It doesn’t take long in a baseball season – typically just a month or less – for it to become very clear that there are a few teams that just aren’t going to be competitive. They get off to a poor start, and it seems all but impossible that they are going to be able to turn things around. They don’t have the arms or the bats to match up with other teams. They just aren’t any good. Unfortunately for them, those teams still have 130 or so more games to play. For sports bettors that means that there are 130 more opportunities to evaluate them and look for value in betting against them – or in backing them. Here are four things for MLB handicappers to consider when trying to determine how these baseball teams measure up and what they might have in store the rest of the way:
What were expectations coming in? – What was expected from a team coming into a baseball season can have a lot of impact on how the team is viewed by bettors, and where the value is. If the team was expected to be terrible and is just living up to those expectations then the public likely had little respect for them from the start. That means that they weren’t likely to back them early on and that isn’t likely to change. There can be nice value, then, in certain spots because the public isn’t going to take notice. If the team was expected to be decent, though, then the public could be very negative towards the team as a result of their stumbles. That means that there could be value in betting on the team in some situations because the public is going to be blinded to anything positive that they might do because of their overall opinion of the team.
Are they playing as badly as it seems? – People will focus primarily on the record of a team when judging how poorly they are playing. It’s possible, though, that a team isn’t playing as poorly as their record might indicate. It could be, for example, that they are actually performing well in one aspect of their game, but another is letting them down. In circumstances where their weakness isn’t likely to sabotage them, then, they could be an attractive bet. It’s easiest to understand this with an example. Let’s say a MLB team is scoring runs nicely, but their pitching is weak and too often they are giving up more runs than they can score. If they match up against another team that struggles at the plate then their pitching woes might not be as much of a liability, and their offense could be enough to carry them for once. If you didn’t get a good sense of how the team is actually playing, than what the record tells us, then you would miss out on opportunities like this. It’s important to remember that even the worst teams every year will win 50 or 60 games, and most of those wins will come in at a nice price for the bettors that back them.
Are they playing a developing roster? – If the team is just plain bad and there is no hope for the future it can be really hard for the players to get motivated and focused when things get really bad and the season gets long. If the baseball team is clearly moving in the right direction, though – the players are young and inexperienced, but developing their skills on the fly and learning how to win at the major league level – then focus and effort are likely going to be higher. It’s easier for young players to accept losing if they know it is going to get better than it is for a group of veterans who know they are in trouble no matter what happens.
How public is the team? – There are some major league teams that are going to be very popular no matter how poorly they play. The Cubs are the classic example of that – they have been bad at a lot of times in their history, yet tickets are never easy to get at home or on the road. Other teams see their fans totally forget about them when things go poorly. They play to a lot of empty seats and apathy, and the national media essentially forgets that they exist. The less loyalty there is to a team the less likely the public is going to back them when things get ugly, and the more potential for value there could be for those handicapping MLB games in betting on them. If the team is a public squad, though, then loyal but unsophisticated baseball bettors could bet the value out of them regardless of how they are playing.