Baseball has been my least-profitable sport of the five major leagues that I handicap. I beat the books consistently in pro and college football and basketball, but sometimes struggle to break even in MLB action. The trick is to keep improving, and that is something I have been able to do over the last few years. This has left me very confident in what I can do this season. With this article, I am going to offer my tips on handicapping MLB games so you can do a better job of picking your own winners.
The first thing you have to do is scan the entire card to see if anything jumps out at you. Look at the pitching match-ups, teams on winning or losing streaks, lineup changes, hot or slumping hitters. The days that most series start on are Monday/Tuesday or Thursday/Friday, and on these days I’ll have one to four games I initially like. As the series plays on, that list will expand to five to eight. After I have my initial list, I will go further in depth.
It all starts with which pitcher is going to take the mound to begin the game. Starters have a lot of ups and downs throughout the year, so I don’t put a lot of weight into streaks. What I do like to focus on is the history of a pitcher against the team they are facing and how they have performed in today’s ballpark. Then it’s time to look at the bullpens, which often gets overlooked by amateur bettors. If a bullpen is overused and lacks depth, that team is in a trouble spot even with a good starting pitcher. Even if a starter has a history of going deep into the game, I don’t like backing these teams that are going to rely on that.
Some teams just play well at home and struggle on the road. Divisional rivalries can show a home team dominance as well. Maybe it’s the fact that the crowd gets up for those series. The “why” isn’t quite as important as being able to see the historical results and acting on them.
You always want to be aware of wind and weather conditions. I don’t handicap a lot on this information, but it can make a pick a no play if the conditions are going against me. Umpires and lineup changes can also sway my decisions.
After going through all of your handicapping, does the play still make sense? Just take a step back and look at them. Sometimes you get so involved in the stats and the numbers that common sense is lost.
There is a general guide with tips on getting started with baseball handicapping. I’ve fine tuned my approach throughout the years, and will keep working to improve in the years to come.