I love Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby. It’s a great spectacle, and a stunning display of just how good these hitters can be. It’s also a pretty good for betting opportunities – or at least it can be depending upon the ball field. When you are looking to cash in betting on the Home Run Derby here are six factors for baseball handicappers to keep in mind:
Does the park have a bias? – The location can have a big impact on which hitters will do well, and which will be challenged. Some ball parks favor left handed hitters for example, while others are set up for right handed hitters. Understanding which bias a park has can make it easier to figure out which participants to focus on. There are also some parks that require a bullet shot to get out of the park, while others are very generous – as long as the baseball is hit hard it doesn’t matter if it is hit straight or high up.
Who has done well in the past? – Looking at recent winners and finalists can give you a sense of what to focus on in your baseball handicapping. First, if a slugger has had a pattern of past success then he obviously would be someone to consider. More significantly, look at the types of hitters that are shining in recent years. Are they the bulky power hitters, or the more athletic, refined type of sluggers? Are they guys who started with a bang in the event, or are they slow and steady types? Were they red hot in the days and weeks before the Derby, or were they not enjoying particular success at the plate in recent games? Were they first timers in the event, or had they been there before?
Who seems to really care about the event? – You can tell by the way players respond to the media and publicly in other avenues how excited they are about the opportunity of being in the Derby. For some guys it will be a tremendous honor and accomplishment, and you just know they are going to be working very hard to win it. For others, though, it seems as if it’s more of an obligation – part of the burden of being a mega baseball star. They compete, but they aren’t particularly engaged. If two hitters seemed equally suited to the event then the one who is dying to be there probably has a clear edge.
Who is pitching for the players? – Each hitter gets to decide who will be throwing pitches for them when it is their turn at the plate. Some guys put a lot of thought into choosing just the right person while others just seem to pick the closest guy with a rubber arm who can hit the strike zone consistently. If a guy has made a special pick then he could be more motivated to shine as a result – and it’s an indicator that he is really engaged in the event. A classic example of this is Josh Hamilton in the 2008 Derby. He didn’t ultimately win the event, but his 28 homers in the first round is easily the most memorable and impressive display in the history of the event. His pitcher that day was 71 year old Clay Counsil, a former coach of Hamilton’s back in little league. The choice was clearly emotional, and Hamilton was obviously fired up. It was another edge for a homerun hitter who already was a serious contender.
Which players will get too much attention? – Every year there are inevitably a couple of players who just get too much attention from the media and bettors. They might have big names and big reputations, but for any number of reasons – poor recent form, getting older, a baseball stadium that doesn’t suit them, not shining under pressure, not really caring about the event, and so on – they are unlikely to live up to the giant expectations of the general public. Those players are pure gold for astute bettors. If you can spot players that are overvalued by the public you can not only avoid costly mistakes, but you can capitalize on the sports betting value that too much attention on them creates.
Who has no shot? – Not everyone can do well in this slugging format. Every year there are a few guys who just fall flat. Almost every year at least one of those hitters comes as absolutely no surprise if you were really paying attention before the event starts. When you are handicapping the event you need to be ruthless in assessing which hitters are the serious contenders and which have little chance of coming out on top.