Every sports gambler needs to use a checklist to help them remember how they evaluated past games. But most sports gamblers don’t use them. That’s why I put together a simple seven step checklist for MLB to help you get started.
When you use this checklist for gambling on Major League Baseball games you’re going to evaluate each pitching staff first. The next step is looking at the offensive production. Then you’re going to learn some advanced strategies to help you get over the top.
1 – Pitching Over Offense
Offense sells tickets, but pitching is still the most important thing you need to evaluate in MLB. Don’t become infatuated with home runs and powerful offense. While offense is important, it’s only a part of an effective overall handicapping strategy.
You need to learn everything you an about each pitching staff in the league. This includes every pitcher on every staff. The starting pitchers and closers are important, but long and middle relief pitchers are being used in more games than ever.
Evaluate every pitcher and staff using as many statistics as possible. Here are some to start with:
- WHIP – Walks plus hits divided by inning pitched.
- Slugging percentage against.
- Batting average against.
- Average innings per start.
- Ground ball percentage.
- Strikeout percentage.
- Average pitch count per start.
- Walk percentage.
- Each statistic overall and at home and on the road.
Build a complete understanding of how each pitcher is used by his manager. Which reliever is likely to enter the game first when the starter doesn’t work deep into games? Which guy is going to close games if the regular closer is injured or too tired to work after back to back appearances?
All of these things are going to help you do a better job gambling on MLB games.
2 – Offensive Production Considerations
Just like when you evaluate pitching, you have to do a deep dive into the offensive side in baseball too. While there are hundreds of statistics and evaluation methods, never forget the way baseball teams win is by scoring runs.
Any way that you evaluate MLB offense has to rely on how likely everything is to produce a run or runs. Home runs automatically produce at least one run, but there are many other ways to score.
You need to learn how to value each thing that can happen when a team is batting. Walks aren’t as valuable as singles, but they’re still valuable. Ground balls are worse than fly balls when a runner is on base. Doubles are more valuable than singles, but less valuable than home runs.
All of this is easy to understand, but the key is developing a system that properly values each thing that happens. Is a double worth twice as much as a single? Is a home run worth three or four times more than a single? A team that hits more home runs might score more runs than another team, but this isn’t always the case.
The problem is that there’s not an easy answer. In fact, depending on how you handicap games, your values might be different than mine, and we can still both have profitable MLB systems.
3 – Temperature and Historic Performance
MLB starts in late March and ends in late October or early November. It’s also played far south and north during the season. This creates a wide range of weather and temperature possibilities.
Some players perform better in warmer weather, while others don’t. You need to know which players are hurt by cold weather and which ones aren’t hurt by it.
The best way to do this is to look at their historical production. It’s best if you start tracking players based on the temperature, but you might have a difficult time finding this information for past seasons. If you don’t have the weather details you need from past seasons, you can look at how players perform through April.
4 – Speed and Stolen Bases
Stolen bases aren’t as prevalent in MLB as they were several decades back, but a few teams and players still use them as a weapon. You need to know which teams and players are threats to steal a base, and how good they are when they attempt to steal.
You also need to recognize the difference when it comes to evaluating MLB games between stolen bases and speed. Some players who don’t steal many bases are fast and good base runners. A player that consistently takes an extra base on a single or double is usually more valuable than a guy that steals some bases and isn’t a good base runner otherwise.
Speed also comes into play when you’re evaluating defense. Fast outfielders tend to get to more balls in play and prevent some hits from turning from singles into extra bases. Speed is a skill that can’t be taught, and it tends to decline quickly once a player starts to lose a step.
On the other hand, good base running decisions and technique can be taught. You need to know which players and teams have the best speed and the ones that do the best job on the bases and on defense, no matter how fast or slow they are.
5 – Hitting Coaches
Here’s a strategy that almost no one uses, but is fairly easy to track. Keep track of how ever team in the league performs in the three main hitting categories, batting average, on base percentage, and slugging percentage, every season.
You can access this information for past seasons, so you can start with this right away. The only thing that you need to remember is sometimes when a team brings in one or two big hitters it can alter the entire team’s performance and stats on a year over year basis.
Make sure that you make adjustments based on new players coming in and old players leaving.
6 – Pitching Coaches
You need to do the same thing with pitching coaches as you do with hitting coaches. Track them and their teams every season, and pay close attention when they change teams. Track important pitching statistics like WHIP, ERA, strikeout percentage, and walk percentage.
Just like offense, make sure you account for changes on the pitching staff from year to year when you’re evaluating pitching coaches. And see how pitchers that have been in the league for three or more years who are working with a new pitching coach. Sometimes a good pitching coach can find a small thing to fix when he works with a new pitcher. This can make a big difference in performance, depending on what it was that got fixed.
One mistake to avoid is assuming that just because someone was a great pitching or hitting coach that they’re going to be a good manager. In fact, many of the best hitting and pitching coaches turn out to be poor managers.
7 – Don’t Be Afraid of Run Lines
Major League Baseball lines offer something that NFL and NBA gamblers aren’t used to. You can bet on something called a run line in MLB, which is somewhat like a point spread bet in other sports. A run line wager usually has one team receive 1 ½ runs and the other team give 1 ½ runs.
But the cost including vig to place a wager with the run line isn’t often like what you have to place on a point spread. The plus and minus attached is usually quite a bit off from the normal – 110.
The first thing is to make sure you understand exactly how the run lines work. Then use them to find value in upcoming games. Many MLB games are decided by one run, so a run line can be valuable.
Major League Baseball is my favorite sport to bet on. The season is long and there are thousands of games to watch and bet on every year. When you have a good set of checklists and systems in place you have plenty of opportunities to find value.
Start with the pitchers on each team, and then evaluate the hitters. Add the base running and defense for each team and you have a good chance to predict the outcome of the game. Don’t forget about the hitting and pitching coaches. Finally, learn how to use the MLB run lines for profit.