Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Monday, April 9, 2018 at 2:00 PM
A lot of sports bettors, sharp and square alike, were very interested in the performance this season of Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani. If he was going to be overrated (which was possible given all of the hype), sharps were ready to jump in against him. If he was the real deal (which seemed less likely after a shaky spring), you’d have to bet him early before the line finally caught up.
Well, a week-and-a-half into the 2018 season, it’s now possible that Ohtani is going to be the most important player in the betting markets. His first two starts as a pitcher have been outstanding, particularly in the high priority area for sharps (a lot of strikeouts with great velocity). He’s not in the batting order every day, but he already has three home runs (including one off Cleveland ace Corey Kluber). Imagine if Clayton Kershaw was also an every day player who might hit 20-30 home runs!
In addition to the great stats…we have the fact that Ohtani is pitching in a big media city that’s not far from Las Vegas. The betting capital of the world might as well be a suburb of Los Angeles for betting purposes. Locals love betting the Lakers in the NBA, USC and UCLA in college sports, and the Dodgers in baseball whenever the boys of summer contend.
If he’s going to keep playing like this, Vegas will get flooded with money and the lines will get high very quickly.
So far, nothing too far out of whack. Ohtani has only faced the Oakland A’s.
Ohtani was -123 in Oakland
Ohtani was -175 in Anaheim Oakland
The A’s aren’t supposed to be very good this season. Those lines are a sign of respect for Ohtani, but not a sign of betting passion. It’s possible that Ohtani would be as high as -220 at home over Graveman if they matched up again soon. That perfect game for 6.1 innings was a gem, with a high strikeout count. We’re about to see betting passion in the numbers!
Of course, this is baseball, and a pitcher can’t win games by himself. Sharps I’ve talked to are focused very much on whether or not Ohtani’s supporting cast can perform at these high lines.
*Can the bullpen protect leads after Ohtani leaves the mound? So far, so good. But, again, that’s two games against the A’s. You don’t want to lay more than -200 on a pitcher who’s going to see his bullpen blow leads.
*Can the offense score enough runs to justify high prices? If you’ve been following the Dodgers this season, you know they’ve lost several games as big favorites because the offense isn’t scoring any runs. If a starting ace throws six or seven scoreless innings, only to leave in a 0-0 of 1-1 game, then those high prices are going to be a problem.
If Ohtani does become super-expensive very soon, always remember that it’s not just “Ohtani -220” when you see a price. It’s “Ohtani-and-his-offense-and-his-relievers” laying -220. And, remember that any two-dollar favorite has to win that game 67% of the time just to break even. Will the Angels become a team that can win 75-80% of the time Ohtani takes the mound?
Sharps I’ve talked to are considering these strategies:
*Only backing Ohtani in 5-inning props so the bullpen isn’t an issue
*Only backing Ohtani vs. high strikeout offenses
*Monitoring the team as a whole to see if the Angels are now a 90-95-win side
*Looking for spots to fade Ohtani
It’s possible that the Angels are about to take the American League by storm. They’re off to a 7-3 star through 10 games (though six of those were at home). Once a team starts feeling its oats, the way Houston did last season, it can go on a tear that lasts months even when its ace isn’t pitching. Sharps are keeping an eye on that because electricity in Anaheim could create value all through the season.
On the other hand, the public (and media) is prone to believe in mirages. Small sample sizes create those all the time. Many sharps, old school guys in particular, will likely take some shots on opposing underdogs until Ohtani proves for sure he’s a Cy Young caliber pitcher.
What’s my advice? Stay conservative. I wouldn’t be surprised if the value is already gone because the cat is out of the bag regarding Ohtani’s elite talent. But, there is a chance he and the Angels could ride a hot streak though the month. You don’t want to fade a team that’s playing with such intensity and enthusiasm. I will look for DAILY value on this team, just in case they are a new contender for the AL title. I don’t expect to release Ohtani as a bet to my clients unless he’s fairly priced against an opponent he can overpower.
I can promise you I’ll keep an eye on this developing story because oddsmakers are still trying to get a read on the young star. Whenever an element of mystery is involved, that plays into the hands of smart bettors.
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Thanks for reading. I’ll see you again Friday to talk about how sharps are betting first round matchups in the NBA Playoffs.