If you look up the statistics of an MLB pitcher, you’re bound to find that “wins” is the first stat shown beside them, followed by losses and their earned run average.
But the importance of the stat in analytical circles is all but extinct. It was long ago replaced by ERA+, WHIP, BABIP, and FIP, among others. And they truly are more important figures now that bullpens are literally starting games and the seven and eight-inning workhorses are becoming a dying breed.
With that said, betting on what pitcher will break through to win the most games can become more interesting because some of the most dominant pitchers sometimes don’t come close.
Case and point would be Jacob deGrom last year, who had the second-lowest ERA of the decade but only won 10 measly games.
- MLB Pitcher Strikeout Over/Under Prediction
- Learn to Bet Smarter With Our Prop Betting Strategy Guide
On the other hand, Blake Snell (AL Cy Young Award winner) of the Tampa Bay Rays ended up leading the league with 21 wins last year. And he had all the other, more intricate numbers, to back up his dominant “W” figure.
But he only comes in at +2500 odds according to MyBookie, behind a group of other pitchers expected to win more. It proves wins are fickler than they used to be with pitchers not going consistently deep into games.
With that said, there are several pitchers who will have the opportunity to grab the most victories this year. Most of them are naturally on playoff contenders, are rare innings-eaters, and have several other factors and stats working in their favor.
Based on both talent and value, I’ve narrowed the long MyBookie list down to 10 intriguing names to keep an eye on. And that begins with the front-runners.
The Favorites: (+800) – (+1600)
This group consists of six pitchers, but I’ve chosen to exclude Yankees’ ace, Luis Severino. He is still listed at +800 odds but has been shut down until possibly May because of rotator cuff inflammation.
With that said, here are the other five favorites:
Corey Kluber, Cleveland Indians, +800
He’s won 18 or more games in three of the last four seasons, including leading the majors in 2017. Last year he won a personal-record 20 games, falling only one behind Snell.
He’s only one year removed from having the best WHIP and K/BB ratio in the league. His 215 innings led the AL last season, so he’ll definitely be putting in plenty of quality starts and giving himself a great chance at reaching 20 wins again.
The Indians are more than likely going to win 90 games as a minimum. He may face a lot of other tough aces, but not so much in his division. He’s showing no signs of a major downward trend yet though he’ll be 33 next month.
Chris Sale, Boston Red Sox, +800
When this guy is healthy, he’s rarely not masterful. He had 13.5 strikeouts per-nine-innings last year, so that goes to show just how filthy his stuff is.
In terms of just winning, he secured 12 W’s in just over 158 innings. That was 5.85 innings per-start, a solid number but not particularly close to a pitcher like Kluber (6.51). That could come from pitching to less contact.
But even if he doesn’t break six innings per-game, he’s still going to win a ton of games on the defending world champion Boston Red Sox. He won 17 games in each of the two years before 2018 and posted a top-notch 207 ERA+ last season, the highest he’d had in any season as a starter.
Because if he’s healthy, you can almost lock him in for 17 wins, with a chance at a few more.
Max Scherzer, Washington Nationals, +800
It’s hard to bet against a guy with three Cy Young Awards who’s led his league in wins four times.
Scherzer has been the model of consistency ever since winning his first Cy Young in 2013. He’s finished in the top-five for the award every year since switching teams (Detroit to Washington) and leagues (AL to NL) in the process.
He’s won 15 or more games in all but one season since 2011 and has hit 21 (2013) and 20 (2016). He put up a league-leading 220 2/3 innings and 300 strikeouts last year and has led the NL in WHIP the past three seasons.
For as reliable as he’s been, the Nationals haven’t exactly followed his example over the past few years. But despite their short-comings under high expectations and the loss of Bryce Harper to the division-rival Phillies, they should still win a lot of games.
And despite being 34, it doesn’t appear Scherzer is slowing down anytime soon.
Jacob deGrom, Mets, +1600
It seems crazy to put a talent like deGrom’s at twice the odds of the three pitchers in front of him.
After all, he led the league in ERA, ERA+, quality starts, and FIP, all while posting a 10 WAR season as the NL’s Cy Young.
But because the Mets only scored 3.53 runs in his starts—2nd worst in the MLB—deGrom only posted a 10-9 record. So the real concern in this wager is the Mets, not deGrom.
New York was eight games under .500 at the end of last year in a hyper-competitive division. Despite getting 2B Robinson Cano and lights-out reliever Edwin Diaz via trade, the Phillies, Braves, and Nationals all look to have equal or better playoff outlooks.
deGrom will often matchup against Scherzer and Phils’ ace Aaron Nola, both of whom could be top-five NL pitchers themselves. So it’s hard to know whether that run support will get a boost or not. Cano will certainly have to show he has something left in the tank.
As for deGrom, there’s almost no way he could repeat the numbers he had last year. Then again, it’s almost impossible for him to get such lack of run support two years on a row too.
Justin Verlander, Astros, +1600
If you could pick an AL pitcher for a big spot, it’d be hard not to say Verlander.
It’s incredible to think that the one nine-inning shutout he had last year was enough to tie for the league lead. That just goes to show you how games are pieced together and how many hurlers it takes to bridge the game from the first inning to the ninth.
Verlander once had six complete game shutouts in a year and remains a major workhorse, having crossed 200 innings 11 times. He had the Majors’ best WHIP last year and caused a lot of whiffs with an AL-leading 290 strikeouts.
Verlander hasn’t won more than 17 games since 2011. There’s only ever been two seasons where the leader had less than 18 wins and those were both strike-shortened seasons.
Verlander did, however, lead the league in 2011 and 2009 in the win department. While it’s unlikely he’d reach those heights again, he is playing on arguably the second-best team in the league. And even at 36, he just got done posting his best ERA since 2011.
So it’d be unwise to count him out.
The Contenders: (+2500) – (+4000)
There is a whole slew of pitchers within this range. A few big names you won’t see are Patrick Corbin, Carlos Carrasco (2017 co-leader), and Walker Buehler.
The only one I may lose sleep over is Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer. There are very few pitchers that are the analytical machine that that guy is. But while I think he’ll make a Cy Young run, 17 or 18 wins seem like his peak.
So here are the contenders I did add:
Blake Snell, Tampa Bay Rays, +2500
Part of this can be chalked up to lack of longevity. Another part can be considered disrespect.
This guy did win the most games last year, with an AL-best ERA (1.89) and an MLB-leading 219 ERA+. With those numbers, it’s no secret why he won the American League Cy Young.
So why is he placed so far down the list, tied for the seventh-best odds?
It could be because the Rays aren’t the Red Sox, Yankees, or Astros. But not many other teams are. And the Rays did win 90 games last year and are arguably better this year.
And it would seem Snell would only mature more as only a 26-year-old southpaw. Sure, he was dinged up for a bit and lost a couple starts in 2018. He also only threw 5.8 innings per game. But a young pitcher is going to have his innings managed like that and it didn’t matter in the end last year.
It is interesting to note how hard it is to win the most games two years in a row. Names like Roger Clemens, Jim Palmer, Catfish Hunter, and CC Sabathia have all done so, but tied fellow pitchers in whether the first year or the second.
The last pitcher to lead the MLB outright in wins two years in a row was another pretty good southpaw: hall-of-famer Sandy Koufax, in ’65-’66 for the Dodgers.
Repeating won’t be easy.
Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies, +3000
Nola wasn’t too far behind deGrom in terms of both, efficiency on the mound and lack of support from his offense.
With Bryce Harper now on board, things are looking up for the Philadelphia offense.
Nola still managed to win 17 games last year, pumping out a sub 1.000 WHIP and a stellar 2.37 ERA. He’s still only 25 and has shown he can handle the heavy innings after last season.
All the major projections on FanGraphs have Nola finishing two or three wins from the top. That doesn’t leave much wiggle room for a guy that’s way back at +3000.
There’s no big track record with him but he also hasn’t had his best year yet.
Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros, +3000
This is a very sneaky pick. Cole may have only won 15 games last year, but his 12.4 K’s per-nine was by far his best.
Posting his second-best ERA and the top WHIP of his career, Cole is an obvious candidate for most wins. That’s because he not only plays for Houston but also isn’t going to be relied upon to be the ace with Verlander in that spot.
This is a guy who throws 6.25 innings per-outing and is doing so with a much-improved K/BB ratio. It’s also a contract year for him, and there are a lot of pitchers, players, and athletes in general who seem to put up their best stats when they’re due for a new deal.
If Cole improves upon his 2.88 ERA any more, there’s a reason to believe he could make a real run at this. After all, he got the 10th-best run support in baseball last year during his starts.
David Price, Boston Red Sox, +4000
I don’t expect this guy to win another Cy Young Award or post any low-2.00 ERAs. But he won 16 games last year without much fanfare at all.
Price has led the AL in wins before with 20 and has at least 15 in four of his last five healthy seasons. He fell back to only 5.86 innings a start and had an ERA creeping over 3.50. But there’s no doubt he still has a lot of life on his heater and a powerful offense behind him.
Last year was the most stable out of the three he’s had in Boston. He just now seems settled into this rotation and won’t have to face as many aces as fellow lefty Chris Sale. And Boston’s a team that could easily win another 100 games.
With the bullpen losing Craig Kimbrel, it’s hard to know if wins are as sure of a thing as they were going into the 9th inning. And Price’s lack of innings in 2019 could also prove to be a slight problem.
The Longshot: Beyond +4000
There were plenty of pitchers to consider but only one way back in the crowd that stuck out like a sore thumb to me:
Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals, +10000
Yes, the resurgence of Miles Mikolas in St. Louis was a little bonkers.
This was a pitcher who sparingly pitched in relief for San Diego and then fell flat in a few spot-starts for Texas. Four years after that, he was winning 18 games, making the All-Star team, and giving up the least number of walks-per-nine-innings of any eligible starter.
Sure, he also gave up an NL-leading 186 hits. But Mikolas was easily one of the best stories in baseball. It just seems he would fall back to the earth in 2019 or at least not possess a sub-3.00 ERA.
And now the Cards not only got better at the plate with Paul Goldschmidt hitting in the middle of their order. They also got a gold glove-type at first base by trading for Goldy. With St. Louis’ offseason additions, Mikolas should be playing for a playoff-bound club in 2019.
And FanGraphs surprisingly still has him winning 16 games. That may not seem like much. But the two pitchers they have projected to win the most games—Corey Kluber and Max Scherzer, are predicted to win 17.
That’s not any room for error with a guy who is at +10000 and two pitchers at +800.
Who to Bet On
$10 on Mikolas could reap $1,000 in profit on the longshot. It’s worth taking with a guy who has completely recreated himself out on the mound.
He’ll never be the strikeout king, but he’ll do well pitching to contact in St. Louis.
As for the most likely pitcher to win, that title goes to Kluber.
His stuff is as good as Scherzer’s, with far fewer scary opponents in his division. He might not be as dirty as Sale but will go deeper in games. Snell is a worthy adversary as well, but the history of defending wins-leaders isn’t on his side.
Kluber does get a lot of run support but doesn’t really need it with his ERA the way it is. But it’s nice knowing that for him the Indians score the 5th-most runs given to any SP.
There’s very little concern of him having a long-term injury (knock on wood). Kluber has averaged 18.67 wins over the last three seasons and isn’t going to be foiled ever by a lack of command.