Opening Day of April 8, year four of the Bryce Harper era with the Philadelphia Phillies, rapidly descends upon New Jersey online baseball bettors.
The Phillies, who gained a National League MVP season from 2019 signee Bryce Harper last year, chased their $330 million outlay to him with two significant off-season pickups.
What the $179 million expenditure to secure right-handed bat Nick Castellanos and lefty Kyle Schwarber yields remains to be seen, but two clear signals emerge.
First, the Phillies will exceed the Competitive Balance Tax for the first time in their history. They are trying to maximize Harper’s prime years.
Second, they don’t need to be reminded of what a few more wins can do. They captured 82 last year. The eventual World Series champion Atlanta Braves had 88 and the Phillies were ahead of them in August.
Here are some NJ sports betting observations heading into Opening Day.
For the Phillies, the Oakland A’s are up first with a three-game series at Citizens Bank Park starting April 8. The rival New York Mets will close out the six game homestand.
The books saw the Phillies coming
DraftKings Sportsbook had the Phillies at +1200 to win the National League, + 380 to capture the National League East and +2500 to win it all in midweek. That’s 12th highest in all of baseball.
The Dodgers are the current World Series favorites at +500.
The New York market, as always, is heavily represented. The New York Yankees are +900 and the Mets are +1000.
That makes the Phillies one of the more forward teams. Much better than the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, who were +30000, or 300-1, to win it all.
It can be argued that betting either of these teams is a legitimate tax deduction, for charitable contribution.
The Philies at +1200 are still a good value for winning the National League pennant behind the Mets at +500,
“We didn’t have to adjust the odds on the Phillies too much after their recent signings because the feeling has been that they are kind of knocking on the door anyway,” Johnny Avello, the director of race and sportsbook operations for DraftKings, told PlayNJ.
“You know they are going to be played.”
Early birds in New Jersey caught a deal
Just before Major League Baseball players and owners reached an agreement, the Phillies were +125 to reach the playoffs at DraftKings.
And then the deal was announced, hiking the amount of playoff teams to six from five in each league.
That’s a bargain for gamblers who took the leap of faith at +125. The price stayed up for awhile and later came down to its present -105. That’s a substantial 30-point basis point drop, especially significant to anyone who played a large bet. ( The Phillies to not make the playoffs is +100).
Good eye, in this case, does not mean laying off a pitch. It means raking one.
Now that the DH is permanent, run totals will go up
Figure the books will adjust many over-under totals for individual games by about half a run. That was the difference between many National and American League betting lines last year.
In gaining two hitters, the Phillies made their lineup more solid in an attempt to filter power all the way throughout the batting order.
“Purists don’t like a lot of new things in baseball, but they do like the DH,” Avello said as the National League follows what the American League implemented in 1973.
For the 49 years in which the National League had pitchers bat, it created interesting wrinkles. Decisions were important regarding when pitchers were lifted in the National League.
Interleague play and World Series competition brought about the alternating DH. In National League parks, American League pitchers had to hit. In American League stadiums, they were not allowed to.
“This brings a lot of excitement to the game,” Avello said. “Now some of the American League players won’t mind going over to the National League because they have the chance to be a DH.”
Bettors will have three new variables to handicap:
- A typical National League pitcher may go one additional inning, because he won’t be pinch-hit for in the sixth inning of a one-run game he’s losing.
- NL pitchers lose at least one and possibly two gimme strikeouts, because they won’t face weak-hitting pitchers.
- This eliminates the safety zone of walking the eighth-place hitter with two outs to face the pitcher and get out of the inning.
The bottom line is it will be good for run totals.
Phillies win total increases
DraftKings has it at 85.5, up a full three to four games from last year. Harper’s incredible late-season tear vaulted the Phillies to 82 victories, just enough to win most “over” bets at leading books like DraftKings, Caesars Sportsbook and BetMGM.
The highest projected total the Phillies had in the Harper era was 2019, his first with the team. It was 88 games at most books. The Phillies looked headed for the over but scuffled and finished 81-81
The Phillies had a horrific 34 blown saves last year. Some games involved multiple blown saves, so the number of games impacted by them was 27. The Phillies were 14-13 in those games and lucky the loss total wasn’t higher.
Their offense was mid-pack, their bullpen was bottom third. An uptick in either department elevates them. A significant improvement in both could give them the division.
That’s why Schwarber and Castellanos made noise with their signings. In a perfect world, they will give Phillies pitchers a bigger cushion in late innings.
But beware. Schwarber was substantially hobbled by a hamstring injury last year. He’s a pure slugger, but this is an injury that’s tough to overcome.
Schwarber exemplified his feast-or-famine fortune last year. After a slow start, he hit a whopping 16 home runs in an 18-game June stretch. He was the National League Player of the Month in June.
But on July 3, he was added to the injured list with a hamstring sprain and couldn’t play much after that. He ended the season with 25 homers, most of them during the hot streak.
From a health standpoint, he’s a significant risk.
Castellanos comes off career highs of 34 homer and 100 RBI with the Cincinnati Reds.