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Baseball Betting: Reverse Psychology

   by Bryan Leonard - 05/11/2006

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 this weekend, when the Braves battled the Mets on Sunday. The Braves were looking to salvage the series against the Mets when they sent John Smoltz to the hill. Smoltz knows the Mets well, with a 2.77 career ERA against them. In fact, he had just faced the Mets recently, striking out 10 in a fine performance.

However, while Smoltz is a big 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! Lima's ERA stands at 9.00 this season, as he allowed 5 runs, 4 walks and 7 hits in 5 innings. I made fun of Lima beforehand, then laughed all the way to the bank as the Braves crushed the Mets, 13-3.

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.

In addition, there were some interesting points this week to keep in mind regarding starting pitchers. Lima is in the Mets rotation because normal starter Victor Zambrano is injured and out for the season (torn tendon in his pitching elbow). Which could mean more of Lima. Ching-ching!

Also, there is an interesting story out West as Aaron Sele is back in the major leagues for the Dodgers. Sele pitched 6 2/3 solid innings in his National League debut as the Dodgers beat the Brewers 10-2 Sunday. Sele had been pitching well at Triple-A Las Vegas and even took a pay cut to return to the Big Show! That says a lot about how much the guy wants to play in the majors.

Sele spent the first five weeks of the season with Triple-A Las Vegas and got called up when left-hander Odalis Perez was placed on the bereavement list to visit his ailing mother in the Dominican Republic. The two-time All-Star made a good first impression, allowing a run and five hits and retiring 13 consecutive batters at one point. While the Dodgers were able to bring in a pretty good start, the Mets were not with someone like Lima.

Another starting pitching saga is in Houston where 341-win Roger Clemens, 43, is debating whether to play his 23rd major-league season. If Clemens decides to play, a record 24 players in their 40s could appear in the majors by the end of the season. Not since World War II have so many 40-plus players appeared in the majors. The record for the most 40-plus players in a major-league season was 24 in 1945.

The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers will come after him hard, but the best shot is Houston, his home. His kid, 19-year old Koby Clemens, is in the Astros' farm system and owner Drayton McLane started discussions last week with Clemens by offering a prorated $20 million deal. If you like to look at future's tickets, keep up on these negotiations!

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