Baseball Betting Secret: Pitching is Extremely Overvalued…Again

Time and time again, over the decades, I’ve shared my Golden Rules of Handicapping. Easily the one that most often raises the eyebrows of the square player, but is utilized as a source of profit most by the professional investor is when I assert how overrated starting pitching is to the gambler.

However, honest debate and discussion has converted the most learned and open-minded.

The factoid I opine that often opens the eyes of the blinded is when I declare that if a Blue Ribbon panel compiled a year-end list of the biggest disappoints and surprises, that directory will have a grossly disproportionate number of starting pitchers.

Fantasy players, gamblers, and hard-core fans of the pure game alike concede that point.

Starting pitchers are the ultimate crapshoot. The greatest actionable gambling lesson I acquired from my fantasy sports years was how capricious starting hurlers are. 

Clearly there is no scientific way to quantify who the best pitchers are entering a season. But can anyone quarrel with a straight face against the statement that rotisserie baseball draft projections are a very good indicator of who the best starting pitchers are projected to be for the upcoming season?

I opted to utilize for illustration the first major media draft list that appeared when I Googled, “Fantasy baseball 2012 draft projections.” That was the Fox Sports compilation, not much dissimilar as any other insofar as pitcher’s rankings were concerned.

If one were to handicap starting pitching first and foremost, would the following list of “best starting pitchers” have caused great debate before Opening Day: Clayton Kershaw, Justin Verlander, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, C.C. Sabathia, Felix Hernandez, and Tim Lincecum?

As of this writing, if one bet on each of the seven best starting pitchers in every game they started, one would be down a jaw-dropping 34.14 units based on one-unit per bet.

Yet here is the 20/20 hindsight list of the seven most profitable starting pitchers for 2012 baseball betting: R.A. Dickey, Gio Gonzalez, Jason Hammel, A.J. Burnett, Ivan Nova, Stephen Strasburg, and Jake Peavy.

Using the aforesaid list, not one pitcher was rated higher than 17th entering the season and only two made the Top 25. Just as many were left off the list of 100 best starting pitchers entering the season.

Perhaps I should have kept this our secret as the markets have done a better job of closing the gap. Tim Lincecum was even listed as a home underdog in his most recent outing.

So the glory days of the 80s and 90s in which betting baseball was truly easy pickings will likely remain distant memories. However, fortunately the majority of baseball bettors remain donks.  Therefore there is still significant latitude to exploit the indisputable fact that oddsmakers grossly overvalue starting pitching when setting the odds.



About the Author

Grandmaster Sports Handicapper Joe Duffy got his start in the sports handicapping industry with the Dial Sports (Communications Team) audiotext network. It was owned by sportswriter, broadcaster and handicapping pioneer Mickey Charles. Dial Sports was the sister company of the popular Sports Network Wire Service. Upon graduating California University of PA, where he was a play-by-play announcer on student radio station WVCS (now WCAL) and cable channel 29 (now CUTV), he became a full-time sports announcer and handicapper for the Sportsline scorephone network. He learned from NFL legends coach Hank Stram and broadcasting icon Ray Scott the ins and outs of the sports betting world. His Amazing Cadillac Club became the most successful 900-number in sports betting history. He left to become the first General Manager of the Freescoreboard scorephone network broadcast all over North America. His articles have appeared on several dozen websites and hard copy publications. He is now CEO of, the top sports betting site in the world. Email:

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