With the second half of the Major League Baseball season on the horizon, it's time for bettors to throw everything they learned from the first half out the window - particularly where starting pitcher value returns are concerned.
Pitchers who returned positive value prior to the All-Star break are by no means guaranteed to do the same moving forward. And the same goes for hurlers who were saddled with negative value.
Here are three pitchers who had big first-half returns but could be headed for a fall in the second half, along with three who struggled prior to the break but for whom better days are ahead:
On the way down
Jason Vargas, Kansas City Royals
Money earned: $1,084 (If you bet $100 on each of his starts so far this season)
Vargas was the second-most valuable starting pitcher in the majors over the first half of the 2017 season, behind only Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Clayton Kershaw. Vargas surprised just about everyone in the league, going 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA for a Royals team that has had trouble producing much offense so far.
That said, the veteran right-hander's supporting stats are cause for great concern heading into the second half. Most significantly, he posted a 3.79 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) and a 4.77 xFIP over his first 17 starts, suggesting that major regression is coming. Vargas's 6.60 K/9 rate also doesn't instill much confidence that he'll be able to continue his incredible run into the second half.
Zach Davies, Milwaukee Brewers
Money earned: $787
Milwaukee fans have to be elated over how their team performed in the first half, as they enter the resumption of the regular season with a 5.5-game lead over the defending champion Chicago Cubs in the surprisingly docile National League Central. A big part of that success is due to a potent offensive attack that ranks fourth in the majors in slugging percentage (.451).
Davies has been the biggest beneficiary of all that run scoring. The Brewers are 12-6 in his 18 starts to date despite Davies sporting an unsightly 4.90 ERA on the season. Milwaukee is scoring an average of six runs per game in his outings, the third-best run support in the majors. Don't expect the good times to continue into the second half. At least, not to that extent.
Antonio Senzatela, Colorado Rockies
Money earned: $536
Senzatela lit the baseball world on fire in the early going, posting quality starts in five of his first seven outings while earning bettors mad bank over that stretch. But he struggled mightily from mid-May forward, to the point where the Rockies were forced to stick him in the bullpen before sending him to the minors prior to the All-Star Break.
Senzatela had a lot going for him early on, but bettors shouldn't expect those trends to continue. He has received the second-most run support of any qualified starter (6.87 runs per game), and has allowed eight home runs over his previous four starts. Unless he can recapture some of his early-season magic, Senzatela is in for some big second-half losses.
On the way up
Yu Darvish, Texas Rangers
Money earned: -$642
This might be one of the most baffling developments of the first half of the season, at least from a betting perspective. Darvish is a good pitcher on a team that has had no trouble producing offense in the past. So how is it that the Rangers went just 8-11 in his 19 first-half starts, resulting in Darvish being the ninth-worst play among qualified starters?
Primarily, the issue was run support. Darvish ranks 70th among 74 qualified pitchers with just 3.47 runs per game. The Texas lineup is simply too potent to continue to struggle in Darvish's starts. And if he does wind up getting traded, it will be to a contender, which will increase his chances of getting enough run support to prevail. Darvish could be the top value play of the second half.
Madison Bumgarner, San Francisco Giants
Money earned: -$634
It took Bumgarner just four starts to wind up among the league's worst betting options, landing on the disabled list with a shoulder injury that has kept him out of the lineup since mid-April. Bumgarner was pitching well prior to the injury, but you aren't going to win many games when your offense scores an average of 1.75 runs in your four starts.
While there's no guarantee Bumgarner is in for a major offensive boost when he returns to the rotation this weekend, he's simply too talented to return negative value the rest of the way. The limitations of the lineup will cap his earnings ceiling, but Bumgarner is a threat to throw a gem every time out. He should see positive results in the second half.
Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals
Money earned: -$478
The break couldn't have come at a better time for Martinez, who surrendered five runs in back-to-back losses to the New York Mets and Washington Nationals in his last two first-half starts. It's an uncharacteristically rough stretch for a pitcher who ranks in the Top 10 league wide in strikeouts but has just six victories entering the second half.
Run support has been an issue. Martinez is getting just 3.94 runs per game so far and his FIP and xFIP are close enough to his actual ERA that he should be able to sustain his first-half productivity moving forward. The Cardinals might be inclined to buy at the trade deadline and if that's the case, Martinez could see a major boost in support.