Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, July 21, 2014 at 7:00 PM
I was going to wait a few more weeks before talking specifics about handicapping “pennant race” baseball. But, the 2014 season is so unique that there truly is a pennant race feel to what’s happening RIGHT NOW even though we just passed the All-Star Break.
As I put together these notes for you early Monday afternoon Las Vegas time…
NL East: Washington and Atlanta are in a virtual tie for first place, with just a thousandth of a point separating the two in winning percentage.
NL Central: St. Louis and Milwaukee are tied for first place with the same exact record; while Pittsburgh is just 1.5 games out, Cincinnati 2.5 games back.
NL West: San Francisco and the Los Angeles Dodgers are in a virtual tie for first place, with just a thousandth of a point separating the two in winning percentage.
AL East: Baltimore has a three-game lead over both Toronto and the New York Yankees. In most seasons, THAT would seem like a close race!
AL Central: Detroit has what seems like a huge lead of 5.5 games over Cleveland. But, with a couple of months remaining, that’s far from an insurmountable advantage.
AL West: Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels are only separated by 1.5 games, in one of the most potent 1-2 punches we’ve seen in quite some time in this sport. They are the two best teams in baseball right now…but one of them is destined for an appearance in a coin-flip play-in game because they both can’t win the division.
As of this moment, that’s four FANTASTIC divisional races, five very good ones, and conceivably six that will turn into something worth paying attention to. And, that’s not even talking about the Wildcard races…where parity has created a crowded field for spots in the play-ins.
With that in mind, here are some quick tips for handicapping the pennant races:
*You can now apply “letdown” and “look-ahead” scenarios to big matchups just like you would in football or basketball. Teams know the key to winning their divisions are scoring victories over their greatest threats. That will cause flat performances just before or just after any big series.
*You must monitor bullpen usage because managers tend to overwork their best relievers when it feels like every game matters. Don’t lay odds on any high profile team that’s been overworking their closer and best set-up man in recent days. Bet more confidently when those guys are rested. Too many handicappers skip over bullpens in their process. Students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping can’t make that mistake!
*Be wary of young, relatively inexperienced starting pitchers at the back end of rotations who haven’t performed in pennant races before. Nerves are likely to get the best of them, particularly against potent opposing offenses. Your best bets are proven veterans who thrive under pressure. You don’t want to invest at favorite prices on nervous, erratic youngsters.
*Historically, quality teams who “need to win” have a history of getting very hot during a pennant race when they play a bunch of games in a row against non-contenders. Scout out everyone’s schedules to see if you can anticipate when those easy stretches might be. Don’t be afraid to lay -1.5 runs at lower vigorish in blowout scenarios because one-sided decisions are more common when the best teams in a pennant race are matched up against teams who have already thrown in the towel. I can assure you right now that I’ll be releasing more than a few situational plays in this style from this point forward.
Baseball betting has picked up here in Las Vegas this summer, at least compared to recent seasons. I think that’s because both Los Angeles teams are in the championship chase…and LA is a virtual suburb of Las Vegas these days. Oakland and San Francisco also have good followings here (particularly in the NFL). The fact that more “dumb” public money is hitting the market could create additional openings for smart bettors like you.
If you’d like to BE THE SMART MONEY through the rest of baseball, you can purchase my daily BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. If you have any questions about early-bird football or extended summer baseball packages, please talk to one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155.
Back with you later this week for more coursework and handicapping discussion. We’ll be hopping between baseball, college football, and the NFL through the summer as we do our best to exploit money-making opportunities now while preparing for the Fall. The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and attention!