Spring training is an interesting time for baseball bettors. Baseball takes their preseason much more seriously than other sports, so it’s much more compelling than other preseasons. That could make it tempting for people to bet on it, then. The problem, though, is that betting on spring training is very different than betting on the regular season. As a baseball handicapper, if you try to bet in March the same way you do in August you’ll probably find yourself with some real problems.
Here are seven things for baseball bettors to keep in mind if you are interested in betting on spring training:
The best teams aren’t always the best spring training teams – Sometimes ball teams that are heading towards very good season just aren’t very strong in the spring, and teams that are strong in the spring are disastrous in the summer and fall. The challenge is that you can never be sure how a team will perform, so you can’t judge much from what happens in the spring. The world champion San Francisco Giants had the best spring training of any team in the league, but their World Series opponent, the Texas Rangers, were the worst team in the Cactus League. The Pirates, Nationals, and Orioles were the worst teams in the Grapefruit League, but the Yankees were right down in the basement with them. Meanwhile, Cleveland was right behind the Giants at the top of the standings. In short, sports bettors can’t spend too much time worrying about what to expect from a Major League Baseball team during the season, because it has little relation to what will happen in the spring.
Changes can take time to take hold – Sometimes baseball teams totally overhaul their roster in the offseason. If those changes look very positive then it can be easy to be excited about the team heading into the spring. Chemistry is a very important factor in baseball, though, so sometimes it can take a while for things to settle in and players to get comfortable with each other. A change that looks very positive, then, might not provide positive results in March. It’s important to remember here as well that just because things don’t look great in March doesn’t mean that the deal isn’t a success, or that things won’t look much better by July.
Veterans often hate spring training – The baseball season goes on for ever. Teams play 162 regular season games in hopes of playing 19 more games. That’s more than six months of playing practically every day. Before that can all begin players have to get through about 30 spring training games – a game a day for a month. It’s not a wonder that a lot of veterans don’t get too excited about games in March. The more MLB veterans a team has – as long as those veterans aren’t playing for a starting position – the better the chance that that team will be relaxed in the spring.
Competition for spots can drive success – The opposite of the last point is that if a team has a lot of young players trying to find a role on the team, or veterans looking to land a significant role, then they can be successful in the spring. Those ball players trying to prove themselves will be working very hard, and that will have an impact on the outcome of games – or at least there is a good chance that it will.
Starting pitchers are far less important – In the regular season the largest part of my handicapping process is the starting pitchers. When I bet on spring training games I hardly even worry about them. Starting pitchers are only going to pitch a couple of innings – especially early in the spring – and they are quite likely going to be below their best.
Schedule is irrelevant – During the MLB season we spend a lot of time thinking about the impact of the schedule – how long is the road trip, have teams had days off, and so on. In the spring that just doesn’t matter. Every team plays every day for the most part, so rest doesn’t matter. It’s very early in the season and rosters are very deep, so fatigue isn’t a factor. Travel is ridiculously easy – in Arizona all of the parks are within a one hour drive.
Be patient – There are definitely some betting opportunities to be had in the spring. The crucial thing to remember, though, is that you have to be a patient baseball handicapper. There is a whole lot of games ahead of us, and most of those games will be more predictable and straight forward than most spring games, so there is no reason putting a dent in your betting bankroll before you have to. Make a bet if it makes sense, but there’s no point in forcing your way into situations that are less than ideal.