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by Scott Spreitzer - 04/07/2009
A lot of old school handicappers were caught napping last season in Major League baseball.
The sport changed dramatically because steroids were cleaned out of the game. Strategies that had worked through the â€œsteroid eraâ€쳌 took a beating.
*Games that used to fly Over stayed Under, particularly in the cooler months of the year.
*Pitchers who used to give up a lot of gopher balls were suddenly getting people out. Fly balls to the warning track arenâ€™t much of a problem unless thereâ€™s a runner on third.
*Veteran teams suddenly became VERY injury prone. Franchises had spent big money on productive veterans only to find that the production disappeared and many guys were on the disabled list with aches and pains that hadnâ€™t bothered them before.
*Teams that had developed the habit of waiting around for somebody to hit a home run stopped scoring runs. Those who were aggressive in trying to â€œcreateâ€쳌 runs jumped to the top of the standings.
I warned you about this early on last year. Iâ€™m hoping you took my advice and cleaned up! Many professional wagerers and respected pundits were slow to catch on. In fact, some never did and just kept assuming that things would return to normal once the weather warmed up, or once the veterans got healthy, or once players found a new way to skirt the rules.
A new season is upon us. Itâ€™s vital that you enter the 2009 campaign in the right frame of mind. Here are some guidelines to follow as you try to pick winners this week, this month, and through the rest of the season.
*Pay close attention to what pitchers are doing NOW. Itâ€™s easy to fall back into bad habits and bet based on your perceptions from the other era. You need to monitor recent stats, and reports from the mlb.com website and regional publications to see whoâ€™s dealing with shoulder issues, elbow issues, and inconsistency with the release point. You know, pitcherâ€™s used steroids too. Some of those guys became injury prone last year. Some of those guys lost a few miles-per-hour off the fastball and became mortal. Focus on recent form until the steroid era is further back in the rear-view mirror. The end of that era helped a lot of guys, but hurt a few others.
*Pay close attention to how offenses are scoring runs. I hope you got to watch some of the World Baseball Classic a few weeks ago. The championship game between Japan and Korea was a throwback to when teams used whatever strategies they could to advance runners and score runs. Teams from the US, Venezuela, and the Dominican Republic sat back and waited for home runs that didnâ€™t happen. Then, they sat on their couches and watched the championship game with you! I expect more teams to be aggressive with small-ball approaches this season. Too many franchises spent big money to watch NOTHING happen last year. Offenses that develop a variety of resources will find their way to the winnerâ€™s circle more often than not.
*Have respect for the power that DOES exist! Not all home run hitters were cheaters. Some guys last year were able to go deep consistently and their teams put runs on the board. You have to assume that last yearâ€™s power was clean and that the 2008 power guys will still produce in 2009. Itâ€™s okay to play for three-run homers if youâ€™ve got some guys who can actually clear the fence. Itâ€™s all about putting runs on the board.
Iâ€™ll talk more about baseball in the coming weeks. You can look forward to articles about the NBA playoffs and early season Major League action for the next few months.
I canâ€™t emphasize enough that you have to forego many of your old baseball approaches until the dust has settled in the new era. Not only are we dealing with shrinking ballplayers, weâ€™re dealing with a shrinking economy. Some franchises are just going to hunker down for awhile and accept losing. Bet against them! Some franchises are going to get creative on smaller payrolls, and find ways to grind out wins. The betting markets were slow to catch up to Oakland during the â€œMoneyballâ€쳌 years and never did respect Minnesota all the years they were a contender. Think about Tampa Bay last year! They offered line value all the way through the American League championships.
And the old school guys just kept betting against them because of old, FALSE, perceptions.
Make it a top priority to stay on top of things out of the gate this year. Know which pitchers are ready to go, and which are dealing with distractions. Know which offenses have solved the riddle, and which are still throwing darts and hoping for the best. The better your start, the bigger your profit pyramid will be at the end of the season!