MLB betting is, for me, the most statistically driven of all the sports I handicap. The biggest factor in MLB lines is starting pitching. One of my MLB betting tips is that I like to look past a pitcher’s ERA. I like to dig a little deeper to see if I can uncover a pitcher who is performing significantly better or worse than his basic statistics would lead you to believe. I do this by comparing a pitcher’s ERA to his xFIP.
xFIP is an advanced pitching metric that stands for Expected Fielding Independent Pitching. There are many advanced pitching metrics, but xFIP has one of the highest correlations with future ERA. xFIP estimates a pitcher’s expected run prevention, independent of their defense’s performance. xFIP is based on outcomes that do not include defense, such as strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and fly balls allowed. xFIP takes those factors and estimates a pitcher’s ERA assuming average outcomes on balls in play and a league average home run per fly ball ratio.
I like to compare a pitcher’s ERA to his xFIP. If his xFIP is significantly lower, I’m of the belief that the pitcher has perhaps been a little unlucky and is due for some solid outings. Conversely, if his xFIP is substantially higher than his ERA, then I am inclined to believe the pitcher has been more lucky than good and should be seeing some regression coming his way. Both scenarios could lead to value being found on both side plays as well as totals.
Stats Can Be Deceiving: Part 1
My MLB Totals System factors in xFIP. I love finding pitchers with a sizable disparity between their ERA and xFIP. One current example of this is Washington’s Max Scherzer. I use Fangraphs.com for this data.
Scherzer currently sports a 4.45 ERA, but an impressive 2.54 xFIP. With an xFIP nearly two full points lower than his ERA, it would appear Scherzer has been very unlucky and I’m expecting some very good outings from Scherzer moving forward. His other stats support this hypothesis: 32.6% K%, 3.7% BB%, a low 63.5% LOB%, and a very unlucky .395 BABIP (Batting Average of Balls In Play).
Stats Can Be Deceiving: Part 2
The Phillies’ Jake Arrieta could be due for some major regression. Arrieta owns a 2.25 ERA, but his 5.07 xFIP tells me some rough outings lie ahead. A 16.4 K%, 10.9% BB%, and a very high and unsustainable 90.3% LOB% support my hunch.
We may be able to find some value betting Unders on Max Scherzer and Overs on Jake Arrieta based on our findings. However, this is not a guaranteed path to victory. Some pitchers go an entire season and that bounce back or regression never happens. But analysis as I’ve just mentioned has been part of my success with MLB totals betting. It is one of the best MLB betting tips based on my methods.