MLB Handicapping: Value Can be Found Early in Season
by Trevor Whenham - 04/01/2009
Though some places still have snow on the ground, baseball's opening day is almost here. For bettors who approach it carefully, that can mean real profits. Between the Final Four, the race to the playoffs in the NBA and the NHL, and all the drama in the NFL, a lot of people aren't really thinking about baseball yet. That means that there is value to be found and money to be made. Only, though, if you approach it properly and avoid some costly pitfalls. Here's a look at some tips to get you ready for the first couple of weeks of the season:
Take it easy - Teams don't win or lose the pennant in April, and you should not look to make or break your bankroll then, either. Baseball is a very long season and there are plenty of opportunities to get some action. Moderation is key throughout the season, but especially in the spring when anything can happen and we still don't have a good sense of what teams really have to offer and how players are going to perform. Bet when you have an edge, but make sure that you actually have that edge before you throw your money down. If you don't have a good edge now then wait until you do later. There would be nothing worse than finding yourself without a bankroll in May.
Stick to a plan - This is true throughout the season, but especially early on. Games are more unpredictable now than ever, so if you just randomly throw your money around then you are likely to lose it. Determine in advance what kind of situations you are looking for and what kind of an edge you want, and only make a play if you find it. You may be able to deviate from those plans later in the season when you find good spot plays, but if you do it in April then you are just gambling. That never pays off in the long run.
Ignore the spring - As a general rule, what happens in spring training doesn't carry over to the regular season. Teams play against rosters of mixed talent in a relaxed setting, different players play every day, and the stars of the teams rarely pay a whole game. Players that are red hot in the spring can struggle against major league pitching in big parks. Teams that were unbeatable in the spring can fall back to earth. Veterans that could care less about yet another spring can flick a switch and start to play like they can. The safest way for a bettor to deal with spring training is to pretend that it never happened.
Who is on a roll? - Think back to last season, or any other season before that. Each year you have seen the teams that have got off to a hot start, and you have seen the teams that have struggled out of the gate. Baseball is a game of streaks at the best of times, but for some reason teams seem to be especially streaky early in the season. Playing with those streaks is a much better idea than playing against them.
Remember, it's April - April in Arizona, Florida, or California is pretty much the most perfect climate possible. April in Chicago, New York, or Philadelphia can be incredibly nasty. Weather can be a factor in April more than in any other month of the regular season, so make sure that you are paying attention to what the forecast is, and what impact that might have on teams. Weather can give pitchers problems, or give them a real advantage. It can also make life very difficult for hitters, and make it harder to score runs. The weatherman can be your friend in the search for profit at this time of year.
Look for the bigger payoff - Betting the underdog is never a bad idea in baseball, but it's especially worthwhile in April. People don't really have a good sense of teams yet based on their actual play. That means they make assumptions based on what is on paper and what people are saying. That leads them to tend to undervalue lesser teams and overcompensate for good teams. That, in turn, means that the value tends to be with the underdogs more often than not. Make sure you have a good reason to back a favorite, and give the dogs and extra look.
Take a deep breath - At this time of year, you can find someone who believes that any team is going to win it all. Media reports say that every rookie is going to win the Rookie of the Year Award, and that every veteran is poised for a career year. Baseball is a sport for optimists, but being overly optimistic can be very costly for bettors. Instead of getting carried away by the hype that surrounds teams and players, let their actual performance speak for itself. That way you are betting on what a team actually is instead of what they could be, and you stand a much better chance of winning.
Keep an eye on the mound - It generally takes pitchers longer to settle into their routines and their games than it does for other players. As a result, it is quite common to see very good pitchers start off with a rough game or two. The betting public generally won't be as aware of this as they should be, so you will often see marquee names with big prices that don't at all reflect their current form. Being aware of this can help you to scoop some serious payoffs before the pitcher's performance starts to live up to his reputation again. By looking back at the game logs of top pitchers you can spot some guys who generally don't bolt from the gate.