Opening Day for Major League Baseball's 2018 season is March 29, but now is the time to start planning for another successful betting campaign.
A new season is in front of us and we're dreaming of a profitable summer, but where do we start? Here are a few numbers that will point you in the right direction when handicapping games. Keep in mind, this is not a column based on who I think will win the World Series. It’s about the secondary categories you should take into account when handicapping and who I think will prosper in those areas. Not many teams who lack in these areas are a solid bet.Solid Bullpen a Must
It’s easy to point to starting pitching as the ground floor for handicapping -- and it is -- but I’ll take it a step further and say you must have reliable middle men and a closer that will keep your bankroll from late-inning bad beats. Last season the Milwaukee Brewers returned more to bettors (+1801 units) than any other team, mostly because they could count on a solid six innings from starters Zach Davies (17-9 record, 3.90 ERA), Jimmy Nelson (12-6, 3.49) and Chase Anderson (12-4, 2.74). After, Carlos Torres (4-4, 4.21, 72.2 IP), Jacob Barnes (3-4, 4.00, 72 IP) and others delivered a lead to Corey Knebel (1-4, 1.78 ERA, 39 saves), who came in throwing 97 mph to close it out. The bullpen ranked ninth-best with a 3.83 ERA but owned the best ninth-inning ERA (2.92) while leading the National League in saves (54) and save opportunities (79).
Team to follow: New York Yankees -- Bullpen finished third in ERA (3.34) and first in lowest average against (.204) and strikeout rate (29.2) in 2017. With Chad Green (5-0, 1.83), David Robertson (9-2, 1.84) and Tommy Kahnle (96 K’s, 62.2 IP), there is little doubt this pen is the best in baseball.Speed Kills
I want a team I know can steal bases, turn singles into doubles, and turn doubles turned into triples. The Los Angeles Angels were the most active on the base paths in 2017, swiping 136 bases in 180 attempts (76 percent) while squeezing out a small profit, one that could have been more if they weren’t 29th in hits, averaging just more than seven per game, but it does give an idea of how a team can be worth backing if they’re able to take more than given. Then you take that speed and add it to the best hitting team in baseball, and now you have a World Series champion and one that made bettors 1,172 units of profit last season. The Houston Astros easily led the league in hitting (.282) and doubles (346), while crushing 238 home runs. The Astros also swiped 98 bases (ninth).
Team to follow: Arizona Diamondbacks -- Leadoff hitter A.J. Pollock is in a contract year, which always seems to provide inspiration. More than that for bettors, though, he could be a guy who steals 30 bases, which would set the table nicely for David Peralta and Paul Goldschmidt to have big RBI years. Goldschmidt’s gap power allowed Jake Lamb to have a career-high 107 RBI. Ketel Marte and Chris Owings at the bottom of the lineup assure there is decent power and speed throughout the batting order.Errors Lead to Losers
The Oakland Athletics made 121 errors last season, which led to a losing season on the field and in the wallets of A’s bettors. On the flip side, the Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians were among the best in fielding percentage with both combining to return almost 2000 units of profit.
Team to follow: Colorado Rockies -- The Rockies committed just 77 errors (third) in 2017, helping Colorado bettors to more than 1200 units of profit. I know manager Bud Black would like to get a little more from shortstop Trevor Story offensively, but in the field he’s as solid as they come with just 11 errors, ranking him seventh, but he played in more games than four other players ranked higher. DJ LeMahieu has won two Gold Gloves at second base, giving Colorado as good of a 1-2 combination up the middle as any team in the National League.