The 2019 MLB season is quickly nearing and that means it is season long player prop time! For the 2018 season, I logged winners on 44 out of 67 (66%) season long player prop bets on their over/under marks in statistical categories. Those bets are undocumented outside of my own records, but those who know me well know I am an honest gentleman, and they also know I have a bit of a knack on this baseball thing.
Laying down some of that hard-earned cheddar to have to wait over six months to see any potential return on these season long props can be quite a drawn out process, but hey, baseball is a drawn out sport that is not for the impatient or for the thrill seeking adrenaline junkies. So if you are one that can truly appreciate the thought, deliberation, skill, and strategy that goes into this game that most grown men can only dream of playing for a living, then you should have no problem waiting the six plus months to see your bankroll additions! But if you are one that thinks baseball is “boring,” a.) I don’t necessarily blame you and b.) then you can still read the analysis below, bet it and forget it, don’t watch a single at-bat all season, then login to your account on September 30 for a pleasant monetary surprise.
These picks are based off my personal hand-crafted statistical player projections.
***Unless noted otherwise, all lines are from MyBookie.
Gerrit Cole: Under 3.29 ERA (-115) – The trade that sent Cole from the Pirates to the Astros in the off-season prior to the 2018 season was an amazing move for him just to join a club that understood how to extract the most out of his repertoire and play to his talents. Predictably so, the Astros helped him to scrap his sinker, which was not a good pitch for him at all and the Pirates insisted on him using it, and the Astros had him turn up the usage on his breaking pitches. Add in the fact that his velocity was at an all-time best and the finished product was a tremendous breakout season with a 2.88 ERA that was certainly for real. As long as he has those breaking pitches working then he will be able to mostly replicate last year’s performance. The Backwards K projection: 2.92 ERA
Trevor Bauer: Under 3.30 ERA (-115) – Bauer had a real breakout season last year that was unfortunately interrupted by a freak injury on a comebacker, but a 2.21 ERA was his final mark for the season in that category. Unless he’s able to bring his walk rate down to 5-6% instead of the 8% it was at last year, a repeat of the 2.21 ERA is going to be difficult, but he does have the makings to be a perennial sub-3.00 ERA pitcher. This will be a money bet on a money pitcher. The Backwards K projection: 2.74 ERA
Jack Flaherty: Under 3.50 ERA (-115) – Flaherty enjoyed a very excellent 2018 rookie campaign with a 3.34 ERA and a 29.6% K% on the heels of his killer slider. The 9.6% BB% is certainly not too palatable, but he posted much lower marks in the Minors, so with essentially a full season as a Major Leaguer under his belt now, I expect him to take a leap forward with his control while still inducing all the whiffs. An improvement in his walk rate will be the key here for him to keep his ERA low. The Backwards K projection: 3.21 ERA
Miles Mikolas: Under 3.60 ERA (-115) – Mikolas should get hit with some regression, especially if he is not able to generate some more whiffs. But his 2018 season with a 2.83 ERA and miniscule 3.6% BB% was very impressive. In the end, this line may be walking a bit of a fine line, but I will have to side with my projection here, which does offer a bit of wiggle room. The Backwards K projection: 3.15 ERA
Jameson Taillon: Under 3.65 ERA (-115) – In the post Betting: 2019 MLB Season Player Props – Wins, I discussed Taillon’s implementation of a slider in late May of last year. This will continue to be the key for him and after the success that he had with it last year and a full off-season to get even more comfortable with it, Taillon should be able to repeat last year’s 3.20 ERA, or possibly even beat that mark. Even though the slider was his best swing and miss pitch, Taillon did not see the benefits of that in his strikeout rate. That should change this year as long as he is still using the pitch at a similar rate. With more strikeouts and all else remaining equal, that would certainly aide his ERA here. The Backwards K projection: 3.24 ERA
Mike Clevinger: Under 3.65 ERA (-115) – Clevinger posted a 3.11 ERA in 2017 and a 3.02 ERA in 2018, so what’s not to like here? Sure, those marks grossly outperformed his xFIP, but Clevinger is a rock solid pitcher that I don’t think we have seen the best of yet, even if he goes the rest of his career without posting an ERA better than last year’s mark. Clevinger is able to generate around 20% whiffs on both of his breaking pitches and his changeup isn’t a terrible offering either, plus his second half performance was a nice look at what he could potentially be (2.31 ERA, 28.6% K%, 8.7% BB%). The Backwards K projection: 3.18 ERA
Zack Wheeler: Under 3.65 ERA (-115) – Wheeler is coming off a healthy and career best season that saw him begin to incorporate a splitter into his arsenal, which is the most tangible factor to his new success. While it was not an often used pitch from the Mets righty as it only eclipsed the 10% usage mark in one month, it was certainly his best swing and miss pitch with a 18.9% whiff rate, with his next best whiff pitch coming in at 14.5% on his curveball. Perhaps the Mets analytics team will take this into account and advise that he lean on his splitter a bit more this year. But all in all in 2018, he pitched his way to a 3.31. ERA and I would be expecting similar results this year. The Backwards K projection: 3.19 ERA
Kenta Maeda: Under 3.70 ERA (-115) – Maeda has not beat this mark in either of the last two seasons, but there is reason for optimism here. Maeda’s arsenal of secondary pitches is in a special zone where last year he had three pitches with a 21% whiff rate (changeup 27.0%, slider 26.1%, cutter 21.0%). That’s not something you’re going to see very often. However, an inflated BABIP of .321 was a culprit in leaving him with an ERA of 3.81 when everything else would suggest he could have easily finished with an ERA in the low 3’s. Maeda has also been enjoying a fine Spring Training with 15 K/1 BB in 10 innings at the time of this post. He may be splitting his time in the rotation and bullpen again for the Dodgers this year, but he should be solid in either role. The Backwards K projection: 3.38 ERA
Patrick Corbin: Over 3.35 ERA (-125) – Corbin broke out in a big way last year with a boat load of strikeouts and a 3.15 ERA. His peripherals actually suggest that he was much better than the 3.15 ERA as his xFIP sat at 2.61. So why the lean to the over here? Well, for all intents and purposes, Corbin was a two pitch pitcher last year, with his fastball-slider combo. Now his slider is a devastating pitch, but it is rare to see a two pitch pitcher (as a starting pitcher) have continual success year over year because it just gets increasingly easier for the competition to anticipate pitch and location patterns. I do not foresee Corbin being able to hold on to all his gains from last year, but there is some noise of Corbin re-incorporating his changeup this year, which is why this is only a lean. The Backwards K projection: 3.58 ERA
Hyun-Jin Ryu: Under 3.50 ERA (-105) – Ryu is mostly an underrated pitcher in large part due to his issues with staying healthy, but when he is at full strength, he can definitely be a force with his command and control. I feel that this should be a pretty easy mark for Ryu to hit, but his fragility could certainly get the best of him where any sort of injury could impact his performance. I think he gets this, but this is a lean. The Backwards K projection: 3.23 ERA