By Flint Wheeler
Several MLB pictures have been putting on dominant performances in relative obscurity and having not yet claimed the respect from oddsmakers they should be receiving. This means value to me. I would endorse backing any of these pitchers until the prices catch up.
Here are four pitchers you should back in the coming weeks because oddsmakers are still doing you a favor and keeping their prices low.
Nick Pivetta (Boston)
The biggest question facing the Red Sox this spring was their starting pitching. Posting career bests in almost every key statistical category. Pivetta was the Red Sox’s biggest unknown after getting only two late-season starts with the team last year after a trade with Philly, which gave up on him after four seasons. In 2021 he’s into the mid-90s on his fastball and is striking out hitters like he did in his first two years in the majors. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s getting 7.2 runs of support per start from the Boston lineup. He isn’t priced anywhere near ace level, but Pivetta is delivering results worthy of an ace.
Taijuan Walker (New York Mets)
The Mets have been saddled with injuries, notably to slugger Pete Alonso. Because of the vast number of injuries, oddsmakers have downed this team considerably in their ratings, meaning the Mets are getting juicy prices every night. While most bettors and fans tend to focus on Jake deGrom or Marcus Stroman, Taijuan Walker is commanding nearly as much attention. He was acquired to assume the No. 4 starter’s role in what would have been one of the league’s best rotations had it avoided injuries. Walker is on his fourth team since arriving in MLB in 2013 and is posting his best career numbers, picking up where he left off at the end of last season with the Blue Jays. In fact, in his last 15 starts overall, Walker has an ERA of 1.67 and a WHIP of 1.05, and his teams have gone 13-2 for + 11.6 units of profit. He is doing his job on a team that is simply winning in the face of adversity. That’s the definition of value.
Zack Wheeler (Philadelphia)
Zack Wheeler was once expected to be the fourth or fifth option in a Mets rotation that featured Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Matt Harvey. As it turns out, Wheeler is second only to deGrom in terms of that group’s effectiveness. The only problem for Mets fans is that Wheeler has started to reach his full potential with a different club, the Phillies. After a solid 2020, he is putting it together this year, on pace for the best ERA and strikeout numbers of his career. He’s also occasionally hitting triple digits on the radar gun while mixing in four other pitches, so it is easy to see why the numbers are coming around. But oddsmakers aren’t treating him like an elite starter yet, so take advantage while you can, and then watch his next start.
Kevin Gausman (San Francisco)
Kevin Gausman might be the hottest pitcher in the majors right now, having allowed just four runs in his last eight starts for an ERA of 0.71. Perhaps even rarer, he has gone at least six innings seven times. Sounds like ace material, right? Yes, but Gausman hasn’t earned the role of ace in the eyes of oddsmakers yet, pitching as an underdog four times during this torrid recent stretch and topping out as a -180 favorite at home over lowly Pittsburgh. Before 2021, there was simply no reason to expect such an outburst from Gausman, who toiled in mediocrity with Baltimore, Atlanta, and Cincinnati. For anyone thinking he is due for regression, meaning you shouldn’t back him further, consider that his strikeout numbers are the highest they’ve been in his career over the last two years, and he gives nearly full credit to the emergence of his split-finger fastball, which he developed fully before 2020. This doesn’t feel like a fluke. He is a major reason San Francisco is much better than expected. G’Luck!