The 2011 MLB season is in full swing and now is the time to take advantage of the golden opportunity that the games offer when it comes to betting on money lines and totals. The great thing about betting on baseball is that because of the sheer volume of games played, there is bound to be a rock-solid pick or two on any given night of the regular season. They usually do not jump off the page, so you have to be willing to put the time in to properly handicap the games. Rest assured that the extra effort is well worth it as it can pay huge dividends in the long run.

Since all money lines are generated primarily around each team’s starting pitcher for a particular game, the best starting point for handicapping a matchup is to focus in on this area first. The two main areas you want to evaluate a pitcher on are past performances against the team he is facing and current form in his past three or four starts.

Past performances are helpful in developing an understanding how well he held up against that team’s lineup in his previous starts, but do not go too far back in this analysis, given how a team’s roster can radically change from one season to the next. Make note of his home and away records against that team as that can also provide some helpful clues in the process.

A much more important factor to consider is recent form. Pitchers go hot and cold just like any other athlete, so it is vital to examine how they have done in their past few outings. Just because a pitcher got shelled his last time out does not mean it will happen again or he will turn things around his next time out. Make note of statistics such as average innings pitched, ERA (earned runs allowed), WHIP (walk and hits per inning), and total strike outs over the course of his last few games in order to try and predict what might happen in his next start.

The next step in the handicapping process is to evaluate the two teams in general in terms of past performances against one another and current form. Make note of their records against one another over the past and current season, especially in terms of home and away games. Once again, resist the temptation to go too far back with these mlb trends as what happened two years ago will probably have little relevance on tonight’s game.

This is where current form comes into play. Teams get hot and cold just like their starting pitchers especially when it comes to putting the ball in play and scoring runs. When a few key players start clicking it usually trickles down to the rest of the lineup, so get to know the big bats for each team and track how they have done over the past 10 games or so.

Also make note of extended home stands and/or road trips for each team. A team that has played a number of games at home will usually have a built-in edge against a team that has spent an extended amount of time on the road, especially in the first and last games of a series.

Finally, there are a number of intangibles to take into consideration when handicapping a game. The obvious ones include pertinent injuries, weather at outdoor ballparks, and divisional rivalries. One intangible that is sometimes overlooked is the home-plate umpire for that particular game. Umpire rotations are usually not available for the first game of a series, but are posted for each of the remaining games. Umpires are creatures of habit just like anyone else, so there are some with an extremely tight strike zone that will tend to favor the batters and the game’s ‘over’ line and there are some with a very liberal strike zone that will favor the pitchers and the ‘under’. Umpire’s statistics are readily available on the Internet, so be sure to add this item to your pregame handicapping checklist.