MLB Handicapping Tips: Do's and Don'ts of First Month Betting
by Aaron Smith - 3/28/2012
Spring Training is winding down and Opening Day is just around the corner. Oakland and Seattle started the regular season in Japan this morning, but the majority of teams start on either April 4 or April 5. America’s favorite pastime might not be as popular as it once was, but there is still something about Opening Day that really grabs your attention.
As a sports bettor, are you ready for the baseball season? This is a busy time of the year with March Madness finishing the same week that baseball gets started. In addition, the NBA Playoff race is really heating up as the calendar turns to April.
Doc’s Sports is all about helping you get the edge on the oddsmakers, which is precisely why this first month article is being written. Betting on baseball in the first month of the season isn’t the same as betting during the middle of the season. Special situations present themselves in the first month, and the wise bettor will take advantage of these spots. Let’s take a look at a few ways to get a leg up on the books in the first month of the season.
Do Handicap the Bullpens Thoroughly
Over the past few years, I’ve heard hundreds of MLB handicappers curse bullpens early in the Major League Baseball season. Many bettors don’t pay enough attention to handicapping each team’s bullpen. Remember, this is a group that is going to pitch three or four innings per game on average.
In 2011 the Braves had the best bullpen in baseball with an ERA of 3.03. Minnesota had the worst bullpen ERA in baseball at 4.51. Houston’s bullpen had an ERA of 4.49. The Astros bullpen blew 25 save opportunities, which is just as many as they converted. On the other end of the spectrum, the Phillies bullpen finished the season with 47 saves and just eight blown saves.
Don’t Put Too Much Emphasis on Starting Pitching
It’s easy to look at the starting pitchers in a game and want to lay a big wager on a particular pitcher. However, putting too much emphasis on starting pitching can be very dangerous. This is a different era where pitch counts are closely watched and starters rarely last more than five or six innings. Most pitchers are on even more strict pitch counts early in the season.
The oddsmakers know that most amateur bettors place too much emphasis on starting pitching, and they can even shade the lines toward popular pitchers. Remember, the game is nine innings long. Starting pitching is only one of the many aspects of handicapping a baseball matchup.
Do Know Who is Behind Home Plate
There are few people who can change the game of baseball the way a home plate umpire can. Statistics show that some umpires have a much bigger strike zone than others, and that should definitely change the way you look at a wager. Umpires generally rotate from first base to home plate. While the effect of the rest of the umpires may be minimal, the home plate umpire is critical to the outcome of your baseball wager.
Don’t Forget to Check the Weather Forecast
Early in the season, weather changes the game even more than it does later in the summer months. Wind is a critical factor to check since it can affect the flight of the baseball in such a big way. Also, if rain is in the area I recommend being cautious about making a large wager on a game since delays can change pitching plans. Check the roof status at Chase Field in the early season. The low humidity and heat is conducive to plenty of long balls when the roof is open.
Do Exploit Public Perception
Early season baseball betting is where experienced bettors who have done their homework can really do some major damage. Public perception drives lines in April, and going against the favorite public teams during this period can be a very profitable strategy. The public loves to wager on teams such as the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies. Oddsmakers know this and lines are shaded even more than they should be toward these powerful teams.
Media darlings get a lot of attention in early April, while the underdog stories tend to be doubted early in the season. For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks were doubted all of last season, but bettors who wagered the Diamomdbacks moneyline every game finished +2,880 on them in 2011. Boston Red Sox moneyline bettors finished the year -1,267. The Red Sox were a very good team, but public perception made them a good team to wager against.
Don’t Be Afraid to Jump in Early
Be ready to jump in and profit right away early in the baseball season. Keep in mind that the oddsmakers are focused on the NCAA Tournament through all of March. The NBA Playoff race receives a lot of attention as well. This means every year the MLB market is most inefficient during the first month of the season. Later in the year when the MLB is the only game in town the oddsmakers will pay far more attention to the MLB odds.
Those who do their homework and pick their spots wisely often find that the first month of the season is among the best months of the year to bet on baseball. Look for spots to go against the public and media darlings. Keep in mind that public perception is often not the reality of the situation. Be ready to take advantage of soft lines right from the start of the season!
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