Spring Training to Aid Regular Season Baseball Handicapping

Doug Upstone

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 3:28 PM UTC

Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2014 3:28 PM UTC

While there might not be much value in betting on the MLB Spring leagues, sports bettors are still smart to pay attention. What can we learn from these matchups, and how can it aid our baseball handicapping skills in the future?

SBR proudly introduces a new feature this season, full blown coverage of Major League Baseball before the regular season begins. I am one of the writers here at SBR and I happen to live in the hotbed of Spring Training, the Phoenix, AZ metropolitan area. Exactly half the teams now reside in the desert and teams here love it, because the longest drive is roughly 60-70 minutes from one park to another, meaning the players and coaches get more work done in less time.

Starting next week, I will be seeing all 15 teams at least once and getting you ready for the upcoming season to make your baseball picks. If you want to learn more how you can be prepared for this upcoming baseball season and do battle with the sportsbooks, take advantage of this month long coverage.

2014 World Series Odds & MLB Futures

My Baseball Background 

I used to live in the Midwest and suffered through my share of unforgettable winters like many of you all over the country have experienced this year. For a long time I was in the golf business and customers just began to start coming in regularly in March for the upcoming season. 

To help start thinking about spring, every afternoon I would turn on the Milwaukee Brewers spring training games on the radio, which would help me and the customers start thinking about warmer days ahead. 

Like everybody in those days, you bought the baseball magazines and began to start to figure out the rosters and what the betting odds would be on all the teams and you were dependent on the newspaper and The Sporting News in the pre-internet days. 

Today, information is much more available, but that does not make the task beating the sportsbooks any easier. Thus, in order to get off to a good or possibly great start against the baseball odds, you need great information. 

Spring Training is Stupid, Until You Learn 

I used to place zero value on spring training results, I mean why would you, the games were meaningless and the top players played five innings at most until the last week of camp. 

When I and my family decided the only thing we wanted to ever shovel again was dirt or rocks, we moved to Arizona. 

The first spring I made it a point to go check out a spring training game and were my eyes opened as baseball handicapper! The results of the games mattered little; it was about watching and paying attention to individual players and building knowledge ABOUT the teams.

Here you learned about pitchers, players who were injured, young players ready to break-out and so many other aspects I would have never dreamed of. 

Let me give you a few recent examples. 

A couple years ago I went to see the L.A. Angels and among the items I was interested in finding out about this team was their top prospect Mike Trout. It so happened in the top of the ninth when more than half the crowd was gone, the Halos put a new player in centerfield. Because there are no names on the back of the jerseys, I did not know who this player was, but as the first pitch of the inning was about to be thrown, I was amazed at how shallow the Angels centerfielder was playing, which made me wonder if it was Trout. 

To my good fortune and the delight of those still in attendance, the fourth pitch of the inning is a shot to deep centerfield. The player immediately turned his back to home plate, went on a dead sprint and at the last instant turned around and found the ball and caught it reaching over his opposite shoulder. That was my introduction to Mike Trout. 

Last year I went to see the L.A. Dodgers and in the latter stages of the game and this larger than usual player steps into the batter’s box and I said to my wife, “Now this guy LOOKS like a baseball player”, despite wearing No. 66. On the third pitch of his at bat, the crack of the bat made an unusual sound I have seldom heard and the ball was never more than 12 feet off the ground and landed about 20 feet over the fence in left center. If somebody would have been sitting there, they would have been impaled. Hello Yasiel Puig! 

Ubaldo Jiminez has always had a complicated delivery, dating back to his Colorado days. Back then he regularly threw 95 MPH or better on the radar gun and even threw a no-hitter for the Rockies, pitching as I recall the last four-plus innings out of the stretch. 

Last spring I took in a Cleveland contest and was able to secure a seat behind a couple of scouts with radar guns. In the 3+ innings Jimenez pitched, only once did he break 90 on the gun. With poor control and ordinary velocity, it is no wonder he’s become a journeyman hurler. 

What to Expect 

I played (not all that well) and coached baseball for years and have always paid special attention to pitchers and what they throw and how the catchers call games. I would also recommend NOT wagering on spring training games, and that is something we will go over that in more detail later.

Over the next month of spring training, I will cover all the teams, focusing on the players, which could help you for fantasy baseball. I will have predictions about win totals on each team and bring in other experts besides myself to do interviews and cover ALL 30 teams and break down the divisions. 

My hope is to have you ready to make baseball picks from Day 1 of the regular season and I hope that you have as much fun reading and listening as I do writing and providing it to you. 

Play Ball!
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