Time is of the essence. Baseball season is underway and, in the same way that playing the sport is a 162 game grind, betting on it can also feel never ending. However, there are three distinctive portions to the handicapping slate, and the most lucrative one is taking place now.
The odds of beating sportsbooks consistently over six months aren’t all that great. The chances to have an edge on them over a few weeks, or a month, are significantly higher. When an individual either has an advantage in information over bookmakers, or just a better feel for players, wins can come in bunches.
And the very start of the season is the time in the season with the most uncertainty and vulnerability.
Sure, everyone thinks that the Nationals and Dodgers are the two best teams in the National League, and that the Phillies are going to stink. However, what if a main reason Washington and LA are particularly good is that their fourth starters, who most people have pegged for 12 wins, are actually in line for 17 or 18 wins this season?
Betting on Clayton Kershaw, someone that is established and known, at -300 is not a great long-term strategy. Placing money on Brett Anderson, however, could be if you see the right data to back it up.
It doesn’t have to be pitchers that dictate your betting, either. Take, for instance, the Marlins. Their over/under for wins this season is 81.5. With the additions of Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, a young and improving outfield, and a potentially underrate rotation, the Marlins could be an 88 win team. If they are, there is going to be value on them more often than not.
Early in the season is also the time to bet against players or teams. Sportsbooks are just as likely to be overvaluing someone as underrating them. Instead of believing that the Indians’ Corey Kluber figured it out last year and is now a superstar, perhaps you believe he overachieved and is more like the guy that toed the rubber in 2013. There will be juicy odds to bet against him early this season.
For all the hype the Cubs are getting, Kris Bryant is starting the year in the minors, Jorge Soler has never played a full season in the big leagues, Jake Arrieta was a bust in Baltimore, and Jason Hammel struggled down the stretch last year. If the Cubs haven’t made the strides most predict, betting against Chicago now, before the sportsbooks recognize what you might already see, is a winning tactic.
After a month or so, data will be calculated and the advantage you had betting early in the season will disappear. Sure, there will be opportunities on individual games here and there, but they will dwindle based on results.
However, another window opens at the end of the season.
On September 1, baseball teams expand their rosters and a lot of uncertainty returns. While conventional wisdom tells us to bet on teams pursuing postseason berths late in the year, the sportsbooks have that motivation baked into the lines. What linemakers don’t know is how well prospects getting their first chance to make a difference will perform. If you have knowledge of Double and Triple A players, you may have a leg up.
The majority of the baseball season is settled and steady. But the start and the end are full of uncertainty and gaps in knowledge. With those unknowns comes opportunity. If you can find an informational advantage, strike while the iron is hot.
(Photo credit: SD Dirk on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Clayton Kershaw”) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)