Sports betting is Darwinism at its best. Adapt or die, especially when it comes to wagering on the second half of the MLB schedule.
The home stretch of the baseball calendar presents different challenges to MLB bettors than the first three and half months. Not only do you have to account for the wear and tear of a very long season, but things like motivation - or lack thereof - start to gain importance when the playoff picture comes into focus.
We asked some of Covers Experts’ sharpest baseball cappers to share how they adjust their strategy in the second half of the baseball season:
Don’t fall in love with stats
The first half of the baseball season has provided endless spread sheets, stuffed to the jock with valuable baseball betting information. But, once the schedule turns the corner, those stats might not be worth the paper they’re printed on.
What happened between April and July may not continue to happen in August and September. And that’s where you find value, betting on or against teams going against the grain.
A club like the Colorado Rockies was one of the best Over bets in the majors in the first half of the sked – averaging more than 10 total runs per game - but have gone just 3-10-3 O/U this month, including a 0-3-1 O/U count since the break. However, oddsmakers continue to set double-digit totals for Rockies’ games.
Covers Expert Sean Murphy loves to exploit these swings in the stats by finding inflated favorites – that did well in the first half of the schedule - and betting against the chalk in the second half.
“I'll strictly focus on playing underdogs from this point forward,” Murphy says. “We tend to see some seriously overvalued sides now that there's a large sample size of results to work with and preconceived notions of which teams rank among baseball's elite.”
Starting pitchers are priority No. 1 when it comes to capping baseball. And these influential arms can make or break a wager during the Dog Days of Summer.
A starter that was successful in the first half of the calendar can run out of steam come the summer months, giving great value to the other side or the Over. Finding these windows of opportunity before the close is a perfect way to change up your game in the final months of the baseball season.
Covers Expert Will Rogers keeps a close eye on which pitchers overachieved in the first chunk of schedule and picks his spots when they fall from grace.
“The one positive about being this deep into the season is that we have enough information to know what pitchers may have gotten off to fraudulent starts and are now starting to regress some,” says Rogers. “An example is Mark Buehrle of Toronto, who looked like one of the best pitchers in baseball for a time. But over the last month or so, he has come back down to Earth.”
Buehrle had a 2.48 ERA and a 10-5 record in the first three months of the season but has since gone 0-1 with a 5.29 ERA in July, allowing five runs through six innings in his most recent outing.
Covers Expert Marc Lawrence has a few points he looks at when it comes to betting and fading starters down the stretch, keying on things like WHIP as an indicator of which arms are real and fake heading into the second part of the season.
“I will be looking to fade pitchers who cobbled together a winning record in the first half despite owning a lousy WHIP - John Danks, Jarred Cosart, Aaron Harang,” says Lawrence. “On the flip side, I'll be looking to back hurlers who compiled a strong WHIP yet incurred a losing first-half record - Jeff Samardzija, Tyson Ross, Charlie Morton.”
Covers Expert Jesse Schule likes to take advantage of the trade-happy market at this time of year, with contenders pillaging talent from losing clubs. A late-season addition to a rotation or bullpen can be just what the doctor ordered, injecting an outside contender with life.
“I'll keep a close eye on a few teams that I expect to be in the trade market, such as the Yankees, Jays and Cardinals,” says Schule. “With pitchers like David Price and Cole Hamels rumored to be available, the balance of power can shift pretty quickly.”
Motivation and schedule
As mentioned above, motivation can be a huge factor when capping the closing months of baseball. The postseason races pick up in August and September, lighting a fire under those clubs in contention.
But as for the teams on the outside of the postseason picture looking in, there is still plenty of value to be had, according to Covers Expert Steve Merril, who doesn’t shy away from these squads playing out the season.
Merril looks for non-contending teams loading up on Triple-A call-ups, trying to plan ahead for next year. Young pitchers and position players are hungry and go all out trying to make the cut with the big league club, giving some spark to teams that have hovered at the bottom of the division most of the summer.
“The oddsmakers often over-inflate the odds on playoff teams and contenders in must-win situations and this can create value on losing teams with top young prospects on the mound,” says Merril, “especially when the opposing hitters are unfamiliar with that starting pitcher.”
Keeping tabs of the schedule is also more important at this point in the year. Teams that played in May have much more tape on each other now and the familiarity evens out the playing field. A club that rolled to a series sweep in the first half of the slate may not show the same dominance in August.
“One particular angle I'm having some success with lately is taking teams that are playing with revenge for getting swept in a previous series by that same opponent,” says Covers Expert Bryan Power. “This is provided they aren't a big dog. At this point of the season, most opponents have met at least one time previously this year.”
Just like capping the wind at Wrigley Field, baseball bettors should watch the temperature at some of the major’s hottest cities. Routine fly balls can quickly turn into home runs when the mercury rises, especially if the humidity is high.
Knowing what type of pitcher – flyball or ground ball – and the power the lineup brings to the plate on these scorchers can give bettors an edge when capping the totals. Baseball bettors should also monitor how many innings a starter usually goes and their pitch counts. The heat impacts the pitcher more than batters.
Starters are left on the mount to cook under the sun while batters can take shelter in air conditioned dugouts. Heavy-set pitchers have been known to withstand the heat and carry a bigger gas tank than slimmer starters.