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Four adjustments MLB bettors must make in the second half of the season
By JASON LOGAN
Major League Baseball was back on the diamond this 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.”
One young pitcher inching toward a hard pitch count is Washington Nationals ace Stephen Strasburg. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, the Nats have been adamant about keeping Strasburg under 160 innings despite him being on pace for 193 innings and a good chance that the club will make the postseason.
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.
“Teams like the Mets, Cardinals, Brewers and White Sox are all in playoff contention right now, despite continued bullpen struggles in the first half,” notes Covers Experts Ted Sevransky. “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 Texas’ Colby Lewis and the Mets’ Johan Santana have pop-ups, which would have stayed in play in May, soar over the fence in August and September. Sinkerballers and ground-ball arms, like Cleveland’s Derek Lowe and Toronto’s Ricky Romero, 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 Kansas City Royals 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 Sevransky.
Sevransky 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 Atlanta Braves in the second half of the season (combined -28.38 units) but would have made a small mint cashing in on the late play of Kansas City and the Baltimore Orioles (combined +14.58 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 Detroit Tigers’ and Philadelphia Phillies’ losing records or the Pittsburgh Pirates’ 9-0 record at home when A.J. Burnett toes the rubber.
“It's doubtful, especially considering he's lasted an average of less than six innings per start,” Lawrence says of Burnett's continued home success. “On the flip side, will the Phillies continue to languish behind Cliff Lee, who was 4-10 in his team starts at the All-Star break? Don't think so, not with Chase Utley and Ryan Howard back in the lineup and Lee owning a 3.98 ERA.”
Even key players, who struggled in the first half of the slate like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, 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.
“For me it’s all about value,” says Covers Expert Chris Elliot. “In the second half, buy low and sell high. It’s just like the stock market. The key is to have accurate valuations. Pujols is a perfect example, the odds for him to blow up in the second half are off the charts taking into account past history. I see the Angels soaring to the top of their division.”
A small group of games on Monday and there are more hurlers on hot streaks than ones on forgettable runs.
Michael Fiers, Milwaukee Brewers (3-3, 2.31 ERA)
Fiers is part of the reason that the Brewers are entertaining offers for ace hurler Zack Greinke. Because of the performance of Fiers and others in Milwaukee’s starting rotation, Greinke has become expendable. Fiers has allowed just three runs over his last four starts, good for a 0.94 ERA since June 16th.
Jason Vargas, Seattle Mariners (8-7, 4.07 ERA)
The M’s lefty hurler is on a good run. Vargas carries a 1.52 ERA over his last three outings with 22 strikeouts compared to just five walks.
He gives up his fair share of home runs, though. Opponents have taken him out of the park 13 times over his last seven starts, including five in an appearance against the Diamondbacks a few weeks back.
Ervin Santana, Los Angeles Angels (4-9, 5.75 ERA)
Santana is a perfect example of why we do this daily feature. Why Santana is hot, he’s as untouchable as any of the best aces in the bigs. But when he’s off, he’s as bad as any Double-AA Joey.
The hard-throwing righty was incredible for long stretches in the 2011 campaign but his 2012 season has been one to forget so far. He’s allowed five or more runs in five of his last seven starts and he gave up eight runs in just 1 1/3 innings work in his last appearance before the All-Star break.
Monday's betting tips: White Sox switch Monday starter
Weather to watch
There’s a chance of thundershowers in Colorado and Minnesota on Monday, which means things could get a little wet during the Pirates-Rockies and Orioles-Twins games.
Hot temperatures are expected in Milwaukee for the Brewers and Reds game too.
The Atlanta Braves are on a seven game winning streak, after sweeping the Mets and Phillies.
The Cincinnati Reds have won five in a row entering Sunday night’s tilt with the Cardinals.
Houston Astros are 1-12 in their last 13 games entering Sunday’s slate.
The Diamondbacks have lost eight of their last 11 games going into Sunday’s game against the Giants.
10 – LSU’s win total at LVH. That’s the favorite to win the BCS national championship at a lot of books with a half win total lower than four other teams (Bama, USC, Oklahoma and USC).
Game of the Day
Angels at Tigers (-117, 10)
Injury not to be overlooked
Gavin Floyd, Chicago White Sox – The right-hander is on a roll but had his Monday start pushed back to Tuesday because of tightness in his right forearm. Philip Humber, who hasn’t pitched since June 16th, is expected to start in Floyd’s place.
“It’s not up to me. It’s up to the organization to say that they want to match that ridiculous contract.” – Carmelo Anthony telling Newsday’s Rod Boone about his feelings on the Houston Rockets offer to Knicks restricted free agent Jeremy Lin.
Notes and tips
So you can bet on NBA Summer League games. Just another example of Bookmakers trying to take the July blues away from bettors. 5dimes and bet365 had lines up for Sunday’s games, and there are probably a number of other shops doing the same for any hoop heads interested.
The LVH posted spreads for its college football games of the year on Sunday. We should have them up tomorrow morning with a comparison to the Golden Nugget’s lines released in June.
The Knicks are a mess. Jeremy Lin is out, Raymond Felton is in and Jason Kidd is using booze to cope with the idea of being the back up in New York. Kidd was arrested for DWI after crashing his ride into a telephone poll early Sunday morning. TMZ had a picture showing Kidd needing help leaving the club Saturday night. Oh boy.
Carl Crawford will be activated from the DL after missing the first half of the season with a bum elbow. That’s two speedy outfielders back in the Boston Red Sox lineup in less than a week. Crawford had a forgettable campaign in his first season in Boston but he should be a boost if he plays closer to his career averages.