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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, October 12, 2018 at 11:00 AM

The schedule has been laid out nicely for us to spend some more time talking about the Major League Baseball postseason. The NLCS featuring the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers begins Friday night. The ALCS with the defending World Champion Houston Astros facing the Boston Red Sox begins Saturday night.

Today’s coursework will focus on handicapping those two matchups. Then, I’ll try to squeeze in one more baseball discussion before the World Series begins in about a week-and-a-half.

To me, the single biggest key to handicapping BOTH of these LCS matchups will involve how much exposure the offenses get to key relievers. Evolution in baseball strategy has led to relievers pitching many more postseason innings than in the past. Starters are now only asked to go 5-6 innings at peak intensity before being replaced.

Teams can thrive with this approach during the regular season, because any individual series is over in a matter of days. In these championship rounds, either (or both) series could last six-to-seven games. Which means hitters will be getting repeated, and possibly extended looks at the same arms. Think to past seasons when even flamethrowers like Aroldis Chapman became hittable the third or fourth time a playoff opponent saw him.

Because this is so new, I’m very confident that betting markets aren’t prepared. Oddsmakers are still pricing mostly on the name of the starting pitcher. Everyone’s just kind of assuming those middle and late innings will take care of themselves. Maybe they will in games one, two, and possibly three. After that…it’s going to be a brave new world.

My homework for you this week is very simple. First, compile pitching stats for relievers on the four teams who are most likely to see work. You’ll want to know their ERA, WHIP, and strikeout rates. If you’re not afraid of analytics, I also suggest looking up xFIP numbers at fangraphs.com. Given the offenses on these four teams, you should also look at how home run prone each likely reliever has been this season. Home runs will be the difference-maker in quite a few upcoming games.

If you really want to go in-depth, study the repertoire of each reliever. Many baseball sites these days have great information on velocity, “out” pitches, and even signs that a pitcher has lost his mechanics. So much of what makes these four teams great “cancels” out…the devils is going to be in the details if you want to pick side and total winners in these matchups.

Part two of your homework, build a chart that will allow you to measure usage throughout each series. If you’re not watching the games, grab the box scores so you can see how many pitches each hurler threw…and how effective he was. Log the data after each game. As each series progresses, pay particular attention to the dynamic of repeated looks. Are key players losing their ability to fool hitters? Or, are they so dominant that it doesn’t matter. You’ll nail at least one late-series winner by betting on the team that’s overpowering against the team that is no longer fooling anybody. (You might also win an Over bet or two!)

If you’re a baseball handicapper, you already know who all the offensive stars are. You don’t need to do any more research on that. If you’re only a casual fan, you STILL probably know all about the Astros, Red Sox, and Dodgers. Wouldn’t hurt that small percentage of you to bone up on the Milwaukee lineup. The Brewers are the #1 seed in the NL. Their lineup has some GAMEBREAKERS who are likely to be relevant.

I have to say that I’m a bit surprised the first round lacked so much drama. Both Houston and Milwaukee swept their series 3-0. Boston and the LA Dodgers won three out of four. That means pre-series favorites went 12-2 straight up! Pretenders are out of the way. The cream has risen to the top. We should see some very competitive matchups because the #1 seeds based on this past season’s performance are both underdogs to last year’s league winners.

My slate for clients will still be football heavy these next two weeks. That’s the nature of the sports schedule. I have my on a few possible blockbusters Saturday in college football and Sunday in the NFL. It’s a blessing in disguise that I can’t accidentally tip my hand to oddsmakers here in my “free-to-the-public” coursework!

KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased at this website by 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. Remember to check on offers for the basketball season. The NBA is just days away. College hoops is just around the corner. You always get the most bang for your buck with multi-sport combination packages. Those also let you pyramid your profits more quickly.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping thanks you for your hard work and attendance. Currently, both of next week’s class get-togethers are scheduled to be football-related. I’ll try to have a baseball update to talk specifically about the World Series before it begins the following week. I’ll let the NBA get rolling for a few days before jumping into that sport.

Best of luck to you this weekend in all the sports you’re betting. See you midday Monday for our next class.

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