7 Must-Use MLB Betting Statistics
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You can find well over 100 stats for Major League Baseball and MLB players. I haven’t counted, but there might be close to 1,000 different stats available for MLB. With this many statistics available, the problem is figuring out which ones to use when you handicap games and which ones you can ignore.
And when you’re dealing with such a large number, determining which ones to ignore is just as important as determining which ones to use.
Here’s a list of seven statistics I use as the foundation of every MLB betting model and system I develop and use. You can use the same seven stats for your MLB models.
1 – Pitcher Spin Rates
Pitcher spin rates are fairly new in MLB, and good data about spin rates have only recently become available to gamblers. MLB teams have been using spin rate data for a while, with some teams jumping on board before others, but until recently, we couldn’t access the data reliably as gamblers.
Spin rate as a standalone stat isn’t particularly valuable, but it becomes valuable when you track spin rate for individual pitchers. As you track spin rate for individual pitchers over the course of a season or from season to season, you can see how a drop or rise in spin rate correlates to performance.
Most pitchers are more effective with higher spin rates, so if their spin rates drop over the course of a season, you can expect their performance to go down.
If you know a starting pitcher has a higher spin rate after he gets an extra day of rest, this is valuable information the next time he pitches on an extra day of rest. Or, if you know a pitcher’s spin rate has been declining recently, you want to adjust his performance in upcoming games.
If you’re not tracking pitcher spin rate data yet, you need to start using it right away. It’s one of the best ways to evaluate pitching when you handicap MLB games.
2 – Pitcher Velocity
Pitcher velocity is another good way to track pitchers and predict their performance in upcoming days. Velocity isn’t quite as valuable as spin rate data, but when you combine the two, you can improve your handicapping by quite a bit.
But you have to be careful with velocity data.
Just because a guy throws 98, it doesn’t mean he’s better than a guy who throws 94. But a guy that has success at 98 who drops to 94 might be in for a rough ride.
Some pitchers can actually throw harder than they do in most games, but they’re more effective working at a slightly lower velocity. I know that this might not make sense, but some pitchers have more movement on their ball when they throw a few miles per hour slower than their top speed.
When a pitcher is in a high leverage situation, he might try to throw a little bit harder. Some pitchers use this to their advantage, but some have their fastball flatten out when they do this, which makes them easier to hit.
You need to learn things like this about as many pitchers as you can to handicap MLB games effectively.
3 – Pitcher WHIP
Many amateur baseball gamblers seem to turn their noses up at statistics like ERA and WHIP. While ERA has some faults, I still like the guy with a lower ERA than a guy with a higher ERA most of the time.
As far as WHIP, I find it’s one of the most valuable statistics for pitchers and have been using it when handicapping games for close to 40 years. The pitcher who lets a smaller percentage of opponents on base is almost always better than a pitcher who gives up a higher rate of base runners.
The only exception is when a pitcher gives up a larger percentage of extra-base hits with a lower WHIP, and even when this is the case, the pitcher with a lower WHIP still might be better.
You can’t use WHIP, or any other pitching stat, alone. You have to use all of the information you have together. When you combine spin rate, velocity, and WHIP, you have the basis of a strong pitching evaluation method.
4 – Batter WAR
Now it’s time to look at the best ways to evaluate pitchers in MLB. First, I will discuss two important statistical metrics I use, but they aren’t the only two things I use. Just like when you evaluate pitchers, you have to use more than one or two things to get a complete handicapping picture.
I use some of the WAR variations, or wins above replacement when handicapping games. Different versions of WAR are better at some things than others, so you’re going to have to explore all of the variations to find the ones that compliment your handicapping style.
But if you’re not using WAR when you handicap MLB games, you’re missing an important tool that can help you win more wagers.
5 – Batter OBP
I use batting average, slugging, and home run percentage when I handicap MLB games. But the first thing I look at for every team and hitter is OBP.
Just like pitchers who allow a lower percentage of base runners, a hitter who gets on base more than other hitters has a better chance to score and a better chance to help his team win.
On-base percentage isn’t a perfect explanation of hitting effectiveness.
A guy with 30 home runs and a .300 OBP is probably more valuable than a guy with five home runs and a .330 OBP, but a guy with a .400 OBP and five home runs is probably more valuable than the slugger.
And a guy with no power and a .400 OBP hitting in front of a bunch of sluggers is particularly valuable because he’s going to score a bunch of runs.
6 – Day and Night Splits
You can bet on MLB games and ignore splits, but you do so at your own peril. Most serious MLB handicappers know the importance of left and right splits for hitters and pitchers. But you have to track two other types of splits if you want to be the best handicapper you can be.
The first type of split most handicappers ignore is day and night splits. Most MLB games are at night, but every team plays some day games every season. And some players and teams have vastly different performances in the day than they do at night.
If you’re not using day and night splits when handicapping MLB games, you need to start using them immediately.
The difference of winning or losing a couple of games can change your return by a large amount over the course of a week or two.
7 – Home and Road Splits
The other type of split is just as important as other types of splits, and some handicappers do use it. You have to use home, and road splits when handicapping MLB games.
Home and road splits in MLB are so important that I never use overall statistics when evaluating games. Instead, I only use the relevant home and road split data.
Early in the season, I take a look at the overall stats, but I still rely heavily on home and road splits. And I also use historical home and road splits for each player early in the season.
Of course, you also have to factor in park data and make adjustments. A team who doesn’t hit as well on the road who’s traveling to Colorado is going to perform better than they’ve been hitting on the road, but their pitching is going to perform worse in Colorado as well.
The point is that you have to use splits when evaluating MLB games. If you’re not using splits, you’re not going to get the results that you should be getting.
The problem most baseball bettors have is sifting through the never-ending pile of available statistics to try to determine which stats help them win. Of course, you want to use every stat that helps you handicap games, but you don’t want to waste time using any stats that don’t help you win.
The seven advanced statistics listed in this post are what I use at the base of every game in MLB that I handicap. Of course, these seven stats aren’t the only ones I use, but I think they’re the most important. So start building your MLB handicapping system with these seven statistics, and you’re working with a solid foundation.