MLB Playoffs Betting Preview
by Trevor Whenham - 10/03/2007
We're heading into the playoffs in baseball, an it's time to get ready for some postseason MLB betting. I find the playoffs challenging, at least compared to the heart of the regular season, because you are dealing with reasonably well-matched teams trying their best to win every night. There's no, or at least very little, way to exploit in the way of mismatches or motivation problems, or games that the public is ignoring. That means that the playoffs require a different way of thinking, and a different approach to handicapping baseball winners. Here are 10 questions I will be looking to answer as I decide where the betting opportunities are:
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1. Which team can maintain their emotional high? The Rockies and the Phillies are both coming into the playoffs on ridiculous highs. The Rockies have lost once in more than two weeks, and the Phillies closed from seven games back in three weeks. Both teams are flying high. Is one team going to come crashing down and lose this series? Both teams can't maintain their momentum.
2. Can the Yankees starters hold up? Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera are as deadly a duo as there is in the league. If the team can get them the ball in the seventh or eighth inning with a lead then it should be over for Cleveland. That could be a challenge. Can we trust Mike Mussina? Is Roger Clemens healthy enough to step up?
3. Can the Diamondbacks keep the Cubs in the park? Chicago hit virtually every pitch they saw in September out of the park. If they keep their hot bats swinging then Arizona doesn't have the firepower to keep up. Brandon Webb has been very stingy with the long ball, and rookie Micah Owings has had his moments.
4. Is Dice-K okay? Daisuke Matsuzaka definitely ran out of gas down the stretch. He's not used to the length of the season or the quality of the opposition. That could be a problem for Boston (He's scheduled to start games two and five against the Angels). There are three reasons to think he might be ready to overcome his problems, though - his last start was excellent, he's very strong with six or more days rest and he will have a week off between starts, and he has never faced the Angels so his unique stuff will be a bit of a surprise.
5. Why does no one like the Indians? Cleveland tied with Boston for the best record in the major leagues, yet they are at +169 in their series against the Yankees. Obviously, a portion of the Yankees' price is because they are the ultimate public team. If you look at the Yankees odds to win the World Series, they have skewed odds every single year because the bookies know the public will bet them relentlessly. On the other hand, New York swept their season series with the Indians. Does this price represent some real value for the AL Central champs, or do the Yanks deserve to be heavy favorites?
6. Which Carlos Zambrano will show up? The Cubs ace has won four of his last five starts. Before that, though, he lost five in a row. That off-and-on performance has been typical of big parts of the year. He starts the series against Arizona ace Brandon Webb. How Zambrano performs will have a bit impact on the outcome of the game and the series.
7. Will A-Rod show up? I would like to think that this question doesn't need to be asked, but Alex Rodriguez has been so bad in the playoffs over his career that it can't be avoided. Rodriguez has had a truly phenomenal year, and he has been the motor that has driven his team. If he is not as his best then the Indians have a much easier task to accomplish.
8. How about Alfonso Soriano? The Cubs slugger had an unbelievable September. It's no exaggeration to say that the Cubs will rise or fall in the playoffs based on his bat. That's a bit concerning given that Soriano has a career .233 playoff batting average. It has been a long time since he was in the playoffs, though, and he's discovered some maturity since then.
9. Is Cole Hamels ready for the big time? The Philadelphia youngster has been impressive this year, but he's never been relied upon like he will be in this series. The ace will be starting the first game of the series, and the fifth if it is needed. He's given us no real reason to doubt that he'll be fine, but we also have no way of knowing for sure that he'll throw like an ace.
10. Is Matt Holliday okay? That was one heck of an impact between his face and the dirt at the end of the game on Monday. Lingering effects of that injury could be disastrous for his team. He's had a phenomenal year, and you only had to watch the 13th inning to realize how important he is to his team. I'm sure he'll play, but if his head is a little fuzzy then the Phillies have an extra edge.