Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, April 16, 2018 at 2:00 PM
Something important came up late last week that I wanted to alert you to. You may recall that multiple studies last season showed that a change in baseball construction was partly behind the huge increase in home runs in 2017. Even though the commissioner denied it, you can’t fool science!
The new batch of baseballs that was delivered across the league this year has largely returned to normal, which is part of the reason scoring has been lower than expected this April. Yes, the weather has been cold in many spots. And, yes a few sluggers are having so much trouble making contact out of the gate that they weren’t going to hit home runs anyway. But, the BALL has changed, as have the analytic output involving distance, elevation, etc…whenever contact is made. (The same baseball writers who did last year’s studies just announced the results of April studies on social media late last week.)
What does this mean to students here in my Advanced College of Sports Betting and Handicapping?
*Forget everything you “learned” last year! Home run hitters are going to be less impactful this season because some of what had been home runs in 2017 will now be doubles off the wall or fly outs in 2018. Well, unless a new batch of baseballs is delivered in a couple of months that matches last year’s model. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if we never see the likes of 2017 again because the powers that be realized they had overcompensated and needed a return to normalcy. For now, you can go back to older handicapping styles that involved sequential offenses rather than the long ball.
*Fly ball pitchers who got obliterated last season can now be effective again. Their ERAs will drop. They’ll last deeper into games. You don’t have to win only with strikeouts any more. You can now induce fly balls that your outfielders are going to catch.
*Bandbox parks won’t so many high scoring shootouts, nor will games in Colorado, Arizona (which has considered using a humidor), or Texas…which are great for hitters. Don’t get me wrong, the hitters’ parks are still hitters’ parks relative to everywhere else. But, a change in the baseball reduces scoring everywhere.
*Ballparks with a heavy marine layer or spacious fences will go back to being pitching paradises, particularly when elite pitchers are on the mound.
Now, this doesn’t mean that every game is going Under, or that there won’t be any pitchers who struggle. It’s a matter of percentages. You had probably already noticed that Over/Unders had been skewing toward the Under in 2018 as you handicapped this past weekend. I heard bettors at Las Vegas sports books attributing that to the cold weather, or “undisciplined” hitters swinging at everything. They hadn’t heard anything about the change in baseballs. Now YOU know.
Your homework this week is to use a stat site like Baseball Reference or Fangraphs to find the flyball/groundball ratios of all rotation starters. That will take you awhile, because 30 teams have at least five guys in their rotations before you even get to injuries. But, the good news is that you’ll be using that information for the next several months! The regular season lasts until September. And, you’ll surely want to know the flyball characteristics of starting pitchers in the playoffs come October.
Maybe do a division per day through the week. Two divisions per day if you’ve got time. My point is, you need to know which pitchers are most readily affected by having a new baseball, and won’t see much of a difference because they were groundball pitchers or high strikeout guys to begin with.
I’ll give you some help with the ball parks. The top five parks for increasing home run counts last season were: Philadelphia (41%), Yankee Stadium (28%), Baltimore (24%), Arizona (22%), and Colorado (20%). The five parks that decreased home run counts the most last season were San Francisco (38%), San Diego (22%), NY Mets (20%), Kansas City (19%), and Boston (18%). You can see how coastal conditions even kept a juiced ball of flying out of San Francisco and San Diego.
You’ve got a lot of homework, so get to it! If you work quickly, it wouldn’t hurt for you to also spend some time studying offensive lineups to see which had become overly reliant on home run hitters. Those athletes are often slow (prone to hitting into double plays when they hit the ball on the ground), and will now be losing points in a batting average and slugging percentage when long fly balls turn back into outs.
If you’d like some help finding baseball (and basketball) winners this week, KELSO STURGEON’S BEST BETS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters office by calling office at 1-888-777-4155 during normal business hours. I do have great rates for extended packages that go through the NBA Playoffs, the MLB all-star break, or the full baseball season.
The Dean of Sports Handicapping greatly appreciates your attendance and hard work. Don’t forget that we’ve increased the class schedule to TWICE per week through the spring and summer. That will allow us to stay on top of MLB and NBA as they happen rather than going every other week. I’ll see you again Friday to talk some more about the pro basketball playoffs.