The offseason in baseball can seem like it goes on forever. For baseball bettors, then, opening day is a time of immense excitement and possibility. The first couple of weeks of the new baseball season can be unpredictable, though. New faces and changed teams can make it hard to get a good sense of what is likely to happen, and where the value is. People can make a good profit in those first uncertain weeks. If they aren’t careful, though, they can also make some very costly mistakes that can lead to real problems. Here are five big mistakes bettors make betting the first two weeks of the baseball season:
Overvaluing statistical performances – Effective sports handicapping is all about understanding statistics. In statistics there is nothing any more important than sample size. If your sample size is too small then any conclusions you draw based on what you see are essentially meaningless. You can’t know whether they are a true indicator of what is to come, or just a fluke that will soon be corrected. In the first couple of weeks of the major league season the sample size for any statistic is extremely small. That means that attaching any significance to any early statistics is a huge mistake. Hitters will only have about 60 or 70 at bats in the first two weeks of the season. That means that just three hits could be the difference between a guy who is hitting a lousy .250 and a very solid .300. For pitchers it is even worse. Starters will likely only have two or three starts in the first two weeks, so one bad outing could cause the pitcher to have terrible stats. Even the best pitchers in the league will have a few bad outings each year, though, so it means nothing. Every year we see guys who get off to red hot starts who fade into oblivion by May, and guys who can’t hit anything in April who are contending for the MVP honors by September.
Reading anything into the standings – Just like statistics don’t matter early on the standings are just as meaningless. Perhaps even more so. If a team loses 60 out of 100 games then you can say with confidence that they are a bad team. If they lose six out of 10, though, then you really can’t deduce anything from that. Any team can – and will – beat any other team on a given night. Some teams are going to be more ready to start the season than others as well. Until you have a meaningful sample size of games played – and that doesn’t happen until well into May at the very earliest – then you might as well not even bother to look at the standings.
Ignoring new managers – Managing a baseball team – doing it effectively, at least – is a very tough thing. When a new manager takes over a team he has to establish his systems, earn the respect of his players, let those players know what is expected of him, and learn what assets he has and how best to use them. Some of that can be done in spring training, but a lot can’t really be accomplished until the roster is set, the team is all together, and there is added urgency because the games actually matter. Early in the season, then, a new manager has a lot that he has to overcome, and it can be harder for him to win games then than it will be later in the season. A lot of bettors will not recognize this potential transition period, and will assume that the manager will be able to perform at his full potential right away. Giving him too much credit early on can be costly. This is particularly an issue if the manager has had success elsewhere and is a big name hire.
Relying on outdated views of teams – What the team did last year, or what they have done over the last several years is completely irrelevant when it comes to what they are going to do at the start of this season. That seems obvious, yet early in the season a lot of bettors will bet based on the reputations of teams instead of what they currently offer. Before you make any bet early in the season you need to ask yourself whether you can justify the bet based on the current status of the team – considering all the changes they have made, the health of their players, and so on. If you can’t then maybe you should wait until you have enough information available this season to form current opinions of the teams and base your picks on that.
Betting too much – The baseball season is incredibly long. Each team plays 162 games, and on all but a small handful of days from April to October there are several games for bettors to choose from. Unless you have a very good reason to bet heavily on games early in the season then you may be better served waiting until you get a sense of what is going on, what to expect, and how to best profit from your bets. Baseball is very much a marathon and not a sprint, so you might as well wait until you have the biggest edge you can before you really hit the betting hard.