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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Thursday, October 8, 2015 at 7:00 AM

Once the Wildcard play-in games are taken care of, baseball handicappers will be trying to pick winners in the best-3-of-5 divisional rounds that begin Thursday. It’s going to be a busy week as things get rolling. So, be sure you regular students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping have your attack planned in advance.

 

STARTING PITCHERS

You only want to invest in pitchers who have proven they can control their own destiny when on the mound. That usually means high strikeout guys. But, there may some situations that pop up where fly ball pitchers make sense in a spacious park or in cool conditions…or a decent lefty is on the mound against an offense that doesn’t hit lefties well.

Don’t fall prey to backing pitchers who had decent won-lost records during the regular season because of big run support. That will likely disappear in the postseason because opposing pitchers will be good. Then, these mediocrities will themselves be exposed.

If you can’t make the case for a strong pitching effort from the starter…ideally an overpowering pitching effort from the starters…look at the other side…look at the Over…or pass the game. Main stats to focus on are ERA, WHIP, strikeouts-per-nine-innings, HR’s allowed, and flyball/groundball ratio. If you’ve drifted away from baseball since football started, please re-familiarize yourself with how all postseason starters have performed in those categories!

 

BULLPENS

Right now…many teams have created a chain of relief pitchers who can usually control the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings. Be sure you know which teams rely on this…and which go more toward the gut of the manager on any given night. Managers’ guts are known to fail under pressure, while the teams with automatic responsibilities have been overachieving in recent postseasons.

Look at boxscores from the regular season to isolate each team’s standard bullpen plan of attack. Study the same stats we just looked at for starting pitchers for these particular arms. Tweak your handicapping to account for what’s most likely to happen in the final third of each game. This will either give you great insurance for bets you liked off the starters…or will back you out of traps you may have been on the verge of falling into.

 

OFFENSES

Power is very important in the postseason because it’s difficult to string together hits and walks against quality pitching. You saw this in the AL Wildcard game the other night between the Astros and the Yankees. Focus on team slugging percentages so you’re investing in teams who hit home runs and doubles. The “station-to-station” offenses that can score productively in the regular season are best at abusing bad pitching. You don’t see much bad pitching in October!

 

THE MOTIVATION FACTOR

You might think that “motivation” is a non-factor in the baseball playoffs because everyone should be fired up for the postseason. That’s true to a degree…but it’s very common to see mindset issues take hold that can loom very large over a series.

*If a high profile player is slumping, it seems to affect the hitting confidence of the entire team. Everybody gets into a funk and the series slips away.

*Any team who “climbed a mountain” just by reaching the playoffs will be prone to relaxing just when they need to kick it up another notch.

*Some teams respond very well to their home crowds, and take an “us against the world” mentality with them on the road. San Francisco can apparently only do this in even-numbered seasons! Kansas City had this knack last year…and will need to make it work again to repeat as AL Champs. See if you can spot early which teams are rising to the occasion with an emotional crescendo. It could serve you well in this round, and then in the League Championships that begin next week.

In this area of handicapping, it’s best to think of this as “sense of urgency,” combatting “complacency” rather than just raw motivation. Everyone wants to win in October. Some teams aren’t urgent enough.

I’m really looking forward to some of the projected pitching matchups that have already been disclosed. I can’t tip my hand because that wouldn’t be fair to paying customers. I think the stars are going to align a few times in this first round of action in a way that will create some very big bets. It will be great to supplement my hot big play football action with these releases.

KELSO STURGEON’S top plays in all sports can always be purchased 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.

We’ll move back to football this weekend in our next discussion. I do expect at least one “read and react” report in baseball in the near future…even if that’s just a preview for the league championships once this divisional round is in the books. We spent all summer talking baseball, so the Dean of Handicapping isn’t not going to stop now! A busy few weeks ahead and your hard work and attendance is greatly appreciated.

 

Be sure to follow:

Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

Vegas-Sports-Masters on twitter @vsmasters

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