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Predicting MLB Pitcher Wins Totals

Predicting MLB Pitcher Wins Totals

The pitcher win statistic doesn’t quite carry as much weight as it used to.

When identifying the best pitcher in baseball more than a decade ago, the win column was of the utmost importance. However, now that we have ERA indicators among a variety of advanced stats that give us a much more accurate depiction of a pitcher’s effectiveness, the win stat is now dragging its heels.

However, at the end of the day it’s still a stat, and for this piece, it’s the main topic of discussion.

Over at MyBookie, there are over/under odds listed for many of baseball’s most traditional counting stats. While I will be releasing a series of over/under articles tackling all of these stats, let’s begin with wins as we sit roughly three weeks away from Opening Day on March 28th.

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I’ll go through the list of pitchers with odds at MyBookie and make a pick along with a brief explanation. Keep in mind I am basing my picks on full health unless the pitcher in question has a history of injuries that have hindered his chances of racking up wins in the past.

Let’s get it!

Max Scherzer (Nationals)

Over 15.5
-140
Under 15.5
+110

2018 Win Total: 18

Mad Max has been the best pitcher in the big leagues over the last four-six years at this point and he sits with 159 career wins through the first 329 starts of his big league career.

Last year, Scherzer racked up 18 wins despite the National finishing just a couple of games over .500, a mark they should improve upon this upcoming season despite Bryce Harper bolting for the rival Phillies.

Scherzer, in fact, hasn’t gone under 16 wins since 2015, his first year as a National. He hit at least 16 wins over his final three years as a member of the Detroit Tigers as well, giving him the over 15.5 in six of his last seven years. He’s displayed uncanny durability with more than 200 innings pitched in six straight years as well.

At this point, I don’t doubt his ability to rack up at least a 16-win season given his track record.

My Pick
OVER 15.5

Corey Kluber (Indians)

Over 15.5
-135
Under 15.5
+105

2018 Win Total: 20

Same total and odds for Kluber as the Indians right-hander is coming off a 20-win season, the first time he’s cracked that barrier.

That said, Kluber got the benefit of one of baseball’s best offenses as support last season, something I don’t believe will be the case this time around. The Indians substituted the losses of productive bats in Edwin Encarnacion, Michael Brantley, Josh Donaldson, Yonder Alonso, Yan Gomes and Lonnie Chisenhall (versus righties) with the return of Carlos Santana, Jake Bauer, and Jordan Luplow.

Add in the fact that Francisco Lindor could miss time with a strained calf to begin the season and Kluber might have to pitch an MLB-high in shutouts to get over this total.

The bullpen in Cleveland doesn’t exactly inspire confidence after a disastrous 2018 and without Andrew Miller and Cody Allen, so I’m actually going to get some value here and go under the total.

My Pick
UNDER 15.5

Chris Sale (Red Sox)

Over 15.5
-115
Under 15.5
-115

2018 Win Total: 12

Sale dealt with an injury down the stretch last season, something the Red Sox treated with extreme caution so their prized left-hander could be a factor in the postseason.

He made just 27 starts and pitched a career-low (as a starter) 158 innings in 2018, clearly hampering his win total.

He hasn’t had durability issues in the past through, reaching at least 208 innings in each of his previous three seasons while taking the ball at least 31 times and winning 17 games in that span twice.

He won 17 games in his first season with the Red Sox, and it appears his shoulder issues from 2018 are behind him and he is entering the season at full health. I will treat him injury-free for the purpose of this pick and with a dynamite offense to support him, I’m hitting the over.

My Pick
OVER 15.5

Justin Verlander (Astros)

Over 15.5
-115
Under 15.5
-115

2018 Win Total: 16

Verlander won a lot of games as a member of the Detroit Tigers, but has hung around this total in each of the last three years, including last year when he won 16 games in his first full season in Houston.

Verlander pitched 2014 innings across 34 starts for a team that had an elite bullpen and one of the best offenses in the league and still won “only” 16 games. Such circumstances could have allowed him to win close to 20, especially when we consider his 2.52 ERA as well.

Offensive support and protection the ‘pen doesn’t guarantee wins, but I have a hard time believing Verlander won’t rack up plenty of wins with what should be an even better offense in Houston factoring in the addition of Michael Brantley in free agency and healthier seasons from both Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve. Give me the over.

My Pick
OVER 15.5

Luis Severino (Yankees)

Over 14.5
-115
Under 14.5
-115

2018 Win Total: 19

I am going to factor injuries into Severino’s situation here as he is already shut down with a shoulder issue just three weeks before Opening Day, putting his status to begin the season in serious doubt.

Now, he could certainly hit this total if he misses just a start or two, but anything more than that and we need to consider workload concerns for the Yankees’ ace.

The cold weather in New York isn’t ideal for injuries, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Yankees take extreme caution with the right-hander.

He’s the first pitcher on this list that doesn’t have a history of durability and 200+ inning credentials, although he won those 19 games last season. Still, I am going to err on the side of caution, and value, and take the under.

My Pick
UNDER 14.5

Carlos Carrasco (Indians)

Over 14.5
-135
Under 14.5
+105

2018 Win Total: 17

Like with Kluber, I am worried about the run support Carrasco is going to get this season while a shaky bullpen isn’t helping matters, either.

He has enjoyed a back-to-back high-win season with 17 wins in 2018 after notching 18 in 2017. He;’s also produced an ERA of 3.38 or better in each of the last three years while making at least 30 starts in three of his last four.

Maybe I’m just bearish on the Indians as a whole, but I don’t see their pitching staff racking up the wins like we’ve seen over the last few years. I’ll take the under at nice value here as well.

My Pick
UNDER 14.5

Jacob deGrom (Mets)

Over 14.5
-125
Under 14.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 10

Everyone in that Mets locker room from 2018 owes this guy a steak dinner as deGrom won 10 games despite producing a 1.70 ERA across 32 starts and 217 innings en route to winning the National League Cy Young Award.

A combination of a lack of run support from the Mets’ 23rd-ranked offense and a bullpen that blew leads on the regular sewer deGrom’s win total in 2018.

However, the dude is simply in for better fortune this season, not only because he should be, but because the Mets’ front office was aggressive in adding plenty of win-now pieces in the offseason including the league’s best closer from 2018 in Edwin Diaz. Give me the over.

My Pick
OVER 14.5

Gerrit Cole (Astros)

Over 14.5
-125
Under 14.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 15

Cole’s situation was similar to Verlander as he took the ball 32 times, pitched 200.1 innings and produced a 2.88 ERA, but won “just” 15 games.

It was a huge breakout season from Cole, so we need to gauge whether or not he can deliver similar type numbers again or if we can expect regression towards his career 3.37 ERA.

I believe the breakout was real, and I believe the elite upside of the Houston offense and bullpen will help their co-ace notch at least as many wins as he saw in 2018, even if the ERA slips some.

My Pick
OVER 14.5

Aaron Nola (Phillies)

Over 14
-120
Under 14
-110

2018 Win Total: 17

If it weren’t for deGrom’s outrageous 2018 season, Nola would have won the NL Cy Young Award thanks a breakout season at the age of 24 until early June.

Nola won 17 games thanks to a 2.37 ERA and 212.1 innings pitched across 33 starts. The Phillies faded down the stretch, but Nola did not and 2019 projects to be a big-time opportunity to build on his 2018 season.

The Phillies beefed up their offense with Bryce Harper, J.T. Realmuto, Jean Segura, and Andrew McCutchen from last year and the bullpen acquired a reliable late-inning arm in David Robertson. We get a nice buffer with the push possibility at 14 wins, but I am not thinking twice about hitting the over here.

My Pick
OVER 14

Trevor Bauer (Indians)

Over 13.5
-130
Under 13.5
+100

2018 Win Total: 12

Bauer’s 2018 win total was hurt when he broke his leg thanks to a line-drive comebacker, limiting him to just 27 starts and none that last more than four innings since August 11th.

He was certainly on track to eclipse this total last season and he won 17 games despite pitching to a mediocre 4.19 ERA in 2017.

2018 was the breakout through as he pitched to a 2.21 ERA and 2.44 FIP with a stout 11.34 K/9 rate. The same criterion goes for Bauer as his teammates Kluber and Carrasco as I think the Indians are going to limit the number of wins their pitchers will receive this season. I have to go under at valuable odds.

My Pick
UNDER 13.5

Blake Snell (Rays)

Over 13.5
-125
Under 13.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 21

Snell increased his win total from five in 2017 to 21 in 2018 en route to winning the American League Cy Young Award.

He pitched to a crazy 1.89 ERA, but also greatly outpitched his 2.95 FIP and 3.16 xFIP, albeit those are still great numbers. We can expect some regression, however, Snell is in a position to both make more starts than the 31 he made last year and pitch more than the career-high 180.2 innings he did a season ago. I’ll take the over here.

My Pick
OVER 13.5

Walker Buehler (Dodgers)

Over 13.5
+110
Under 13.5
-140

2018 Win Total: 8

The win total from last season shouldn’t fool you as Buehler was fantastic in his rookie season in which he produced a 2.62 ERA across 23 starts and 137.1 innings.

He made three Triple-A starts prior to joining the Dodgers for the remainder of the season, but this guy could be their second in line behind Kershaw, and their ace is the left-hander is going to miss starts to begin the season.

We shouldn’t expect a 200-inning season, but I expect him to make 30 starts and get around 180 frames which should be good enough for him to win at least 14 games with the support of a deep and productive offense.

My Pick
OVER 13.5

Zack Greinke (Diamondbacks)

Over 13.5
+115
Under 13.5
-145

2018 Win Total: 15

Greinke has hit the over on this total in each of the last two years and has shown nice durability with at least 202 innings pitched in four of the last five seasons.

The Diamondbacks didn’t sport a great all-round offense despite the talent level last season, and he still managed to win 15 games thanks to a 3.21 ERA. The offense is almost certain to decline in 2019 without Paul Goldschmidt and A.J. Pollock, among others, in tow.

I don’t expect as much regression from Arizona as others, however, I see Greinke having a difficult time getting over this total, although I’m not thrilled with the value.

My Pick
UNDER 13.5

Miles Mikolas (Cardinals)

Over 12.5
+115
Under 12.5
-145

2018 Win Total: 18

After three seasons in Japan, Mikolas returned to the big leagues in 2018 and was one of the more surprising stories of the season, posting a 2.83 ERA to go along with 32 starts and 200.2 innings pitched.

Can he repeat his success? It will be tough as he outpitched his FIP (3.28) and xFIP (3.67) by notable amounts. Still, this is a fairly low total for a Cardinals team that now has Goldschmidt at their disposal as Mikolas should receive enough run support to record at least 13 wins even if his numbers slip a little bit.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

Noah Syndergaard (Mets)

Over 12.5
-110
Under 12.5
-120

2018 Win Total: 13

When he’s healthy, Syndergaard is flat-out nasty. However, we have to take his injury history into consideration as his career-high in innings is just 183.2 from the 2016 season and he missed the vaast majority of the 2017 season.

He’s eclipsed 12.5 wins twice in his young career despite the injury woes, but we never know when those are going to arise. While I have his injury history in consideration, this is a guy that doesn’t need to make 32-34 starts to hit this over. He did so in 25 last year and I think he can get it done again with a healthier season in 2019.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

Rick Porcello (Red Sox)

Over 12.5
-125
Under 12.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 17

The 2016 AL Cy Young Award winner has regressed in each of the last two seasons, but won 22 games in 2016 and 17 in 2018 with 11 in 2017 mixed in.

He’s been a little Jekyll and Hyde in his career, but he owns a career 4.26 ERA at the end of the day. He’ll have the support of a quality offense, but the Red Sox have bullpen question marks after losing both Craig Kimbrel and Joe Kelly.

This one is tough, but if he can blow by this total with 17 wins in a season where he pitched to a 4.28 ERA, I’ll look for the over again this time around.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers)

Over 12.5
-110
Under 12.5
-120

2018 Win Total: 9

Kershaw made 26 starts and pitched 161.1 innings in an injury-plagued 2018 season and came away with just nine wins to show for it.

He’s already dealing with arm trouble and is assumably nowhere near stretched out enough to begin the season in the Dodgers’ rotation, putting this total in serious jeopardy. There is also zero doubt the Dodgers will be cautious early on when he does return, and he may not even hit five innings in his first handful of starts as they ease him back in.

I don’t think I have any choice but to go with the under on this one.

My Pick
UNDER 12.5

Patrick Corbin (Nationals)

Over 12.5
-115
Under 12.5
-115

2018 Win Total: 11

A 3.15 ERA in 33 starts and exactly 200 innings should have earned Corbin more than 11 wins with the D-Backs last season, but an underperforming offense cost him.

Now, Corbin has signed with the Nationals and formed a three-headed monster with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in that rotation. The Nats’ offense won’t be the best in baseball, but it will be good, as will their bullpen.

Corbin is a sneaky Cy Young pick and I also have him as a value pick to lead the league in wins. Therefore, I’m certainly going over the total here.

My Pick
UNDER 12.5

Patrick Corbin (Nationals)

Over 12.5
-115
Under 12.5
-115

2018 Win Total: 11

A 3.15 ERA in 33 starts and exactly 200 innings should have earned Corbin more than 11 wins with the D-Backs last season, but an underperforming offense cost him.

Now, Corbin has signed with the Nationals and formed a three-headed monster with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg in that rotation. The Nats’ offense won’t be the best in baseball, but it will be good, as will their bullpen.

Corbin is a sneaky Cy Young pick and I also have him as a value pick to lead the league in wins. Therefore, I’m certainly going over the total here.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

James Paxton (Yankees)

Over 12.5
-120
Under 12.5
-110

2018 Win Total: 11

Interestingly, I have Paxton as a value pick to win the AL Cy Young Award, although his career-high in wins is just 12 from the 2017 season with the Mariners.

The move to the Yankees should help him accrue more wins with that lethal offense in support, but Paxton brings an injury history with him and has never made more than 28 starts.

That said, he won’t need to make 34 starts to hit the over on this team, and at full health, this is a no-brainer for me.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

David Price (Red Sox)

Over 12.5
-115
Under 12.5
-115

2018 Win Total: 16

Price is getting up in their in age at 33 and pitched just 176 innings last year, but still made 30 starts and pitched to a solid 3.58 ERA.

Over the last four seasons in which he made at least 30 starts, Price has won a minimum of 15 games.

For some reason, I don’t think he can do it again this year. He has mild injury concerns, but even if I project him at full health something tells me that he won’t be able to get over the total here. This is more of a gut feeling that a statistic-based pick, but I’m going under.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

Mike Clevinger (Indians)

Over 12.5
+100
Under 12.5
-130

2018 Win Total: 13

Clevinger enjoyed a career-high in many areas last season including a 3.02 ERA, 32 starts and 200 innings pitched.

He’s a late bloomer at the age of 28 and just one season of more than 22 starts under his belt, but his career 3.36 ERA in impressive nonetheless.

While I think he can get close to this total in 2019, I have to follow the same criteria I did with his teammates Kluber, Bauer, and Carrasco before him and go under here. Hey, if I win three of my four Indians bets, I’m laughin’.

My Pick
UNDER 12.5

Kyle Hendricks (Cubs)

Over 12.5
+100
Under 12.5
-130

2018 Win Total: 14

Henricks came out of nowhere to win the NL Cy Young Award in 2016, and he’s been solid since with a 3.44 ERA and 2018 and a 3.03 mark in 2017.

He has hit the over on this total twice in his career, once in that Cy Young season and again last year. The Cubs’ offense didn’t match up with the best in baseball last season and their bullpen has its own questions while neither area as addressed in the offseason.

This is a close call, but I’ll give the right-hander the benefit of the doubt at quality odds.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

Jose Berrios (Twins)

Over 12.5
+100
Under 12.5
-130

2018 Win Total: 12

Berrios won 12 games while making 32 starts and pitching 192.1 innings in 2018, but actually won 14 in 2017 despite making only 25 starts and pitching 145.2 innings.

That said, I think this guy is primed for a big breakout this season. His ERA has been steady the last two seasons at 3.89 in 2017 and 3.84 in 2018, but I’m looking for that mark to go closer to three than four in 2019.

Minnesota also beefed up their offense in the offseason, so I’m expecting more run support for the 24-year-old as this one was an easy decision for me.

My Pick
OVER 12.5

Stephen Strasburg (Nationals)

Over 11.5
-135
Under 11.5
+105

2018 Win Total: 10

We have considerable injury and durability issues with Strasburg as he pitched just 130 innings last season, but got close to this total nonetheless.

He’s pitched more than 200 innings just once in his career back in 2014 when he won 14 games. He does have a career 3.14 ERA and 2.91 FIP and will have the support of a quality offense this season. I don’t think he’ll need 200 innings to hit this total, but I’ll still go over the total.

My Pick
OVER 11.5

Charlie Morton (Rays)

Over 11.5
-125
Under 11.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 15

Morton had never eclipsed 10 wins in his big league career prior to signing with the Astros for the 2017 and 2018 seasons when he won 14 and 15 games, respectively.

His late-career resurgence has been exceptional as Morton is throwing harder than ever, but his control issues force his pitch count to rise quickly and he often struggles to get through five innings as was the case down the stretch in 2018.

His new offense in Tampa Bay won’t be nearly as potent as the one he pitched in front of in Houston, so I’ll head for the under here.

My Pick
OVER 11.5

Mike Foltynewicz (Braves)

Over 11.5
-125
Under 11.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 13

Foltynewicz enjoyed a coming out party in 2018 as he pitched to a stout 2.85 ERA across 31 starts and 183 innings, winning 13 games in the process.

Wins will be tougher to come by within the division this year with the Phillies, Nationals, and Mets looking like playoff threats, something that may hamper his ability to rack up wins.

He also notably out-pitched his 3.37 FIP and 3.77 xFIP last season, so I’m going to dive under the total here for the 2019 season, although it will be close.

My Pick
UNDER 11.5

Jameson Taillon (Pirates)

Over 11.5
-125
Under 11.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 14

Taillon was another young pitcher to enjoy a career-year in 2018 as Taillon was 14 games on the strength of a 3.20 ERA across 32 starts and 191 innings.

We could probably expect more innings for the right-hander this upcoming season, but they aren’t going to be easy ones. The NL Central is loaded with the Brewers, Cubs, Cardinals and even Reds looking like playoff threats, which could leave Taillon and the Pirates in the dust.

It’s going to be hard to get to those 14 wins again and I don’t even think he can get 12.

My Pick
UNDER 11.5

Masahiro Tanaka (Yankees)

Over 11.5
-125
Under 11.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 12

Tanaka has hung around this win total, and exceeded it, in every season of his Yankees tenure as has at least 12 wins and as many as 14 in that time.

What’s more is he is winning games despite dealing with injuries through his North American career as he has topped out at just 199.2 innings and has failed to hit 157 in three of his five seasons. He won his 12 games in just 27 starts and 156 innings last season, but also pitched to a solid 3.75 ERA.

I’m projecting the Yankees to lead baseball in wins, and they should be able to drag their pitchers along with them as their rotation is likely to post high win totals, especially with an elite bullpen as well. I’ll take the over here all day.

My Pick
UNDER 11.5

German Marquez (Rockies)

Over 11.5
-120
Under 11.5
-110

2018 Win Total: 14

Buoyed by a big second half last season, Marquez was able to rack up 14 wins to best his previous career-high of 11 set the previous season.

There shouldn’t be much change with this Rockies team, although I do believe they will get better results from a bullpen with quality arms, but one that also finished near the bottom of the league last season.

Whether the increased strikeouts and ERA marks are for real or not is too be determined, but after pitching 196 innings last season in 32 starts, Marquez is poised to take the next step and crack 200 innings in 2019. I’ll think positive and go over.

My Pick
OVER 11.5

J.A. Happ (Yankees)

Over 11.5
-120
Under 11.5
-110

2018 Win Total: 17

Happ enjoyed a real nice season split between the Blue Jays and Yankees last season, but he really turned on the jets when we was dealt to the Bronx at the trade deadline.

Happ rewarded his new club with a 7-0 record and a 2.69 ERA across just 11 starts in the second half of the season last year. He liked his new surroundings so much he signed on to remain with the Yankees for the next two seasons, and I think he can really blossom with New York despite his advanced age.

Again, the Yankees offense is going to mash and their bullpen is not going to blow many leads at all in 2019. Sign me up for the over all day here as well.

My Pick
OVER 11.5

Kyle Freeland (Rockies)

Over 11.5
-120
Under 11.5
-110

2018 Win Total: 17

Freeland exploded last season with a career-year in his his second big league season as he posted a 2.85 ERA across 33 starts and 202.1 innings for the Rockies, earning some Cy Young votes in the process, although no one was going to steal it from deGrom.

Even when Freeland posted a solid 4.10 ERA in his rookie season in 2017, he won 11 games despite making just 28 starts and pitching only 156 innings.

This Rockies offense will support their pitchers and I think Freeland can join Marquez in getting at least 12 wins in 2019.

My Pick
OVER 11.5

Cole Hamels (Cubs)

Over 11.5
+100
Under 11.5
-130

2018 Win Total: 9

Hamels’ numbers from 2018 are a little deceiving as he was largely struggling with the Rangers before heading to the Cubs and dealing.

Hamels went 4-3 but also posted a 2.36 ERA across 12 starts with his new team down the stretch last season. He deserved more wins than he received, but a lack of run support from his new offense down the stretch was the precise reason as to why he didn’t get those wins.

The Cubs offense should bounce back this season. Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras both endured down years, and I think they’ll rebound. On a winning team, Hamels should be able to hit 12 wins, so I’ll roll with the over at nice odds.

My Pick
OVER 11.5

Jon Lester (Cubs)

Over 11.5
-125
Under 11.5
-105

2018 Win Total: 18

Lester shrugged off his age and produced an excellent season in 2018 that included a 3.32 ERA and 18 wins across 32 starts and 181.2 frames.

That said, his ERA indicators were not so kind as his FIP finished at 4.39 and his xFIP at 4.43. However, he has racked up at least 13 wins in five of the last six seasons, but whether or not he can deliver again in his age 35 season is up for debate.

Can all three of Hendricks, Hamels and Lester notch at least 11 wins? Maybe. The inter-division competition is going to be fierce and with all due respect, I am going to go under the total here on a gut feeling for the Cubs’ likely opening day starter.

My Pick
OVER 11.5