Dave’s Free Play, Tuesday 6/24/14

  • June 24, 2014

One of the areas that I consider myself fairly proficient in is gauging regression and correction as far as pitchers are concerned. Thanks to advanced metrics, we’re now able to dissect pitching more than we ever have, and the information base just keeps on expanding. The data is phenomenal and while it’s obviously not an absolute as far as predictability goes, there just can’t be any doubt as to its overall value.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to argue against those who choose to rely on the old school stats when it comes to breaking down pitchers. There’s perhaps even some credence to having too much information and getting so overloaded everything gets muddled. But I just can’t see any dispute that on the whole, the analytical edge is the greatest it’s ever been right now.

So on to the regression and correction comment. One of the things I’m most focused on with pitchers is determining luck, good or bad. When there are specific stats that indicate a pitcher is either getting really fortunate or has Murphy’s Law Syndrome, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to be waiting for the proverbial worm to turn. Again, this isn’t an absolute as other factors can keep me from fading the guy who’s about to regress, or vice versa. But I’ll cite a couple of examples using one particular set of numbers that could definitely prove useful as the season progresses.

First up, Aaron Harang. The veteran Braves righty is only 5-6, but I think it’s fair to state he’s exceeded most expectations this year. Harang was basically a pitcher without a team until the Braves got into a mess with spring training injuries and signed him. Harang had been sailing along until his most recent start, where he was bombed out by the Phillies. My guess is that this won’t be the last really bad outing for Harang. One area where he’s been extremely fortunate this year is with his HR/FB rate. For his career, Harang has hovered right around a 10% rate on this stat. This year, he’s at 3.9%. Yes, it’s possible he can maintain that all season, but it’s highly unlikely. As the probable correction takes place, it also figures that Harang’s other numbers will suffer and that he’s a good bet to start getting hit hard.

Then there’s Mark Buehrle. I’ve always liked the way Buehrle pitches. He doesn’t fart around on the mound, he never shakes off his catcher, and he grinds out innings. But that last note really defines Buehrle. He is an innings eater, perfect for a fourth spot in a decent rotation. He’s not a top of the rotation pitcher, hasn’t been for years. Buehrle’s present 2.32 ERA is, in my opinion, the most misleading old school stat in all of MLB this season. I’ll again cite that HR/FB stat. Buehrle, for his career, has a 9.7% rate here. This season, nothing had been leaving the ball park. That is, until recently. The correction has started with Buehrle. He’s still at a sensational 4.6% for the season. But Buehrle has now surrendered a long ball in each of his last three starts, and he’s also lost all three of those starts. I’m not suggesting Buehrle is going to come apart at the seams, but I think he’s a guy who offers value as a fade right now as what to me was an inevitable regression is maintained.

Those are just a couple of examples of data mining that can at least produce an edge. That doesn’t automatically translate into short term wins, but there shouldn’t be any doubt that it will be highly beneficial over the long haul.

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I halved four plays on Monday, so pretty much a wash to start the new week. June has been very productive overall, however, and I’d love to bang out a big finish and get to perhaps +20 units for the month. My current special includes a huge guarantee, so if you’re a fairly serious player (and not an action junkie as I’m not high volume) get in touch with me via email at cokin@cox.net and I’ll explain how everything works.

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Hey, a free play winner on Monday as the analysis on the Yankees/Blue Jays was on the nose and this time so was the result. I’m going the square route (as opposed to square root, I guess) tonight on the comp selection. Note that I have already played this myself, so obviously this one will also be on my personal card.

06/24  04:10 PM   MLB   (971) OAKLAND ATHLETICS  (972) NEW YORK METS

Take: (971) OAKLAND ATHLETICS -136

It’s always fun to scope an underdog that has a load of value and knowingly smile when it connects. But the money spends just the same when it’s a play that’s dominant on the numbers and plays out just like it’s supposed to. I’ll look for that to be the case tonight as the Athletics open a series with the Mets.

First, there’s just an overwhelming edge on the team data favoring Oakland. The A’s are the most complete team in the game and it’s really difficult to find any weaknesses. That clearly can’t be said for the Mets. I like the future for this team as they could well have the best staff in the entire game before too long. But for the time being, the Mets have to hope their pitching is on and that what can be a moribund offense does enough to give them a shot at winning.

Bartolo Colon is no snap to beat, as the pudgy veteran has proven he doesn’t have to be a physical specimen to produce impressive results. He’s definitely amusing, but the old pro can still get it to home plate in a hurry and there are few pitchers in the game with more consistently impressive command. The A’s will have their work cut out for them tonight at Citi trying to get the best of Colon.

But Colon will need to be at his best to win tonight, and that won’t be easy against this A’s lineup. Colon also comes out as the decided runner-up as far as the pitching matchup goes. That’s not a knock on Colon, merely an observation that indicates how well Scott Kazmir is throwing for Oakland.

Kazmir is a win machine. Going back to the end of last season, his team is now 15-2 when he takes the mound, and that’s no fluke. Kazmir has some superb numbers beyond the obvious and there’s no one in the game making that cash register ring better than Kazmir these days.

I did have a little concern regarding Kazmir going back a couple of starts. His two-seam velocity had declined a couple of ticks and not coincidentally, so had his swing and miss rate. Kazmir alleviated any concerns with his most recent outing, as he rocked right back to the 92-93 velocity and actually touched 95+ in the process. So any thoughts that there might be some fatigue setting in were summarily erased and it appears that all systems are go with the soon to be All-Star southpaw.

Another aspect that needs to be mentioned as it applies tonight is just how pathetic the Mets offense has been when facing lefties at home. They’re producing an ultra-meager 2.04 runs per nine innings at home vs. portsiders, and they’re facing one of the best around tonight.

Oakland at close to 7/5 odds is definitely not a bargain. There are no discounts when looking to back baseball’s best team. But be that as it may, they look like the right side in this duel, and I’m willing to back the A’s to get another win tonight.