Major League Baseball is back on the diamond Friday, kicking off the post-All-Star break schedule with players and managers refreshed and refocused on the second half of the season.
Unlike the pre-break slate, the final three months of the MLB calendar throws a lot more outside factors into the mix when it comes to capping baseball on a daily basis. The temperatures are higher along with the stakes, as the playoff picture starts to take shape.
Any MLB bettor who thinks they can turn a profit in August with the same theories and tactics used in June may want to thumb through Charles Darwin's "The Origin of Species".
It's survival of the fittest in the second half of the baseball schedule and some of Covers Experts’ brightest minds explain the biggest adjustments MLB capper must make when betting the back half of the slate:
Pitchers and bullpens
The late-summer months can be devastating to a pitcher, even those that excelled in the first chunk of the season.
Standing alone on the mound with the sun sapping your energy is tough enough, but add in the pressure of starring down big-league bats with the game on the line and it’s amazing that these arms don’t melt like a Popsicle.
“I'll look to fade pitchers that have already surpassed their career highs in terms of innings pitched and have shown signs of wearing down,” says Covers Expert Sean Murphy. “A lot of young pitchers aren't used to the long haul that is the MLB season and tend to tail off down the stretch.”
With starters wearing down and resting up for the postseason push, bullpens become even more important down the home stretch of the season. Relief pitchers can also feel the heat before the expanded 40-man rosters provide some extra options in the later innings.
“(Some teams are) in playoff contention right now, despite continued bullpen struggles in the first half,” notes handicapper Teddy Covers. “They'll all be priced like contenders in the second half but without bullpen reinforcements, they're all in danger of dropping out of the race. Over bettors love, love, love struggling bullpens.”
When the mercury rises, so do the scores. That’s the general consensus among baseball bettors. On top of tired pitchers, certain hurlers can fall victim to the heat and humidity more than others.
Fly-ball pitchers like Oakland's Tommy Milone and the San Francisco's Matt Cain have pop-ups, which would have stayed in play in May, soar over the fence in August and September. Sinkerballers and ground-ball arms are not as susceptible to the effects of the humidity.
Bettors can also note cooler-climate clubs coming to play in hot-weather environments. Minnesota may find itself gassed for the series finale after a scorching set in Arlington or Los Angeles, giving extra value to the host side.
Books and bettors have a good idea of what they’re working with when it comes to baseball teams at the break. And for that reason, the moneyline prices see a major hike when a contender takes on a team outside of the playoff picture.
It’s no shocker to see the New York Yankees listed at -300 or higher versus a club like the Houston Astros come September. Betting on those big faves is a high-risk, low-reward wager but looking at the other side is a nice way to build your bankroll late in the year.
“There are times where I'll pull the trigger on a +250 dog that I wouldn't have bet at a +200 price point in the first half,” says Teddy Covers.
He keeps a close eye out for what he calls “September morph” teams, bad clubs that suddenly show life at the end of the season and good teams that stumble toward the finish line.
Last year, bettors would have been bit hard following the Boston Red Sox or Pittsburgh Pirates in the second half of the season (combined -48.86 units) but would have made a small mint cashing in on the late play of the Oakland A's and the Baltimore Orioles (combined +48.86 units).
What goes up…
Some baseball bettors would prefer to have their last three months of memory wiped clean when capping the post-break schedule. Facts and figures that have stood strong and true until mid-July now hold about as much weight as Paris Hilton’s bra.
Covers Expert Marc Lawrence says the most notable changes come from the biggest anomalies, like the Giants' losing record of the Nationals' poor first half. Even key players, who struggled in the first half of the slate are big enough impact players that their second-half turnarounds can carry a team back to prominence and provide plenty of value not just on moneyline odds but also MLB futures as well.
How do you change your handicapping practices during the second half of the MLB season?