MLB Spring Training Betting Tips and Advice
by Trevor Whenham - 2/25/2014
Spring Training — the best of betting times, and the worst of betting times. Betting on Spring Training is certainly much different than the regular season, and the large majority of games are worthless from a betting perspective. However, with patience and focus you can find some very nice value. The key is to separate the treasures from the garbage. Here is my tips and advice for six factors to consider when looking for value in Spring Training betting:
What’s the pitching situation?: You can’t deal with pitchers in the spring like you would in the regular season. When games actually count, you typically expect the starter to go for as long as he can, then you can reasonably predict who the manager will use next given different scenarios. In the spring, though, managers typically make pitching decisions for reasons other than what happens in the game. Spring isn’t about winning games, but it is about getting ready for the regular season. That means that managers will usually map out their pitching plan before the game, and they will often stick to it. Pitchers will frequently not pitch for long, and it’s common to see four or five pitchers in a game. By doing a little sleuthing you can find the pitching plan in advance — typically in the team’s local paper or fan websites. This can actually be a real asset for bettors — less uncertainty about pitching means more knowledge, and knowledge is a bettor’s best friend.
Will starters play long?: Different teams have different philosophies about how long and how often expected regular-season starters will play. Sometimes all starters will play in the same game, and they will play a good portion of the game. Other teams will play some starters some games and other starters other games. Again, you can get a sense of what is likely to happen, and what a team’s tendencies are, from searching around online. If one team is going to be using a much more experienced lineup than the other then there could be a betting opportunity.
Beware the split squad: The Cactus League and Grapefruit League each have 15 teams. Each team likes to play every day, so that means that there has to be at least one split squad playing every day in each state — and often more. Betting on split squads can be a good thing or a bad one depending on the situation. What is important, though, is that bettors are aware of when a split squad is playing, — they are clearly marked on the schedule — who will be playing on each split squad, and what betting opportunities it could create.
Does the manager have tendencies?: There are some managers who believe that the best way to get a team ready to win during the season is by winning in the spring. Their teams try hard right from the outset, and they can be trusted for consistent effort. There are other managers who don’t care at all about the scoreboard in the spring. Their focus is only on getting their team ready for the regular season — determining the roster, getting new players familiar with systems, and getting into game shape. Managers tend to be consistent over the years in their approach, so you can learn a lot about what to expect now from what you have seen in the past. There isn’t one approach that is better than the other, so by paying attention to what the tendencies are you can often find opportunities — to bet on or against a team depending upon the situation.
Is weather a factor?: The simple answer here is almost certainly “no”. In Arizona the weather is all but perfect every day, and rain is quite rare. In Florida the weather is a bit less stable, but it’s still fairly good. During the regular season watching the weather closely can provide some real betting opportunities, but in the spring it’s just not worth investing time in that pursuit. You also don’t need to worry about travel concerns or tired teams. The stadiums in Arizona are all within an hour of each other. The trips are longer in Florida but still very manageable. Teams play every day for a month, but rosters are so deep that no one is played enough for fatigue to be a useful factor. Location isn’t going to help you out, either. Save those handicapping factors until after the regular season gets going, and focus on other things instead in the spring.
Is the value real?: During the regular season you may content yourself with a game in which the value is tight. While that might work in May, it won’t work in March. There are so many unknown factors to deal with, and so many unknowns — rosters, rust, motivation and so on — that the value has to be very significant to justify the risk involved in making the bet. That means that spring is a time to be extremely choosy and to accept that the best bet will most often be no bet at all. If you have an itchy trigger finger and need lots of action to stay happy then you should probably just pass on spring all together and wait until the regular season.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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