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Ace Pitchers: Winners on Field But Not at Betting Window

   by Al McMordie - 04/25/2005

Naturally, in baseball you need one or two ace pitchers to make the playoffs and compete for the championship. The Arizona Diamondbacks won the title in 2001 on the arms of twin aces Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson. The Red Sox did it last October with Schilling and Pedro Martinez, while their counterparts in the World Series, St. Louis, had a devastating offense and defense, but no aces on the mound. The lack of a shut-down ace has hurt the Yankees the last two seasons, too.

For betting purposes, however, be judicious when betting on large favorites. The reasons are that betting lines are based mostly on the starting pitchers, and aces sometimes get an inflated price. One reason for this is that the public will back the heavy-favorite aces all the time, regardless of the price. Saturday saw a great example, with Schilling opening around minus 1.80 at Tampa Bay and getting bet up to minus 2.20 at game time. (I had initially even liked Boston at minus 1.80, but shied away from the game with the 40 cent line move.) But the public often doesn’t blink when it comes to shelling out money on a game, with the thinking, “I need a guaranteed winner today.â€쳌 But you can’t grind out a profit in baseball betting big favorites at overpriced lines. So be careful when you see a line move from, say, minus 1.80 to minus 2.20.

A funny thing happened Saturday: Schilling had a 4-0 lead, then Tampa Bay came roaring back to win 6-5. Tampa Bay starter Doug Waechter allowed five runs and 10 hits in five innings, which was expected, but Schilling didn’t have it, either. Even more revealing is that Schilling has allowed 16 runs and 28 hits in 17 2/3 innings this season for a 7.13 ERA. He’s not pitching like an ace, but that didn’t stop Joe Public from rushing in and betting him even after a 40 cent line move (and losing).

So many things can happen in a baseball game. The bullpen can blow a lead, the defense can commit errors, or possibly there can be bad luck, injuries, timely hitting by the opposition, or the opposing pitcher can step up and throw an unexpected great game. With all of these possibilities, try to respect the number and don't follow a huge line move. Speaking of aces, how about Randy Johnson (5.13 ERA)? He’s pitching like a 41-year old hurler, giving up 19 hits and 14 runs in his last 20 innings. He’s also lost his last two starts, as a big favorite each time. Again, there are no “sure thingsâ€쳌 in sports betting. Those that turn a profit do so over the long haul, carefully understanding the percentages with patient, disciplined betting habits. Let’s break it down even simpler: if you wager on Johnson or Schilling as a 2-to-1 favorite, you have to win three straight times to turn a profit. If you lose just one of those three bets, you break even. It’s not so easy to go 2-1 or 3-0, and if you lose two of three wagering on 2-to-1 favorites, your betting bankroll is in the red in the blink of an eye. And it can then be very difficult to try and crawl out of a financial hole. Don’t double up, either. After Johnson lost to the Red Sox, foolish bettors might have thought, “He won’t lose his next start against Tampa Bay, so I’ll double up!â€쳌 But he did lose it, 6-2 – at home!
It’s much better to look at small favorites, dogs and totals, and smarter to take shots betting against big favorites than on them. After Saturday’s loss Schilling said, “It was a pathetic display of pitching. This is a game we shouldn't lose. It's the kind of game I don't lose.â€쳌 That’s what Joe Public was thinking, too. And now their thinking is getting clouded trying to figure out a way to get out of the hole. Betting baseball all season can be fun and profitable, but bet with your head, not over it, and be patient and think smart! And whatever you do, don't follow a 40-cent line move! Good luck, as always...Al McMordie.

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