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Baseball's Young Guns

   by Scott Spreitzer - 04/26/2005

A large part of sports wagering is searching for value. Oddsmakers can put up a bad number, other times non-public teams can be undervalued, or series prices can be over-inflated (like the Lakers getting bet up to minus-900 last year in the NBA Finals). With the baseball season a month old, let’s take a look at some young starting pitchers who have been undervalued thus far.

JOE BLANTON: Marc Mulder and Tim Hudson were Oakland star pitchers the last few years. So who is Joe Blanton? Front row Joe is the young starter they like so much it allowed them to deal Mulder and Hudson. He’s 0-2 on the season, but records don’t tell a lot about a pitcher. He has a 1.75 ERA allowing 18 hits and 6 walks in 25 innings. In short, this kid is polished and the real deal. Forget about that record – with that stuff, he’ll be winning far more than losing by season’s end.

GUSTAVE CHACIN: The Blue Jays have this young lefty, age 24, who is not overpowering. He has a mid-80’s fastball and excellent control. He also knows how to pitch, with a 3-1 record, and a 2.52 ERA. You don’t have to own an overpowering fastball to be a winning baseball pitcher (such as Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Bob Knepper, Mike Cuellar, Bill Lee). Take notice when he faces lineups that feature lefties, as Chacin holds lefties to a .185 batting average and a .179 on-base percentage.

JON GARLAND: The White Sox have been high on this guy for several years, though it was often difficult to see why with an ERA well over four the last three seasons. Until now. The 25-year old righty is 4-0 in four starts with a 1.80 ERA. He’s allowed 26 total base runners in 30 innings and has been a workhorse, averaging over 7 innings per start.

CHRIS YOUNG: This young pitcher isn’t quite there yet, with a 5.79 ERA. However, he’s an interesting player to keep an eye on. Young is 6-foot-10, and no dummy, playing basketball at Princeton and getting an offer to play in the NBA for the Kings. His height can make his stuff on the mound better, with difficult looks and angles. He has 18 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings this season and a 5-3 career won/lost mark. He beat the Yankees last week, allowing one run in 5 innings with 7 Ks. He might not have a great ERA as Texas is a lousy pitcher’s park, but the offense hitting in front of him should score a lot of runs.

JOE MAYS: He’s not young, at 29, but he’s worth keeping an eye on. He’s been in and out of the majors for much of the last three seasons with arm trouble. When he was healthy back in 2001, he went 17-13 with a 3.16 ERA. He’s never been an overpowering pitcher but has a marvelous change up he can throw in any count, similar to Greg Maddux. Mays appears healthy this season with a 3.21 ERA in 14 innings as opponents are hitting .245 off him. Minnesota is just 1-2 in this three starts, but that’s deceptive as Mays has allowed 1, 3 and 1 run in those games.

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