After highlighting our favorite bets to lead the major leagues in home runs in 2019, we're flipping the script and giving the pitchers some love.
The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook recently rolled out odds on who will lead the league in pitching wins, with other shops likely to follow suit soon.
Even with all the advanced metrics and predictive stats at our disposal, projecting pitcher wins is tough (see: Jacob deGrom, 2018).
Do you favor pitchers on contending teams (Boston Red Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, etc.) who can pile up wins easier? Or should you select a front-line ace on a sub-.500 team (Zack Greinke, Michael Fulmer, etc.), hoping he accounts for the majority of his club's wins?
Using linear regression, FanGraphs' Jeff Zimmerman found that a team's winning percentage is a greater factor than talent when it comes to pitching wins. The most recent seven hurlers to lead MLB in victories were on teams that won an average of 94.2 games, which makes it best to start with the contenders and go from there.
Here are our three favorite bets for 2019.
Justin Verlander's wizardry from the 2017 postseason bled into his first full campaign with the Houston Astros. He posted 16 wins while recording career single-season bests in strikeouts (290) and WHIP (0.902) to finish second in AL Cy Young voting.
There were wins left on the table, however, as four of Verlander's nine losses came while giving up three earned runs or fewer. He only received 4.4 runs of support per start from an Astros offense that averaged 4.9 per game in 2018. Fellow starters Dallas Keuchel, Gerrit Cole, and Charlie Morton were aided by 4.9 runs in their starts.
The metrics still love Verlander as he heads into his age-35 season. FanGraphs' Steamer projections forecast the ace as a 15-win pitcher with a 3.37 ERA. The veteran should be in contention if he can get more run support from a team that's billed to win 96 games.
Cleveland Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer is slowly evolving into one of the league's nastiest pitchers. He finished the 2018 season with a 5.8 WAR, 2.21 ERA, 11.3 K/9, and 4.2 adjusted pitcher wins, all while allowing only nine homers over 175.1 innings.
A 12-6 record could have been even better, as all six losses came with Bauer allowing three or fewer earned runs. Though his run support per game (4.9) was only marginally worse than the Tribe's average (5.0), it was well behind the support Carlos Carrasco (6.5) and Corey Kluber (6.7) benefited from.
The Indians should pad the win column again in 2019 and beat up on a weak AL Central, making Bauer a strong pitching wins leader bet.
Stephen Strasburg is tough to ignore at this price, especially with the Nationals likely to win close to 90 games this season.
Following back-to-back 15-win campaigns, Strasburg's HR/9 and ERA increased in 2018 en route to a 10-7 finish over 22 starts. He might not be as appealing as in recent seasons, but Strasburg will still be playing for a team favored to win the cutthroat NL East in 2019.
At this number, he deserves another look if you're craving a long shot.
Alex Kolodziej is theScore's betting writer. He's a graduate of Eastern Illinois who has been involved in the sports betting industry for 11 years. He can quote every line from "Rounders" and appreciates franchises that regularly wear alternate jerseys. Find him on Twitter @AlexKoIodziej.