Brad Allen: Two bets for MLB opening day

8 min


Right folks, welcome to the baseball season. We have 2,430 games ahead of us in the regular season alone, so if we have an edge we should be able to make it count.

A couple of general things before we get started on some picks; firstly, price is king in baseball. I know that’s true in all sports but to me it feels more true in baseball, because the worst team in the league will beat the best team about a third of the time in any given game. That’s simply not true in sports like football, tennis, rugby or American football.

To illustrate this, there’s a stat in baseball called Wins Above Replacement, or WAR which measures how many wins a player adds to his team compared to a generic player that could be picked up from the minor leagues. But even a full replacement-level team, picked of the scrapheap -would be expected to win around 48 games out of 162.

For betting terms it means that every team has a price and every tick is important, especialyl when adding it up over a season.

Consider the benefits of simply posting an offer instead of taking the best available. Last year I placed over a thousand baseball bets at an average stake of £200. Simply by posting offers and paying half the commission, that’s an extra £1,600 added to my profit – and that’s before considering the better odds gained by posting up.

So where are the edges in baseball?

Later in the season I think defense and bullpens are underrated by the market, but early in the year I think it’s a little more straightforward and there’s plenty of edges to be had in analysing starting pitching.

The US sports traders at the bookies have been trading basketball for the last few months and will be pricing the start of the MLB season using models with last year’s stats and this season’s projections.

Meanwhile a few baseball-obsessed losers (cough cough) have been buried in fantasy baseball analysis for the past few weeks, trying to find out out which starting pitchers would be over or undervalued.

And here’s what i’ve unearthed for Opening Day.

The NAP has to be under 9.5 in Arizona. As I wrote about in my season-long preview piece, the Diamondbacks have installed a humidor in their ballpark which is expected to reduce home runs by approximately 33%, changing Chase Field from an extreme hitters park to an extreme pitchers park. The line of 9.5 does not account for this fact *at all* in my opinion.

Even without the massive edge from the humidor, i’d be tempted to back the under here. Both offenses are overrated by virtue of their hitter-friendly homefields (Colorado plays at altitude where the home runs also fly).

Both teams ranked in the top-ten for runs scored last seasons, but when adjusted for their home parks, both rank in the bottom half of the league. We also have two above average starting pitchers here, and I really believe this total should be 8 flat. I doubt you’ll find a better total bet all season long.

The second bet for me is the Baltimore Orioles at -115 (1.87). The Orioles project to be slightly worse than the Minnesota Twins this season and the pitchers project to be fairly equal here. However, dig a little deeper and I think we have a starting pitcher mismatch.

The Orioles’ Dylan Bundy is considered something of a let down to this point of his young career. He was a big prospect, but has failed to deliver on the hype. He has a career ERA of a little over 4 making him just an average pitcher and is projected for even worse this season.

However i think the projections are missing a late surge last year, where he boosted his strikeout rate from 18.9% in the first half of the season to 26.9% in the second half. Strikeout rate is probably the single most important stat for a pitcher as it’s a perfect out – nothing bad can happen if the ball isn’t even put in pay.

Anyway, Bundy generated that massive increase simply by throwing his best pitch more often. He threw his slider 19.3% of the time in the first half, but pushed that up to 27.1% in the second. And that slider is devastating — it generated a swinging strike rate rate of 24.4%. In other words batters swung and missed at a quarter of all Bundy’s sliders. That’s elite, and if he keep it up, his ERA this season could drop to around 3.5 rather than the 4.5 he is projected for. That’s all the edge we need to make this a nice value bet.

Brad’s Opening Day Bets:

  • Under 9.5 runs Colorado v Arizona
  • Baltimore to beat Minnesotta

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