Do you like big favorites in baseball? Do you like ace pitchers? The squares do. Their eyes light up when they see an ace pitcher going, especially if the price is high against a mediocre or little known pitcher. They think that Chris Carpenter or Randy Johnson at minus-240 offers value because they are VERY likely to win.
Let me be the first to advise you: Be wary of “ace” pitchers in baseball. First of all, they are usually overpriced. Second, they aren’t as VERY LIKELY to win as you might think. Over the course of a season, if you continually play big favorites you will almost assuredly wind up in the red by season’s end.
Take Curt Schilling, the Red Sox’ opening day starter against the lowly Royals. The 40-year old Schilling was a favorite, but was pounded by Kansas City. He had no fastball and no command. He also didn’t get any breaks, with the Royals getting several bloop hits, one just inside the third base bag. KC was fortunate to score most of their runs with two out hits, which is a combination of clutch hitting and luck, and Big Schill got no support from his offense, which was anemic scoring one run.
The point is, a lot of things took place in that game to decide the outcome (all going for the Royals) and the fact that the Red Sox had their ace on the mound didn’t factor in at all. Take Chris Carpenter, the ace of the defending champion Cardinals. He was a favorite opening day this week, and was awful, getting beat by the Mets. Just a bad game? Well, yes, but now we’re finding out more
The Cardinals’ ace will miss at least his next scheduled start against the Astros on Friday after notifying team trainers of elbow stiffness, soreness and swelling after Sunday's season-opening loss to the New York Mets. “I wish I could explain how or why, but I can't, " Carpenter said. I’ll explain it – he’s hurt! Pitchers, even great ones, get hurt all the time. Sometimes it’s a significant injury, like Pedro Martinez last season (he won’t pitch in 2007 until around August).
Other times it is smaller, nagging injuries than can affect their game or control. The statement described skipping Carpenter as a “precaution. " Carpenter said he first noticed the problem Tuesday morning when he could not touch his right hand to his right shoulder as he attempted to adjust his shirt while speaking on the phone with his parents. That’s not good news for St. Louis. Carpenter’s 36 wins the past two seasons are tied for most in the majors. Including postseason appearances, he has worked 516 2/3 innings in that span, most in either league. He also anchors a VERY young staff, which will likely tax the bullpen, creating even more problems.
How about the White Sox and Jose Contreras? He’s considered an ace, as well, but was pounded in the opener (again, as a favorite). This is nothing new, either. Contreras’ was 4-9 in the second half of last season, due to injuries. They're counting on former ace Mark Buehrle to bounce back, but he is off a career-worst 12-13 mark. Buerhle was a big favorite a lot last season during his 12-13 career worst season.
This week has seen countless examples of what I’m talking about. Houston ace Roy Oswalt was the biggest NL favorite on opening day, yet he lost to the Pirates, 4-2. Jason Jennings was almost as a big a favorite the next night, and the Astros lost again. So if you backed Houston the first two games as 2-to-1 favorites, you’d be in a tough financial wagering hole to dig out of. And it’s only the first two days of the season!
The smart bettor looks for small favorite and live dogs. Live dogs would be young pitchers who you’ve identified as having good stuff, yet oddsmakers might not know that. Or average pitchers with great offenses in front of them. Or, a weak pitcher on a team that happens to play well at home and is often a home dog, such as Tampa Bay the last two years, or Colorado. Betting baseball means knowing HOW to bet and WHAT to look for, and big favorites should be a danger zone.
Lenny Del Genio is a documented member of the Professional Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at http://www.procappers.com/Lenny_Del_Genio.htm