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Baseball Betting: Reverse Psychology

   by Bryan Leonard - 05/16/2007

One thing about examining starting pitchers in baseball is that sometimes the angle is not WHICH pitcher to back, but which one to WAGER AGAINST! You might call this reverse psychology. All time you hear about great pitching match-ups, but what about bad pitching duels? They can be just as interesting - and profitable.

I used this betting strategy last weekend, when the Indians traveled out to Oakland. I analyzed the contest by noting, “Oakland returns home after a long East coast swing. Last Sunday I went against a rookie pitcher stepping up to the big leagues and cashed as the Giants brought up a kid starter. Now Oakland brings up rookie lefty Dallas Braden for this game. Braden has made two career starts for Oakland and has a 5.23 ERA, but this is his first major league action in 2007.

He gets a tough test here as the Indians offense is crushing the ball, averaging 5.5 runs per game. They are one of the top teams in the league in batting, runs and OBP. Oakland averages just 3.3 runs at home and faces a hot pitcher in Fausto Carmona (2.97 ERA). He's been great and the Indians are 3-0 his last 3 starts. The Indians have another terrific young talent in Josh Barfield: In his past 11 games, the second baseman is hitting .333 (14-for-42) with eight runs, three RBI and two steals. Oakland's offense is second worst in batting in the AL.â€쳌 The Indians got the money in a 6-3 win as Carmona and his hard sinker were strong for 7 innings.

As you can see, I like backing Carmona, an unsung righty who has been very strong, as much as I liked going against a kid pitcher making his 2007 debut. There are many times during a baseball season that I look to go-against certain pitchers. Sometimes it's possible to not even pay much attention to who the opponent is, as the go-against pitcher is so overvalued. Another thing to keep in mind is that bad pitchers aren't going to go very long in a game, so check long and middle relievers to see who is healthy and rested.

I recall a game from last season when the same analysis applied. It was a typical game with a well known pitcher against a bad one, veterans John Smoltz against Jose Lima. While Smoltz was the bigger name and still an ace, I wasn't wagering on the Braves solely because of him. I wrote in my analysis of the contest, "The real reason I favor the Braves is that Jose Lima is back in the big leagues, this time with the New York Mets. Lima has made more off of one good season than anyone in the history of baseball. He has produced just one quality start in his last 8 trips to the mound. His teams have lost 10 of the last 11 games that he has started, going back further it's 5-19 with Lima on the hill. Jose likes to call it Lima time when he takes the mound. Lima time to the opposition means time to pad my offensive stats! We have no idea why the Mets decided to use him but we will take advantage while we can, because he will be either out of baseball or down in the minors soon enough."

Perhaps some might find my criticism of Mr. Lima a bit harsh, but I couldn't resist. I wasn't overdoing it, either, as he has been a very poor pitcher the last few years. After all, the Kansas City Royals couldn't even wait to get rid of him! I made fun of Lima beforehand, then laughed all the way to the bank as the Braves crushed the Mets, 13-3.

There are a couple of teams that have been decimated by injuries recently, ones to keep an eye on who will be using weak or little known pitchers. Toronto just lost ace Roy Halladay for 4-6 weeks, while the Orioles have 3 starters on the DL from the beginning of the season. Victor Zambrano was thrown into the Blue Jays rotation and he’s awful while Baltimore is turning to relievers and Triple-AAA guys to step into the rotation. All of which could mean more go-against spots. Ching-ching!

One final point to keep in mind when Roger Clemens, 44, steps in soon to play in his 24th major-league season for the Yankees. He was basically a 6-inning pitcher for the Astros the last few years. Now he steps back into the AL, facing the DH, as well as strong offensive teams in the AL East, Toronto, Boston, Baltimore and even Tampa Bay. A play on or go-against pitcher? Maybe even over the total in his starts? We’ll find out soon enough.

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