Betting During MLB's Dog Days
By Jonathan Wachs
As the calendar turns to August, every team will have played more than 100 baseball games. Players are getting fatigued as the heat of summer has started to take its toll. There are certain things that a smart bettor needs to consider:
WHICH TEAMS HAVE THE HIGHEST BULLPEN PHONE BILL?
Teams that relied on the bullpen too much in the early months are bound to pay for it during the final 60 or so games. During the first half of the season the following teams ranked in the top seven in innings pitched: Royals, Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Pirates, Orioles and Cubs. With the exception of the Mets, the other six teams are near the bottom of the league in team ERA, and things will probably get worse instead of getting better. With tired bullpens, they are likely to lose by larger margins.
Another bullpen statistic that should be looked at is the average innings per appearance by relievers. In the first half of the season, the Twins, Royals, Angels, Dodgers and Mets had the longest average innings per appearance. Will the high inning totals of guys like Duaner Sanchez, Scott Shields, Danys Baez and Juan Rincon hurt their effectiveness during the hot and humid month of August? Quite possibly.
CHECK THE BIRTH CERTIFICATES
It would certainly stand to reason that older teams are more likely to wear down in the summer heat. Particularly with the baseball’s harsher rules on “greenies,” it will be harder to recover, which means more days off for veterans. The three teams to watch are the Padres, Reds and Giants, who all sport several players in their mid to upper 30s (and some 40ish-year-olds) in their starting lineups. In particular, look for favorable opportunities on day games following night games to bet against these teams.
WHEN YOUNGER ISN’T BETTER
While young legs hold up well in the heat of summer, young arms sometimes don’t. Many rookie pitchers are nearing the total number of innings they pitched all of last year in the minors. A pitcher like Justin Verlander of the Tigers has never thrown more than 140 innings in a season at any level. Look for signs of slippage and “hitting the wall” that will certainly occur with some young starters.
IT’S QUITTING TIME
Over the past four seasons, the Orioles, Mariners, Tigers, Mets and Reds have had the largest average falloff in winning percentage after the All-Star break. If you review those teams’ rosters the past few years, you will notice a large number of veteran players. Al Leiter was quoted as saying it’s hard for veterans to get pumped up when the team is out of a race when speaking about the Mets' August collapses in 2003 and 2004. A team that seems out of it with hungry rookies like the Marlins is more likely than a veteran team like the Phillies to want to do the “little things” as we hit the dog days.
GETTING “LOCKED IN”
Over the past five years, 30 teams played .600 ball or better after the All-Star break. Typically, teams have a better idea of their identity by this point and have tried to address their weaknesses through deadline deals or their farm systems. Other times, it may be because of players returning from injury. The few teams that are successful are much improved versions of their earlier selves and go on to become excellent betting opportunities. With A.J. Burnett and Bartolo Colon back, the Blue Jays and Angels, respectively, may be candidates. Watch and see if Bob Wickman stabilizes the Braves’ bullpen. And of course, check the transaction wire for deadline deals that might fire up a team that is close and feels ownership is behind it.