Editor's note: This article was originally published March 2011. Records and stats have been updated.
Heading south to catch some MLB spring training action or even tuning in during a lazy afternoon is harmless. You get to check out the newest crop of players and pitchers while catching up with some of your old favorites.
But the second you start betting on spring training baseball, you might be in trouble. The majority of sharp bettors stay clear of spring training because there is no discernible edge over the sportsbooks. And that’s a big red light when it comes to pro handicappers.
“While logic would tend to dictate playing on the team putting more of its better players on the field, that is not really the way that many of the games play out,” pro handicapper David Malinsky says of the exhibition baseball. “When starters are on the field, they often lack any real urgency and instead just focus on slowly getting into shape, not risking injury. Meanwhile, when younger players were on the field they would be playing much harder, trying to either win a job immediately or create a favorable impression that could lead to an earlier call-up later in the season.”
The sharps’ logic makes percent sense. But there is one colossal conundrum: Sports bettors love action.
If we all did the right things we would be thinner, not smoke or drink, eat more fruits and vegetables and watch Dancing With The Stars with our significant other every week. Guess what, maybe half those things happen for awhile and then, faster than a line drive, we do what we want.
If you are going to wager on spring training baseball, place yourself in the best possible situation to win by following these tips.
Be very limited the first week because managers will experiment a great deal, trying a few players in different positions and mixing veterans and potential rookies in the starting lineup for the first four or five innings. Always stay away from games with split squads, as nobody but the skipper and his staff know how the team will be divided.
Find the right situations
Starting the second week of spring training, it is imperative to know the starting pitcher, as he will frequently start throwing all his pitches and work three to five innings depending on pitch counts. What bettors are seeking is a staff ace matched against a No. 5 starter. This does not guarantee success, but this shaky hurler might be more hittable under the pressure of trying to make the show.
“I have never bet preseason baseball since there are too many variables that can get in the way,” says Covers Expert Matt Fargo. “Yet, one advantage that bettors have in these exhibition games is information. Similar to NFL preseason games where coaches give out their player rotations and game plans, managers in baseball are very up front on how long starters will be pitching for and what sort of lineups they are going with.”
Betting the better “team”
Bet on the more talented roster, taking into account the entire makeup of the team. It’s not a coincidence that the New York Mets finished 9-20 while Detroit went 20-8 last spring.
Ride hot teams and fade bad clubs
Because you are betting money lines, if any squad is winning game after game or losing in similar fashion, bet for or against the respective teams, since the outcome means nothing to the manager who is making certain his club is ready to start the season.