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Baseball Betting: Reverse Psychology

   by Bryan Leonard - 06/13/2008

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 season when the Indians traveled out to Oakland. I analyzed the contest by noting, "Oakland returns home after a long East coast swing. 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 this year.

He got a tough test as the Indians offense, unlike this season, was crushing the ball, averaging 5.5 runs per game. At that time, they were one of the top teams in the league in batting, runs and OBP. By contrast, Oakland averaged just 3.3 runs at home and faced a hot pitcher in Fausto Carmona, and Oakland's offense was second worst in batting in the AL." 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 liked backing Carmona, an unsung righty at the time who had been very strong, just as much as I liked going against a kid pitcher making his season 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. That happened last week when Pedro Martinez came off the shelf and pitched poorly, getting whacked again in San Diego. San Diego’s offense is terrible, so that spoke volumes.

I recall another game from a recent 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 some teams that have been hurt by injuries recently, ones to keep an eye on who will be using weak or little known pitchers. Keep track of teams that are desperately searching for starters, either because of injuries or ineffective veterans. All of which could mean more go-against spots.

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