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Early Season MLB Wagering Strategy

MLB Betting: Early Season Wagering and Starting Pitching

By Loot, MLB Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

The way we look at starting pitching in the early season should be a little different. It’s changed in general over the years. It used to be a good starting pitcher would either complete the game or come really close. Nowadays, pitchers are pulled in the 6th inning. Pitch counts are at play and can alone decide whether or not a pitcher gets the hook. It’s really a different world in today’s baseball.

Early in the season, the last thing a team wants to do is put too much stress on the starters they will be depending on to carry them throughout the long season. When the baseball season is fresh out of the gate, more caution and discretion is utilized than normal. Pitch counts are lower and they are very hesitant to allow pitchers to rack up a lot of innings.

If you believe, as many do, that the importance of starting pitching is overstated in the world of MLB wagering, then it stands to reason that it’s really overblown early in the season. The best pitchers, the ones who command the big money lines, are just getting warmed up. They’re not in midseason form yet.

The key of all this to the bettor is that the odds early in a season will still be showing a lot of respect to the supposedly high-quality starters--the big names. This is a time where we don’t have much else to work on--being that the teams are still undefined. The public will bet on the teams that were good last year, the teams that are favored to win the World Series this season, and the pitchers who are thought of as being elite. The result is that there can be a lot of good value on the opposing team. The book can set a big number for the teams favored by the public and know the public will still bet it. That leaves a lot of potential spots for us to take the high-value side.

It’s just that early in the season, the public is going to load up on the big-name pitchers. Most of the general betting public is going to over-emphasize pitchers anyway. But when you combine that with the fact that they’re doing it in April, this could be one of the better times of the season to be betting on baseball. This is when the baseball betting market is at its most unstable. After 100-something games, things are more defined. With all the personnel turnover in MLB, things can change from year-to-year a lot easier than it used to.

The betting public will change their perception also. Sure, they’ll be hung up what happened last season, the bigger-name pitchers, and other factors that might or might not be all that important. But they’ll also take note of the more glamorous free agent signings over the offseason. In other words, a lot of gray area exists early in the baseball season. A lot of the betting lines are heavy on public perception. When that’s the case, the higher our chances become of being able to find good value going against the favorite.

It also doesn’t hurt to remember that pitching isn’t a constant. There aren’t a lot of guys like Tom Seaver and Roger Clemens in the league--guys where you can count on usually getting a good showing and that it will happen for years and years without much let-up. And guys like this still exist. But most pitchers, even the bigger-name ones, are not all that bankable--at least not as much as they’re being made out to be. Nowadays, a guy puts together a couple 14-9 seasons and he’s given a $50M contract.

No one is saying pitching isn’t critically important when betting baseball. It can really make all the difference. It’s just that with guys held to such short pitch counts early in the season, there’s an entire other element to handicap, which is the bullpen. Accounting for only the starter in a baseball game, especially in April, means you’re neglecting to account for up to 40% of the game.

April is an undefined time of the year. We have an idea who the good teams and good pitchers are, but we often don’t really know for sure. But the odds act like it’s more concrete than it really is, especially with the affects on the odds made by the identity of starting pitchers. It’s not always commensurate with reality. April can be a really good time of the year to bet on high-value underdogs.

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