The pitcher is often the biggest reason why bettors bet on or against a team in baseball. That means that having an opinion or perception of a player that isn’t accurate can be very costly. That’s a problem that public bettors often face because they don’t adjust their opinions to reality very quickly. Heading into every season, it’s a good exercise to look at the pitchers that could be surprisingly good, and those that may not be able to meet massive expectations.
Here are four pitchers facing high hopes that could fail to meet bettor expectations:
There is tremendous pressure for the Angels to contend this year given the expensive addition of Josh Hamilton to an already stacked — and very expensive — roster. I can’t completely get behind the team, though, and a lack of faith in Weaver is a big part of the reason. He’s a very good pitcher — there is no doubt about that. His strikeouts-per-nine-innings has fallen significantly over the last three years, though — from 9.35 in 2010 all the way to 6.77 last year. By itself that’s not a cause for concern, but the downward trend combined with the increased tendency to give up hard line drives makes me uneasy. The AL West is tough this year, too. Texas is challenging for opposing pitchers even without Hamilton. The Mariners have significantly upgraded their bats. The A’s are coming off a playoff year and will be dangerous. Only the Astros are a pushover. I am not suggesting that Weaver is going to be a total disaster this year — he’s too good for that. In the minds of a lot of people he is a 20-game winner, though, and I just don’t think he’ll be close to that this year.
I really, really don’t like the deal that the Dodgers made for Greinke. That’s consistent, at least — I don’t like anything the new ownership group has done starting with dramatically overpaying for the team. Greinke is a massive talent, and his stats are strong. He has yet to put together a full year -- aside from his Cy Young year -- that matches his potential. He’s not a bad pitcher by any means — he never recorded a loss while playing in Miller Park for the Brewers. I just don’t think he’s as good as his massive contract suggests. That sets up massive pressure for him on a team that showed last year that they don’t exactly have the healthiest, most supportive culture. I also can’t help but be a little concerned about Greinke’s mindset once it is subjected to the ridiculous pressure of playing for this team under the expectations they face. There is a chance Greinke could win the 20 games he is being paid for. There is a pretty good chance, though, that he could only make it halfway there.
This one isn’t tough to figure out. Sabathia has been one of the best pitchers in baseball the last several years. He’s on a team that is going to be far from where they have been recently, though, and which has a chance to be pretty underwhelming. That means he isn’t going to get as much support as he has been used to. Beyond that, Sabathia is 32 years old, and he is hardly the model of physical fitness. He is coming off of minor elbow surgery in the offseason, and there is a good chance that his aging body isn’t going to be able to hold up for a whole season. Sabathia, like the rest of his team, is positioned to disappoint this year.
Dickey’s season last year was one of the best stories in a long time — a true Disney storyline. There is a decent chance that he can come close to replicating it — it’s not like his knuckleball is tough on his body. There are reasons for concern, though. His season last year was so special in part because it came from nowhere. It’s hard to have a lot of faith in a repeat when it was so unexpected in the first place. He also has to get used to a new team and a new league. Despite how easy the knuckleball is on him, he is still 38 years old, so age has to be a concern. He has spent his career out of the spotlight entirely, but now he is a big, highly-paid star on a team facing massive expectations. We don’t know how that could affect him because it is so new to him. Not that it matters that much, but he has not looked great in the World Baseball Classic, either. Add it all together, and there is definitely a chance that Dickey could be a letdown.