Streaks are a big part of baseball. You never have to wait long until you can see another team in the midst of a long stretch of futility. Because teams play virtually every day it doesn’t take long for the losses to add up, and things can get ugly in a hurry if a team loses confidence. Streaks are crucial for baseball bettors. They can ride them while they are ongoing, and cash several times in a row. As the streak extends, another lucrative opportunity exists as well – anticipating the end of the streak. The longer a losing streak is the more attention the public pays to it and the more aggressively they bet against the losing team. If you can spot the time when the streak could be coming to an end you can often enjoy a massive price packed with value. Spotting the end of long streaks is far more of an art than a science, though. Here are six things that can often signify that a frustrating downturn is about to end:
Major change – Teams often respond well to major shakeups. The most obvious is the firing of a manager or GM, but it doesn’t have to be that dramatic. It could be as simple as the return to the lineup of a star player who has missed a significant amount of action. Teams also can get a big boost if a highly hyped prospect – like Buster Posey, for example – makes his major league debut. Anything that is going to be a significant break from the status quo and a reason for players who have been beaten down by the constant losing to feel optimistic again can be the reason a team remembers how to win again.
Strong pitcher facing team he has succeeded against in the past – A mid-rotation pitcher who has a history of success against his next opponent is often in a good position to find some confidence and find a much needed win. I like to look back at the last five starts against the opponent. At the very least I would want to see at least four quality starts over that stretch. Ideally, it would be even more than that – a couple of clearly outstanding showings as well. The pitcher is fairly rare in sports because he can almost single-handedly end a streak if everything is just right, and confidence is such a big part of that.
After an ace pitches well but loses – If a team has a standout ace – a truly elite, top 15 in baseball type of guy – the they never are really happy when that ace loses. That unhappiness can turn to pure frustration when the ace pitches a good game – a quality start with sharp control and reasonably limited contact – and still comes out without a win. It’s surprising how often the team is able to channel that frustration and use it to fuel a win the next time out. As an added advantage, the odds you’ll be facing will be significantly better in this game than they would be if the ace were pitching. The one proviso for this approach, though, is that the ace has to be pitching well overall at the time. If the ace is in a prolonged slump then the team will just treat it as one more reason to be depressed, and the loss won’t be enough to get the team’s attention.
New opponent that team has consistently excelled against – If a team is in a slump but are starting a new series against an opponent that they have been recently successful against then they could collectively feel like this is a big opportunity for them. It’s not enough that a team has just won 55 or 66 percent of games. In my view a team would have to have won at least 80 percent of games over the last 10 or 20 games (more if they are in the same division than if they were interleague games) before I really paid attention to it. Teams and players are very aware of the teams they play well against.
When a team has been regularly unlucky – It’s very possible for a team to continue a losing streak while finally starting to play well. Luck is a big part of baseball, so if you can spot a team that has been unlucky while losing then you can often spot an opportunity. As a loose rule I like to look for teams that have been unlucky twice in their last four losses, and I measure that unluckiness either by teams that have solidly outhit their opponents and still lost, or teams that have stranded five or more runners in scoring position.
Second game home after a long trip – A lot of people think that the first game home after a long road trip is a good time for a team to stop a losing streak. I’d rather look towards the second game. In the first game home teams are going to be feeling the pressure of performing at home, and are going to have more adrenaline and excitement than they probably need. By the second game they have had a chance to settle in, relax, spend some time at home, and get back into the comfortable routines that lead to success.