Photo of a baseball stadium

How To Handicap MLB When You're Short On Time

I don’t bet a shit ton of baseball because the House is usually pretty sharp at setting the odds from year to year and it can be a time consuming sport to handicap with the mountain of statistics. 

I know I’m going to be in a serious grind to make money at it over time and although I like it, I simply don’t enjoy as much as many other sports. Why torture myself? 

But if I do feel like throwing in some baseball amid the array of summer action, I have a short list of criteria I like to look at so I can handicap it efficiently and consistently. These criteria have led to a play for me tonight on the UNDER for the Mets-Cubs game with Noah Syndergaard and Jake Arrieta on the mound in a clash of titan arms. 

The first thing I look at is obviously the starting pitchers. There is no more important single factor in all of sports than the starting pitchers in baseball. Know their season form, their recent form and the reasons behind those if you can sort it out. 

The second thing I look at is the umpire. To me, this is the most overlooked element in all of sports betting. 

If the starting pitchers are the most important element in sports betting, shouldn’t the guy who subjectively decides whether their pitches are on target or not be the next most important? Yet almost nobody looks at them before putting their money down. 

Umps all call the game a little bit differently with their own tendencies and that has its advantages. 

If I find two pitchers who can paint the corners with a variety of pitches and there’s an umpire behind home plate who gives strikes away like Halloween candy, I’m thinking UNDER. 

If I get two pitchers who launch fireballs all night combined with an umpire who forces them to keep it in the sweet spot of the zone, I’m looking hard at the OVER.  

A high strike percentage these days is greater than 64 percent or so and a low strike percentage is closer to 63 percent. 

It’s no accident that the top five OVER umpires in the majors this season all have strike percentages lower than 64 percent. And it’s no surprise that six of the top eight UNDER pitchers in the majors all have strike percentages greater than 64 percent. 

Tonight’s Mets-Cubs matchup features Eric Cooper behind home plate, who is the second biggest UNDER umpire in the bigs with the O/U at 3-9 or 75 percent for the UNDER. Cooper sees just 6.5 runs per game with a 63.4 strike percentage and just 1.42 home runs per game - in a season where long balls equal the Sportsbook of the steroid era.  

The two aces on the bump both know how to work a strike zone and I’m betting on them getting the benefit of the doubt on those balls that lick the corners. They both struggled a little before the All-Star break but I think the long rest will have them back in form. 

The third and final item I look at is the weather. I’m looking for a temperature and wind that either support the OVER or UNDER, depending on which one I like after examining the arms and the ump.  

Tonight there is a 6 mph wind expected to blow inward from right center. I don’t expect it to have a huge impact but if anything, it doesn’t help the hitters. This is the Windy City and Wrigley Field we’re talking about here so you have to know the wind situation.    

I keep a closer eye on the wind and temperature in the spring and fall but it’s a factor that can easily be overlooked if you’re handicapping in a rush. 

You’ll notice that none of the three factors have much to do with hitting. That’s because I subscribe to the old baseball adage that good pitching beats good hitting. 

And we’re trying to save you time here as you try to handicap MLB in the limited window you have after finally getting the kids off to bed and before the game starts.

Always remember to keep an eye on the odds also so you’re not getting juiced to death. And patience is key with this system. You may go several days where a pick just doesn’t line up for you. Don’t force it. Oddsmakers will make you pay for it.