Measuring the Opposing Lineups Strikeout Rate

Your next step toward creating your own strikeout number is to figure out how strikeout prone the opposing team’s lineup is. Luckily on websites like teamrankings.com, they keep track of how many strikeouts each team lineup averages each game. The Houston Astros currently leads the league with fewest team strikeouts per game as they average only 7.25. However, the Texas Rangers, Detroit Tigers, Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays, and Chicago Cubs average between 10 and 10.5 strikeouts per game.

For the pitcher who has five projected strikeouts on a typical night, they should have 19.4% fewer strikeouts against the Astros or 4.19 strikeouts (1.75 fewer strikeouts divided by 9 strikeouts is 19.4%, divide 5 by 1.194 and you get 4.19 strikeouts). Against a strikeout prone lineup like the Detroit Tigers, the typical pitcher who has five strikeouts on a typical night should have 5.84 strikeouts (1.52 more strikeouts divided by nine strikeouts is 16.7%, 5 times 1.167 is 5.84).

The only tricky thing when measuring a lineup’s strikeout rate is to figure out which players are out of the lineup and who is replacing them. For example, Minnesota Twins utility player Willians Astudillo frequently replaces injured Twins in the lineup. While Astudillo is quietly an above-average offensive player despite being 5’9 and overweight, he also has a strikeout rate of 5.4% which is the third lowest in the league. If Astudillo is in the lineup the Twins will have fewer strikeouts.

Chicago White Sox 2B Nick Madrigal is another player to lookout for as he has a strikeout rate of 3.4% which is the lowest in the league. The Chi Sox like to move him around in the lineup and in games when he bats closer to the top, you should be wary of taking the over on an opposing pitcher’s strikeout total.

Step 4: Shopping for The Best Lines

The final step requires the least amount of analysis, but it can be tedious. The best way to beat pitcher props once you have a projection is to shop around to each legal sportsbook for the best line. For example, let us say that you have a pitcher pegged at 4.8 strikeouts. DraftKings has that pitcher at 4.5 strikeouts with the over at -125, but Caesars has that same pitcher at 4 strikeouts with the over at -135.

The DraftKings number is not good because a pitcher would need to have five or more strikeouts more than 55.6% of the time for the bet to make sense. While the Caesars bet is a good bet because if they have exactly four strikeouts, you get your money back, and if you win the payout is only 7.5% smaller.

While professional sports bettors have software and web scrapers to track moneyline and totals, there are not that many tools out there for monitoring pitcher props. Additionally, pitcher props have lower limits and that scares away bettors with large bankrolls who do not want to make several small wagers a day. By logging onto each app in your state and checking the pitcher props, you can get the best number easily.

Shopping for the best lines and discovering where is best to bet on MLB pitcher props gives you assistance on how to bet on baseball and win, by the greatest margin. MLB pitcher props are available at the majority of the legal online sportsbooks in the US, it’s just about finding where is best to wager your money.

Where to bet on MLB Pitcher Props

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