Judging Baseballs Underdog Bets

Baseball betting is largely done on the moneyline. Any time you are betting on the moneyline underdogs become attractive – there is nothing wrong at all with getting back more money than you bet when you win. The challenge, though, is telling the difference between the live longshots that are worthy of your support, and the ones that aren’t going to win and are just going to cost you money instead. Here are five tips that can help you spot underdogs that are ready to pounce and to deliver a nice payoff:

Look for:

A starting pitcher for the favorite that is performing well below expectations and reputation in last two or more outings – Most bettors look at the starting pitchers before making a bet, but they don’t often look closely enough. This is especially true if the favorite is starting an ace while the underdog is starting a lesser known hurler. Sometimes, though, the ace isn’t currently pitching anything like an ace at all. His presence drives the odds up, but his recent play and his likely play in this outing might not justify that price. That can create all sorts of value on the underdog. A perfect example of this right now is San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum. He has won two straight CY Young awards and he started well this year, so people look at his name and think of dominance. Since the all-star break, though, he hasn’t been nearly the pitcher that he should be. His velocity has dropped, he is messing with his delivery, and he just can’t find any consistency. He’s getting hit like we aren’t used to at all, and teams are scoring on him at a far greater rate than we are used to. He’s clearly in his own head as well – he’s even changed his warmup music in an attempt to turn things around. That just reeks of desperation. Any team playing against Lincecum right now has a better chance of winning than the public is going to give them credit for.

A team that isn’t hitting nearly as well recently as they are on the season – The betting public loves nothing more than a flashy team with big bats. Once a team establishes themselves as such early in the season the public will assume that that’s what they are and bet accordingly. Sometimes, though, a team-wide slump can lead to a team performing significantly worse over a period of time than they have during the whole season. That means that many people will make betting decisions based on what they have been, not on what they are right now. If that team is a favorite than the underdog could be attractive. Texas this year is a great example of that. Their lineup is absolutely loaded with power, and for much of the year things have gone very well for them – they are running away with their division. For the first couple of weeks of August, though, most of their big bats were largely silent – at least compared to what they were before. They lost four of their first seven games of the month, and all were divisional games against teams they certainly should have been able to beat.

A significant change for the underdogs – Since there has been so many managerial changes this year this is the most obvious place to start. Time and again this year we have seen bad teams make a change and then briefly remember how to play baseball. The Orioles looked like world-beaters early in the Showalter era, and even Seattle looked competent after making a change. A big change like that can make an underdog very attractive. It doesn’t have to be quite that significant and obvious, either – maybe a hot new player is making his major league debut, or a key player is returning form injury.

An underdog pitcher in good form – So much of baseball is about pitching, so it only makes sense that the biggest opportunities can come when you have an attractive pitching matchup. The easiest way to find underdog winners is to spot pitchers who are currently performing well above expectations and perceptions. There are a bunch of different ways you can do this, obviously. I like to focus on the last three starts so that my perception is recent, and I look for things like a WHIP that is below 1.20 over that stretch, a pitcher that is striking out a lot of batters without walking many at all, or a pitcher that has allowed fewer hits in each of his last three. I also like to evaluate the quality of opposition the pitcher has faced – a guy can be pitching even better than he looks if he has faced tough teams and fared well against them.

An underdog showing surprising form in losses – A team will often find themselves as a significant underdog after they have piled up a few losses in a row. If you can look closely and see that those losses – especially the last few – haven’t been nearly as bad as they have looked then you can spot an underdog ready to deliver a big win. Signs of better than perceived play include a loss that only happened as the result of one bad inning, a team that lost despite beating up on the opposing teams ace, or a team that lost despite outhitting their opponent by a solid margin. In each of those cases bad luck had more to do with the loss than bad performance, so if the team plays like they did again and gets some better luck this time then they should be fine. That’s a subtlety that the public overlooks.

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