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Things That Don't Show Up in the Stats

MLB Betting: Things That Don't Show Up in the Stats

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

When we sit down and handicap a baseball game, we look at a myriad of different things. A lot of them might stem from stats. We look at players' numbers, the pitchers' recent form, how the team typically plays against its opponent, and their starting pitcher. We run into trouble, however, when we rely too much on numbers. As we all know, there are a lot of things that don't show up in the box scores.

For us to be able to paint an accurate picture of a team in our minds, we need to delve into information that cannot be ascertained by simply looking at numbers or box scores. There are numerous intangibles that don't really get covered by Sportscenter or the newspaper. If we don't account for those, we run the risk of being blind-sided by things we should have known.

Fielding is a key concern. We can't just look at things like fielding percentages or the amount of errors a player or team has--we need to look between the lines. Runs are precious in a low-scoring game like baseball. It heightens the importance of thoroughly analyzing a team's defense and that requires thorough investigation. We need to watch the games and develop a handle on it.

Look at the first baseman, for example. He might not have many errors, but that's not the entirety of what we're looking for. It's the other stuff that might not lead to him being charged with an error that can flip a game on its head. Obviously, you want a guy who can dig out those tough throws. The last thing you want late in a game is extra base-runners because the first baseman struggles with dicey throws from the infielders.

Another example is to look at the third baseman. Don't just take note of his errors total. Do a more informal analysis. A lot of third basemen or shortstops might have good fielding percentages, but that doesn't always win us bets. What wins wagers is the third baseman who snuffs out a rally by handling a laser shot. What wins wagers is the shortstop who can handle the weird hop that would have otherwise left the infield and scored two runs. A lot of this stuff can slip under our radar if we're not paying attention.

Let's not also assume that every manager and coaching staff is of the same quality. Granted, a coach has to be pretty darned good to book a gig in the majors. That doesn't mean there isn't divergent quality around the league. Even at this level, there are managers who wait too long to pull starting pitchers and those who give him too quick of a hook before turning it over to a dicey bullpen. There are managers who make better use of the hit-and-run and are simply more adept at manufacturing runs.

Look for a team that has a handle on the key fundamentals of the game. We tend to assume that it's a wash, as it makes complete sense that players at this level would have this part of the game down-pat. Well, usually they do. Then you might be betting on a game and an outfielder fields a hit and hopelessly tries to throw the runner out at the plate, allowing the batter to take second. Then with two outs, a dying duck single scores that runner and you lose the bet. It's surprising how often things like that can cost you a wager that would have otherwise won if that team or player were more fundamentally sound.


We need to make allowances for the intangibles that rule this game. None of the examples given here are things you would even know about if you're not paying attention. Take note of what usually makes it onto the highlight reels. It's home runs, strikeouts, plays at the plate--big stuff. Meanwhile, it may paint an image that games are always won or lost by virtue of which team is slugging homers or what pitcher is mowing down one batter after the next.

It all boils down to watching the games. That's the best way to pick up this vital info. After watching a team a certain number of times, we can begin to paint a picture of their true worth. Then when it's time to make a wager, we can do so with more ammo and information.

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