For baseball bettors and fans, opening day is a great, great day. It’s when everything is new, and everything is still possible. It’s also the end of an offseason that seems very long after we got used to seeing so many games played every day for months. For bettors who aren’t careful, though, opening day can offer some unique challenges that can be costly if you aren’t thinking about them. Here are six of the biggest challenges of betting opening day:
Public money is high – The start of the season is a big spectacle. Public bettors bet on spectacles at a far higher rate than they do on normal days. A mid-week game in April will draw very little betting interest in most cases. Opening day will draw very significant money, though. Those public bettors will bet entirely on emotion because there is not much else for them to rely on – no other games to draw insights from. That means that public teams are going to draw a huge percentage of the bets, and the bigger name pitchers and the big name free agents are going to be overbet. Heavy public betting can have a big impact on how betting lines are set and how they move. That means that it can have a big impact on where the value is. The more public action there is, the more you need to be aware of the impact of it before you make any bet.
Crowds bigger than normal – Most teams sell out their home opener – or at least come close. By a month into the season a big portion of the seats will be empty most days in many stadiums. The bigger crowds on opening day can have an impact on home field advantage – especially because those home crowds will not only be big, but excited that the season is underway, and optimistic about the future. You don’t want to overstate the home field advantage, but in most cases it will be more for opening day than it would typically be.
Pre-game ceremonies can ice pitchers – Before the season starts teams will typically have some sort of ceremony to welcome the new year. Ceremonies like that have a tendency to drag on. That can be a challenge for the home team’s starting pitcher. He will be warming up through the ceremony. If that ceremony drags on then his warmup routine will be thrown off. Some pitchers won’t care. Other pitchers, though, really rely on routine. The starting times of games are typically highly predictable, and some pitchers rely on that certainty to get comfortable. If they can’t warm up like they want to then they can be thrown off their game from the start. If the guy has a sensitive make-up then he may not be able to recover from that in time. It’s sounds ridiculous to think that just a couple of minutes of interruption could be a big disruption, but for some pitchers it really can be.
Pitchers can be pitching off of odd rest – Teams want to have their rotations in order heading into the opener, with their aces ready to go. It’s not always easy to have things work perfectly coming off of spring training into the regular season, though. Sometimes a pitcher is forced into an extra day or two of rest so that he is available and ready to go. If a guy doesn’t handle extra rest very well – and lots of guys don’t – then this could be a problem for the pitcher and the team. If he hasn’t pitched a lot in the spring, or hasn’t performed up to his potential when he has pitched, then the issues could be magnified.
Young players particularly nervous – For players who are new to the league, or who were called up for the first time in the middle of the season last year, opening day is a very big deal. It’s their first one, and it’s a day they have been dreaming of their whole lives. Only a robot would be unaffected by the emotion and excitement of that day. It’s tough to know what to expect from young players at the best of times. In these circumstances, though, it can be even harder to trust a young player to be able to perform up to their potential.
No real information – Baseball handicapping is all about looking at what has happened in the past and determining what that means going forward. On opening day there is no past – or at least not one that is particularly meaningful. Given all the time off in the offseason, and the changes to the roster that every team faces, you can’t rely on anything from the previous season to accurately predict what will happen now. That means that you are effectively guessing what is going to happen in a lot of cases. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bet on opening day games. It just means that you need to be cautious, and that you need to have a good reason to make a bet, and feel confident that you have a good edge for every bet you make. You will never know less about teams during the regular season than you will on opening day, so you need to act with that in mind.