Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 3:00 PM
If you’re like most sports fans, you’re complaining about the first week of Major League Baseball! Fans used to be so excited about the first week of action. Now, if you walk around local sports books here in Las Vegas, all you hear about is how low scoring and BORING most of the games are. I guess that beats listening to bad beat stories about bullpens. Barely.
It’s true that there have been some real ugly low scoring games. And, even in games where one team scores, the opponent seems likely to get shut out. Not much drama. Not many big hits except for a handful of teams. Not exactly the dream reunion between baseball lovers and baseball.
What should you do as a handicapper?
First, remember that you’re seeing the top end of the rotations out of the gate for everybody. It’s not that surprising when top pitchers are throwing gems against each other in cool conditions! Scoring may pick up when the lesser rotation pitchers are on the mound, and there’s better hitting weather.
Second, leave your “square” tendencies to bet on Overs in the closet. The game has been trending lower since steroids were cleaned up. Last year more defenses started using shifts in a way that hurt scoring even more. You need to bet Unders or only worry about pitching matchups if you’re going to get your feet wet here in the opening month. Sure, some games will fly Over anyway. That’s the nature of randomness. Stop giving yourself reasons to root for runs. It will only increase your frustration.
Third, open your minds to the idea that mid-level pitchers can now seem unhittable in these new conditions. If you’re like most bettors…you tended to back only the biggest name pitchers when you thought they’d be unhittable…or you were betting on teams to score runs. Baseball in 2015 means a lot more pitchers are tough to score on…and a lot more offenses only have chances if the opposing starter doesn’t have his stuff that night. Think of more rotation pitchers as PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS in our standard framework…and look to take those pitchers as dogs in what are now virtual toss-ups with bigger name opponents.
For practical purposes, the number of “ace caliber” starters has increased dramatically. If a game is going to be 1-1 entering the seventh inning…you want the underdog rather than the favorite (particularly if you have a good bullpen up your sleeve).
If you’re of a certain age, this is going to be very difficult for you at first. Those of you who cut your teeth in the steroid era just won’t have the instincts for this kind of baseball. Recognize that and deal with it! I’m lucky to be old enough to have handicapped Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals and Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers. I remember baseball in the 60’s and 70’s…and what it’s like to have to win money in a low scoring era. At least you’re not dealing with elevated pitching mounds and white t-shirts in the centerfield bleachers!
Earlier this week I gave you a lot to think about in terms of handicapping 2015 baseball. Here’s some more homework for the weekend.
*Review ALL of this week’s boxscores and note how may “blah” pitchers actually were very sharp for 5-6 innings. You need to start internalizing what 2015 baseball is going to look like. Aaron Harang can make the mighty Red Sox look inept. Baltimore and Tampa Bay can have a pitcher’s duel with questionable starters.
*Note which teams may be having trouble putting together bullpens they can truly trust in the 7-8-9 innings. What happens over the last nine outs is going to loom very large this year in terms of determining winners. Adjust your handicapping from thinking “starter vs. starter” to “bullpen vs. bullpen” and see if that helps you make some headway. That’s probably a good exercise right there. Write down the “six inning score” separately from the “7-8-9” inning score for each game all through April and see what you learn. Use this weekend to get caught up, and then continue the exercise through the month.
*Check the weather reports. It’s tougher to score in cool conditions. Some teams are dealing with that, and may become much more productive when the weather warms up. Some teams are already starting in good conditions (like SF and Arizona down in Phoenix), and may be creating temporary illusions about productivity because of that good fortune. One of your first stops online every day should be to a weather service. Log the temperature and wind conditions in your handy schedules.
If you’d like some help in the bases, you can purchase my BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155. Be sure to ask about long term packages for MLB or the NBA Playoffs when you call.
I’ll be back with you early next week for what is likely to be another “read and react” discussion for early baseball. Then, late next week, we’ll switch the NBA Playoffs. I appreciate that so many of you followed the lesson plan of the Dean of Sports Handicapping through the NCAA Tournament. I trust you’ll do the same for the NBA brackets. See you next time.
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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon