The first weekend of MLB betting provided not only big moments but a potpourri of betting implications.
They indicate how gamblers approached the weekend, what betting routes they took, and a journey through the in-game wagering world.
And from that, there are a few lessons to be learned heading into the 2020 MLB season. Some are unique to a season that was and still is being affected by a global pandemic. But others are worth keeping in mind for 2021.
1. Don’t discount the fighters and the longshots
Teams will fight hard to avoid a three-game sweep. Especially in the 60-game environment, in which losing three straight is equivalent to losing between eight and nine in a 162-game campaign.
Credit the Seattle Mariners for clawing back from an 0-2 series deficit and a one-run eighth-inning hole against the Houston Astros on Sunday. The M’s won at a sweet +240 for their backers at FanDuel Sportsbook.
The Pittsburgh Pirates, +180 at many sportsbooks, shrugged off two abysmal performances against the St. Louis Cardinals and salvaged the Sunday game.
The Pirates avoided the sweep on the road and maintained something to play for.
And the Arizona Diamondbacks, at +115, avoided a three-game sweep with a ninth-inning rally to salvage the series finale against the San Diego Padres.
That’s a good betting angle going forward. Watch teams who drop the first two in a three-game set.
2. Lose a star pitcher, gain a couple runs
Now you know what Clayton Kershaw is worth: two runs a game.
When the Dodger ace was scratched from the opening day lineup Thursday night versus the San Francisco Giants, the run line moved from 7.5 to 9.5 at most NJ online sportsbooks.
How much did that matter? Completely.
The Dodgers beat the Giants 8-1. Nine runs. A win for the under at most books. With Kershaw on the mound, that’s a win for the over, provided you think the Giants could have managed the one run they did, which was likely.
Another star pitcher, Justin Verlander, will be lost to the Houston Astros for several weeks with a forearm strain. This will drop the Astros from exceptional to a notch or two above average.
Watch their over-under run totals rise a bit.
3. In-game betting and a high return
One Yankees bettor weighed in with big numbers on Thursday.
Despite the odds, the gambler wagered $10,000 at DraftKings to win a little less than $7,000.
This is one of the more prominent forms of gambling emerging from legalized sports wagering: a big, highly-leveraged bet. The player feels so strongly about the outcome that even laying in the neighborhood of -140 will not be a deterrent.
This is less prominent in smaller bets. Why bet $10 to win $7? But a $7,000 hit? Yes, because you had $10,000 to start with.
New Jersey sportsbooks are reporting more of this type of wagering strategy. DraftKings has already paid some tickets for gamblers selecting the outcome of the next at-bat.
Even the next pitch.
DraftKings reported some mobile bets of $500 for the outcome of the next pitch. It paid out more than a couple thousand dollars on some of them.
Lessons learned: Timing is everything, and it’s a game of inches
I celebrated the opening weekend with an in-game journey via the William Hill app. This involved small bets, staying away from big props, and making multiple wagers.
Here’s what I learned:
I decided to take the Mets -1.5 runs against the Atlanta Braves in the middle of the game. That’s what makes the two-run homer the Braves outfielder pulled back in for an out frustrating as the Mets won 1-0, not enough.
That evening, I took the Phillies and Marlins in-game when the score became 3-1 Marlins in the sixth. The over-under was 7.5.
It ended at 7, a tough loss, but not before Scott Kingery’s potential two-run homer missed the foul pole by inches. Maybe one inch.
But the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners delivered at an over 8.5, returning +120 at William Hill. Small loss for the day.
When the Milwaukee Brewers trailed the Chicago Cubs 1-0 in the second inning, I took them outright at 1.65. They won at a good price in an 8-3 romp.
And then I leaped on something.
When the Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg was scratched from Saturday’s start against the Yankees, I hit the over 9.5 run line as fast as possible. Thirty minutes later, it had moved to 10 runs, but I had 9.5.
The Nationals won 9-2 and the 11 runs was more than enough. When the game sat at 10 runs late, the quick move had been the difference between a win and a push. Washington did score one late run to make it 9-2 and an easier over.
You snooze you lose. And then you win. Or, the breaks even out.
Either scenario describes the Mets-Braves for me Saturday. When they trailed 1-0 and were being no-hit early, the Mets went up to +155.
I thought about jumping on it but waited too long. The Mets went up 2-1 in the fifth and ballooned up to -210. See what two runs means?
In the top of the seventh, I went the other way. The Braves were +195. What the heck. I took a small shot and they came through. They tied the game with a two-out homer in the ninth and they won in extras 5-3.
By the same principle, I took the Red Sox against the Baltimore Orioles after they fell behind 3-0. Didn’t work.
Following the principle of teams fighting to avoid weekend sweeps, I took the Arizona Diamondbacks at +115 against the San Diego Padres. And in-game, I gave -115 for the over 5.5.
The D-backs won 4-3 and I caught both.