Baseball seems like such a simple game – you hit the ball and run around the bases. People who know and love the sport, though, know how complex and at times confusing it can be. For everything that really matters in baseball there are a dozen things that seem like they should but really don’t. That misleading complexity can lead to problems for casual bettors because they can easily overcompensate for those situations that seem like a good reason to panic but really aren’t. Here are four of the things that seem to be easiest for bettors to overreact to:
Injuries – When a star quarterback is hurt the betting public panics as if their own heads have been cut off. That at least makes some sense, though in most cases the public still overreacts there. In baseball, though, the injury to a key player is almost always cause for much more panic than it needs to be. Baseball is the ultimate team sport. A hitter, no matter how talented, only gets to hit once every nine at-bats in a game, and he’s going to fail to get a hit at least 65 times out of 100. A pitcher only gets a start every fifth day. In short, there is no injury in baseball that is sure to instantly and automatically derail a team. In many cases the team actually has a backup who may not be quite as good but could be close. As a general rule you should think about what impact an injury is going to have on a team in the short term, take a deep breath, and cut that impact in half. That should put you in the right frame of mind to search for value from the overreactions of the public.
Poor performance by a pitcher – If you look at all of the greatest seasons pitchers have ever had there will be one thing that is constant – they have all had some really bad games along the way. Pitchers these days will start more than 30 times if they stay healthy. It’s impossible for even the most robotic of pitchers to be on his game each time. The thing is, though, that those bad days most often aren’t an indicator of underlying problems – a loss of form, soreness or injury, or an inability to throw strikes or get movement on the ball. Mostly they are just a bad day. You and I have them and so do pitchers. The public will often read far too much int one of these bad days, though. They’ll see an uncharacteristically lousy performance and try to figure out just what it means. They’ll always be overly pessimistic when they do this, and that will often lead them to trouble. A couple of bad performances in a row could be a trend, and trends are important inbetting. One bad game is just one bad game, though.
Hitting streaks – When a hitter gets hot the public will often assume that they will be hot forever, and that that will have a big impact on the team and their ability to win games. Streaks are very hard for hitters to maintain, though. If you flip a coin a thousand times you are going to have some long streaks of heads and some of tails, but in the end each side will have come up about half the time. In baseball a .300 hitter is going to have some hot streaks as well, but over time he’s going to get a hit about three out of 10 times he is at bat. That means for every streak when he hits well over expectations he is going to at some point have a slump where he performs under expectations. When you are assessing hitters and what’s possible or likely you can never let yourself get too high when a hitter or hot or two low when he isn’t because sooner or later it’s all going to change.
Flashy closer – Closers are the rock stars of baseball. They come in to great fanfare, they throw heat, and they get plenty of press and attention. Casual baseball bettors will give a team with a hot closer a whole lot of credit – especially if he is up against a team that doesn’t have a big name closer of their own. The problem, though, is that closers by themselves don’t win games. They really don’t have a whole lot to do with wins in the grand scheme of things. Sure, they close out games and avoid potential wins turning into late losses. Before they get a chance to do that, though, there is a lot that has to happen – the starting pitcher has to perform well, the rest of the bullpen has to do their job if needed, the hitters have to score enough runs to get a lead, and so on. I’m not suggesting that closers aren’t important, but from a betting perspective they are far further down the list of factors bettors should consider than the public places them.