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MLB 3 True Outcomes

MLB has a verbiage all its own. It includes acronyms not many people can remember what they mean, let alone know how to calculate. Plus, it seems new ones are added often. Today, let us discuss 3 True Outcomes. First the definition:

The “three true outcomes” in baseball are said to be a home run, a walk, or a strikeout since none of the three, with the rare exception of an inside-the-park home run or a strikeout with a dropped third strike, involve the defense beyond the pitcher or the catcher.

Why does it get a write up? Well, it is particularly important in understanding MLB today. It correlates with a sabermetric stat called FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching). We need to understand exactly what a pitcher is trying to do to then, understand how a hitter is trying to combat him. The FIP definition is:

FIP takes a pitcher’s strikeouts, walks, and home runs allowed and translates them into a number scaled to ERA. Think of it as what the pitcher’s ERA should be if the defense behind him turned batted balls into outs at a major-league average rate.

FIP measure exactly the 3 True Outcomes. xFIP is a predictive stat estimating the pitcher’s future FIP based on his current pitching data. It is a great tool for looking at upcoming games. HINT! It normalizes a pitcher’s homerun rate based on his flyball percentage vs actual homeruns hit.

Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP)

3 True Outcomes are important because of the consistent claims of MLB being boring. In many ways it is. However, you could look at his and gauge how dominant a pitcher is or was which is where we are going with this. Let us say we have the DET Tigers who struck out 27.3% (most in MLB) and BB% 7.1% (which also was worst) and they are facing CLE SP Shane Bieber. Bieber had a FIP of 2.07 and a K/9 of 14.20! We can very clearly see there is a huge mismatch for CLE on the pitching side. Not only is it the worst possible spot for DET, but it could lead to an Under play. Well, on 8/15/2020 this matchup happened. CLE and Bieber were -180 @ DET against DET SP Turnbull. The final score was 3-1 CLE. As the -180 is a line too high we will not likely bet into, the Under 7.5 was a line with value. We would not have or should not have expected DET to provide much offense against Bieber which creates a lean to Under. Once analyzing CLE as the 25th worst scoring offense, we should have concluded at least to a degree, scoring was not going to come easy.

It is important not only to understand where the better team is but to predict the outcomes of games, we need to know how dominant the pitchers are going to be. The more a pitcher controls and limits base runners, the fewer scoring opportunities the offense has. If both pitchers excel, or like the previous example, one pitcher has dominance and his offense doesn’t score, then we can clearly lean with a totals play. Of course, the data could easily lead us to Over as well too. We need to read what the game is telling us then make logical assumptions of how the flow will go. Game Flow is an important part of handicapping. We need to have a pretty good gauge of how the game will play out. Game Flow is a topic for later times as it is very complicated with details and nuances of the game.

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