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Baseball Handicapping: Know Your Betting Strategies

   by Bryan Leonard - 08/19/2008

You don't approach betting on baseball by guesswork or simply by looking at the starting pitchers. Not if you want to turn a profit over the long haul. Oddsmakers look first at starting pitchers. Successful handicappers look at many wagering strategies each day. There are all kinds of angles to examine: Motivation, trades, injured pitchers off the DL, and past performances. Let's take a deeper look.

There are teams that are currently involved in pennant races as teams begin the final stretch of the season, and many teams out of it. Teams like Minnesota and the Dodgers have been hot the last month, with win streaks that got them back in the playoff race. Winning is enjoyable for bettors, of course, and enjoyable for professional athletes. Would you rather show up for work on a winning team that might make the postseason? Or one that is out of it? Teams out of it are more likely to be going through the motions, lacking motivation.

A few years ago late in the season I had a play against Arizona, a team that had traded away some key players and appeared to pack it in late. In my analysis I noted, “The Diamondback's playoff aspirations are fading fast as the team has now lost 5 of their last 6 games. To make matters worse they traded Shawn Green in a clear move to start playing their younger players. In our eyes and those of the fans it's obvious that Arizona doesn't feel it can catch the LA Dodgers for the playoffs. That can't be a good sign for Diamondback backers.â€쳌

The Giants topped the D-Backs, making it 6 losses in 7 games – and a win for myself and my clients. I also recall a few weeks ago that Red Sox players were miffed that the front office didn't make any moves at the trading deadline to bolster the team's chances. This didn't sit well with some veteran players who only have a few years left to play and contend for another title, such as Curt Schilling, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek. Not making a trade can hurt a team just as dumping a player can signal that the front office might be looking ahead to next year.

Another important wagering angle is to go against pitchers who are making their first start after coming off the DL. Pitching effectively requires practice and timing. Pitchers coming off the DL are often lacking that. That same night I bet against Toronto noting, “We find Toronto and Gustavo Chacin in that situation. Chacin hasn't pitched in two months when he lasted just 3 innings against the Tigers. He hasn't faced major league hitting in 10 weeks and is sure to be rusty in his return.â€쳌 He was as Oakland romped, 6-0. Chacin didn't make it out of the 2nd innings, allowing 6 hits, 3 walks and 5 runs!
In both those plays, the teams I backed were on some kind of hot streak. As for the Giants against Arizona, the Giants had won 7 of their last 9 and countered with Jason Schmidt. He and his teammates had defeated Arizona an amazing 15 straight times! He had a career 3.19 ERA vs the Diamondbacks. San Francisco had dominated the series winning 34 of 52 meetings including 17 of 24 at home.
This week I had a play on the Orioles against the Indians. The Indians have teed off on left-handed starters at home this year but they are scoring 1.84 less runs per game versus righties. And they faced one of the hottest pitchers in the American League. Jeremy Guthrie has won his last three decisions by permitting just three earned runs in 22.1 innings of work. He owns a 3.06 road ERA this season while holding the opposition to a terrific .284 on base percentage. He should get plenty of support tonight as the O's are hitting a robust .309 in their last 10 games.
Anthony Reyes was making his second start for the Tribe. He was very effective in his first outing but we were not quite ready to buy into the improvement. Although Reyes was highly touted when he entered the league he has been nothing short of a bust. And keep in mind that he was pitching in the weaker National League with what could be the best pitching coach in baseball in Dave Duncan. Now he comes over to the better hitting league and must face a higher quality offense on a day in and day out basis. The Orioles had scored 38 runs in their last five games and they own the superior starter. There was plenty of value on Baltimore, and I collected with ease as the O’s won 6-1. There are many factors to utilize when examining baseball games, one only has to learn what to look for and how to apply it.

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