It’s that time of year again. With spring training underway, March Madness right around the corner, and NBA/NHL playoffs in our near future, it’s a great time to be a sports fan.
But with all of this looming, the date I’ve circled on my calendar is April 1. No, not because of April Fools. April 1 marks opening day for the 2013 MLB season (technically Texas plays host to Houston on March 31 but for all intents and purposes, we’re not really counting Houston as a “professional” team this year, but I’ll get to that later).
For the purposes of this blog we’ll be 100 percent focused on baseball games, stats, trends, streaks, match-ups ─ anything and everything related to America’s pastime. Oh yeah, and for all you degenerate gamblers out there, we’ll be doing this from a Vegas perspective. I’ve been able to hold my own in the past few seasons betting MLB sides/totals and I enjoy putting my opinion into words. Put two and two together and that sounds like a solid daily blog to me.
Every pick posted on this blog I will play myself with my own money. I apologize in advance if write-ups or plays are delayed in being posted. I do work full-time as a ﬁnancial advisor and that’s priority number one. But enough behind the scenes details, let’s get into the ﬁrst bets you can make this offseason.
First off, if you’ve got the itch to bet on spring training games, well… don’t. Baseball is different than any other sport when it comes to preseason action. As a general rule (and I realize this doesn’t apply for EVERY player), a large handful of individuals playing after the ﬁfth inning of most games won’t even be on the opening day roster (especially EARLY in spring training). You may as well take your leans to the roulette table for some better odds.
Something a little more reasonable is betting MLB futures and season win totals. I tend to stay away from most futures (i.e. Los Angeles Angels at 7/1 to win the World Series) because trying to single out one team of 30 to hit its year-end goal is difficult. Again, with those odds, I’ll stick to roulette. I do however, see a lot of potential value in season win totals.
Vegas gives us more of a 50-50 split by setting a line for the total wins a team will have at the end of the season.
I’ve been researching the free agent market, trades, acquisitions, manager and division moves for the last few months and I’ve concluded the following ﬁve preseason bets hold the most value.
As a side note, one of the most important keys to sports betting is being able to manage a bankroll. A general rule of thumb is one unit equates to 1% of your bankroll. If you’ve set aside $5,000 for this season, your unit would be $50 (seems like a lot to set aside but you need to be able to survive the bad runs, as they WILL come). For me, one unit is $100. Most all of my plays will be one-unit plays. I will occasionally release a 0.5- unit play (for example if there was heavy movement on my play in the wrong direction, I may still bet it, but at less money. You’ll see an example of this as you keep reading.)
Very rarely will I ever bet a 1.5 or two-unit play. You can think of them as a game of the week and game of the month respectively. In no way however, will I upgrade a play to a 1.5 or two-unit play just because I haven’t had one in awhile. But I digress.
The ﬁrst play I see value in is the Atlanta Braves over 87.5 -110 (Las Vegas Hilton) *1.0 unit*.
I’ll start by saying this: yes, I agree Chipper Jones is a huge loss from a clubhouse leader standpoint. Chipper did hit .287 last year while sporting a .830 OPS (both above league averages). But that’s about all they lost from last year’s 94-68 club.
Acquiring the Upton brothers to go along with Jason Heyward has given them as good an outﬁeld as any. A solid pitching core lies behind veteran Tim Hudson with young guns Kris Medlen and Mike Minor and is anchored by one of the best closers in MLB in Craig Kimbrel. Don’t quite hand the Washington Nationals the NL East title yet, as I see this Braves team a solid World Series contender come October and a shoe-in to win 90-plus games this year.
Second, we’ll be going with the Cleveland Indians over 77 -110 (LV Hilton) *1.5 units*.
Outside of the Detroit Tigers, who represented the American League in the World Series last year, this division is WIDE OPEN. And in my opinion, Cleveland has done the most this offseason. Nick Swisher, Drew Stubbs and Michael Bourn will all contribute greatly to a team that was in the bottom third in the league in runs scored last year (22nd at 667). Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez are key factors to this teams success and I believe they will both have positive years reflective of their career stats. But the big key for me making this a 1.5 unit play is Terry Francona (yes I am, and will remain a Boston Red Sox fan, regardless of the downward spiral they’ve been on). Tito will be able to rally his fresh and talented team around established Cleveland stars such as Asdrubal Cabrera and Carlos Santana. Look for them to be a above-.500 team and make a little more noise than expected in this wide-open division.
Third is the AAA-caliber Houston Astros under 59.5 -110 (LV Hilton) *1.0 unit*.
They’ve BEEN bad. They ARE bad. They will CONTINUE TO BE bad and possibly even GET worse. This team’s biggest and only major acquisition during the offseason was the signing of 1B Carlos Pena. Really? That’s your big signing Houston? In 2012,
Pena had 497 ofﬁcial at-bats. He hit .197, had 19 HRs (his lowest total since 2003; with the exception of his shortened ’05 and ’06 seasons) and a staggering 182 strikeouts. Yeah, no typo,182 strikeouts (third-worst in the league). That’s more than a strikeout per three at-bats (36.6% to be exact). And if that’s your best, I’m not going to even get into the worst. Not only that, but trading ace Wandy Rodriguez around last year’s trade deadline didn’t help a whole lot either. A realistic goal for this team would be to win a third of its games (54- 108). Oh yeah, and I forgot to mention the biggest key of all. They’re leaving the watered down National League to join the stacked AL West (in my opinion, the most top-heavy division in baseball). The Astros will be etching their names into the record books this year with their third consecutive season with (well) over 100 losses.
These last two piggyback off Houston’s atrociousness. The ﬁrst is the Pittsburgh
Pirates under 77 -110 (LV Hilton) *0.5 Units*.
I lay it at 0.5 units because I liked it at 79, but that line was ﬁrst released by the Atlantis Casino in Reno, Nev., and ain’t nobody got time (or the desire) to travel to Reno, Nev. and since then it’s dropped to 77. But anyways, oh yeah, the Pirates. They’re noHouston by any means, but they will deﬁnitely suffer from not being able to beat up onthe Astros in the NL Central (they went 12-5 against them in 2012). The Pirates haven’t won more than 79 games since they were three outs away from the World Series in 1992 (96 wins). I don’t see that trend changing here. They have a few solid pitchers and it’s hard not to mention MVP candidate Andrew McCutchen, but when you’re only superior within your division to a team who’s underachieved for over a century (yes, I’m talking to you Cubs fans), that’s not much to brag about. Don’t forget they also lost all-star closer Joel Hanrahan (fifth in the NL last year with 36 saves) to Boston and are relying on journeyman Jason Grilli to ﬁll the void. If you can ﬁnd this line at at 79 or more, bump it to a unit. 75.5-78.5 take it at 0.5. Anything less than that and it’s a no bet for me.
Last but not least is the Seattle Mariners over 77 -125 (BookMaker) *1 unit*.
I haven’t bet this one yet as I’m still shopping around. I don’t like the -125 vig at BookMaker but the line was “over 78.5 at the Hilton at -110” so I’m thinking that juice may be worth it for the extra game-and-a-half leeway. In a nutshell, all of the AL West is going to beneﬁt from the laughingstock of the league that is the Houston Astros. I personally don’t believe the Oakland Athletics will have as much success as they did last year.
They’re still a third-place ﬁnish for me behind division juggernauts L.A. and Texas, but not by much. Seattle was still able to win 75 games last year even though they were in a four-team league and those other three teams won 94, 93 and 89 games apiece. Signing King Felix to a 7–year, $175 million extension will likely lock him in Seattle for his career. Other notable acquisitions this offseason include Michael Morse from Washington and Kendrys Morales from the Angels. Even veteran signings of Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez have a low–risk, high-reward potential to them. Behind a solid pitching staff and rising stars such as Jesus Montero, Seattle will surprise a lot of naysayers this year and be a legitimate threat in the coming years to an already stacked division.
Hope that gives you a little insight to what’s gone on this winter and an idea of what you can expect come this summer. Check back for sporadic updates this spring and expect daily posts once April rolls around . Enjoy this year’s MLB season and good luck to you if you take to the books.
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