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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, June 1, 2015 at 7:00 PM

Last week I was talking about how the Washington Nationals were playing well even while Steven Strasburg was struggling badly. Wouldn’t you know it…Strasburg was placed on the Disabled List soon afterward. He’s been battling a variety of ailments this season. The team is hoping some time off will cure all that’s been bothering him.

It’s very important that students here in my Advanced College of Sports Betting and Handicapping remember that you can often see “injuries” in the pitching lines of various starters. It’s just human nature that many of these guys don’t want to come out of the lineup (or rotation) if something is bothering them. That stubbornness shows up in the stats. They allow more hard hit balls, walks, and runs than usual. They get fewer strikeouts than usual. They get pulled after five or six innings instead of six or seven. It’s not exactly a secret!

Generally speaking, the true quality of most Major League starting pitchers is very well known in the marketplace. This was true even before the sabermetric onslaught made everyone a stat expert. I was betting back in the era of 4-man rotations. It just wasn’t that hard for oddsmakers to properly evaluate talent levels when it was the same four guys pitching over and over again. There are more teams and starters these days…but also a lot more readily available information. Rotation starters are a known quantity, and there’s even a good track record for minor-league call-ups.

So…because the starting pitchers are so well known…YOU have to find spots where pitchers AREN’T throwing to their normal capabilities. If the market is pricing Steven Strasburg at 100% effectiveness…but he’s only throwing at 60% effectiveness, line value is just waiting to be exploited. This is going to pay off over the long haul. You won’t win every Las Vegas bet. Sometimes opponents will hack away and miss everything. Sometimes a hurt pitcher will get bailed out by his own offense (winning a game 7-5 where he struggled). Take the long view with baseball, and let the results take care of themselves.

How do you spot pitchers who aren’t at 100%?

*Read local media reports for news about “nagging” injuries

*Watch local game telecasts on satellite to monitor pitch-by-pitch velocity

*Study the stat categories I outlined for you earlier

*Read game-by-game stat logs rather than full-season averages

*Take advantage of all “advanced” analytic material you have access to

Your window of opportunity can be very brief in many of these cases. Teams are now hyper-sensitive about ruining somebody’s arm. They’ll only let a guy march out there every fifth day if he’s on a one-year contract, or if they’ve run out of patience because of past injury issues. Still, there are advantages sharp-eyed handicappers can and MUST exploit. At the very least, STOP BETTING ON struggling pitchers figuring they’re due to get it turned around. Make them turn it around first. I can’t tell you how many “square” bettors I overheard in sportsbooks who were convinced Strasburg was about to have a breakout game. Heck, I can’t tell you how many numbers guys who were saying the same thing…and they’re not supposed to be square.

In terms of the big picture, it’s very important that you think about how things are priced in baseball. Putting a number on a game is very easy for oddsmakers if all of the most relevant contributors are at 100% health. Even if oddsmakers miss, it’s just by a few cents. The occasional really big misses are caused by:

*Injuries to key players, particularly starting pitchers

*Game environments that greatly help or hurt key contributors that night

*Teams tuning out their manager and going into a funk

The market has trouble when monkey wrenches like that get in the way. The fact that numbers guys struggle with those issues as well is a big help to old-schoolers like me. Aren’t you glad you’re attending the right school?!

If you’d like some help finding the best baseball bets on the board each day, you can purchase those 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. Call during normal business hours any weekday, and be sure to ask about combination packages that include the NBA Finals.

My tips for handicapping the NBA Championship round will go up Thursday. That will be right in time for the first game and first big weekend of action. I won’t just talk about the opener…but how to evaluate the whole series up front, and then on a read-and-react basis. There’s a sense of mystery about this Cleveland/Golden State series right now in Las Vegas. Some are convinced that the Warriors will win in a rout. Others are convinced that Cleveland is much better than the market is giving them credit for. They all can’t be right! The Dean of Sports Handicapping will do what he can to help you solve the mysteries of the 2015 NBA Finals in our next class get-together.


Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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