If you are anything like me the you are very excited for the dawn of April because it means that baseball – the most glorious of sports for bettors – is here again. It’s here for a long time, too. It can be tough betting on baseball when it starts, though, because baseball in April is different than baseball in any other month of the season. If you are aware of the uniqueness of April and can compensate for the differences then it can be a very profitable, enjoyable month for you. If you ignore them, though, then you’re going to dig yourself into a big hole. Here are four ways in which the first month of the season is a unique one:
You don’t have track records for pitchers – So much of the decision making process in baseball relies upon the starting pitchers. The evaluation of those pitchers in turn relies largely on what they have been doing recently and what kind of form they are in. When the season is young, though, they obviously don’t have a long track record for us to fall back on, so we really don’t have a lot to base our decisions on. In June I might base my decision largely on how a guy has done in his last five starts. In April I can’t do that so I have to look at other factors – how he dd in the spring, how he finished last season, how healthy he is, how he has done against the team in the past, and so on. None of those methods is nearly as satisfactory as looking back at past performance, so handicapping pitcher requires more finesse, speculation, and frankly luck in April than it does later in the season.
New acquisitions have not settled in yet – When teams invest heavily in free agents or make big trades then they are obviously making a big push to improve. They are interested in improving when September rolls around. They aren’t necessarily in peaking in April, then. Team chemistry can take time to develop as the new player figures out his role, gets comfortable, and figures out how he can best contribute to the team. The manager often takes a while to figure out how to best use a new player as well – especially a high caliber one. The public looks at the names of players and expects them to be at full performance right away. They often aren’t, and that can present real opportunities.
Star rookies likely not in league yet – One of the big problems that the financial realities of major league baseball has created is that stud young players often aren’t brought up to he big club right out of the gate even if they are ready to make the team. The longer they can be kept out of the majors the longer they can be kept away from arbitration eligibility, and that saves the teams a lot of money in the long term. That means that every year there are a lot of promising players that teams have been planning around that aren’t with the team yet in April. Not only is the team not getting the benefit of a talented young player in the lineup, but hey are likely making due with a less than optimal fill-in player until they do call the youngster up because they don’t want to spend a lot of money on a guy who will quickly be a backup. When a team has a stud rookie on he horizon it can create a lot of headaches for handicappers, and most of those headaches come in April.
New managers still feeling things out – A new manager has had spring training to work with his new team. That’s not nearly enough for him and his team to get comfortable with each other, though, because the intensity and importance of spring baseball is so much less than the regular season. It’s not until a manager and his team have worked together under real conditions when games really matter that they really have to learn to work with each other. That inevitably leads to some growing pains, and some managers and some teams will handle it better than others. In April, then, you have to spend some time looking at the new managers in the league to see how smooth things are going, and how the team should be dealt with based on their new leadership.