MLB Playoff Traps to Avoid
by Trevor Whenham - 10/01/2008
With the MLB playoffs underway it's very tempting for bettors to throw some action at the bases whether you normally bet baseball or not. The baseball playoffs are brilliantly compelling, so they can be hard to resist. There's nothing wrong with that. Actually, there is a lot right with betting on playoff baseball. If you are going to, though, you want to be sure to avoid a few costly traps that can make your bankroll disappear. Here are five of those traps:
Falling for the nice story - The media loves to tell the interesting stories, and the public eats them up. It's great to hear about a team that came from nowhere to win their division, or one that made a strong push in September to make it, or one that overcame key injuries or other hardships to get there. There's nothing wrong with those stories - I'm a sucker for them, too. The problem, though, is when you let those stories influence your handicapping decisions. It's not that those teams I'm talking about aren't going to win. They stand as much of a chance as anyone. It's just that the public is going to be all over these stories, too, so those teams are probably going to be value-impaired. If you are going to bet them, then, you need to make sure that you are doing so because of sound handicapping, and not because your heart strings have been tugged.
Blindly loving the favorite - As in all series in any sport, the favorites are usually favorites for a reason. That doesn't mean that they are a lock to win, though. Practically every year there is a series or more that is won by the team that is given little chance when it starts. It can be very costly, therefore, to blindly follow the favorites. The favorites often have unattractive prices attached to them, and they probably won't pay off often enough to make a profit. There's a reason why this is particularly problematic in the playoffs - the public are watching, and they love the favorites. More dumb money than normal is on the favorites, so the prices are inflated. That doesn't mean you should always bet the underdogs, but you need to make sure that you are backing the favorites for a good reason.
Giving the managers too much credit - Too often you will hear an 'expert' say that one team has a huge edge because of their manager. Some managers certainly have a longer record of success in the playoffs than others, but there is one key thing you have to remember - all of these guys were good enough to get their teams to the playoffs. It's very hard to make the playoffs, so any guy who has his team there is a good manager. There may be a difference between the managers in a series, but it isn't going to be a very big one, and the public is almost certainly going to overestimate it. The managers should obviously be part of your handicapping, but don't make them too big of a part.
Ignoring the pitching matchups - People can get so tied up in thinking about which team is going to win a series that they forget that a series is really just a number of individual games played in a row. Like in any other game you still have to look at who is pitching, how he has pitched in recent games, how he matches up against opposing batters and the ballpark, and all of those other things that you would normally do. It doesn't matter how much better a team is than their opponent, or how much momentum they have, or how much more likely they are to win the series - if they don't have the better pitching on any given day they probably won't win that game.
Thinking too much - Something about the playoffs makes people put way more thought into handicapping decisions than is probably warranted. People insist on going beyond the normal things you would worry about in a game - the batters, pitchers, ballpark, etc. - and worry about streaks, motivation, history, desire, hunger and so on. It's not that none of that stuff is important - indeed, any part of it can be the key to a win in a series. It's just that bettors can drive themselves crazy trying to figure out what matters and what doesn't, and ultimately can be so confused that they couldn't make a sound decision if their lives depended upon it. Do yourself a favor when betting on the playoffs this year - think less, and enjoy more.