Baseball handicapping is very different from picking winners in most other sports. The biggest difference being that one player, the starting pitcher, has such a heavy impact on how the odds are set. No single position in any sports carries more weight in terms how odds makers set their lines. While there is no doubt that you must take the starters in each game very seriously, you would also be wise to look at the other aspects of the game before you place any wagers.
Starting Pitching - As we’ve already pointed out, this is the single most important aspect of breaking down the MLB odds. There are several different statistics you should look at when you are handicapping a game. Our handicappers first look at season stats like ERA, WHIP, Walks, and K/BB ratio, among others, as well as their performance in home games versus road games. In addition to comprehensive season stats, we also recommend looking at recent starts, say their last 3 appearances to see if their numbers are holding up, or if they’ve hit a rough stretch. Use these methods to compare each starter and try to find which one gives you the most value based on what the money line is set at.
Relief Pitching - Starting pitchers will normally throw between 5-7 innings, but you can’t forget about the guys who come in to finish the games. Some teams have an unusually high bullpen ERA, so compare the two teams before you make your final decision of who to bet on. Another good stat to look for out of the bullpen is blown saves. If a team is consistently giving up the lead in the late innings due to poor relief pitching you are probably going to want to avoid them in most situations.
Hitting - As important as pitching is, don’t forget about the hitters. Look for teams on a hot or cold streak over the past 7-10 days to get an idea of how well they are hitting. You’ll also want to see if they’ve faced the opposing team’s starting pitcher before (preferably in the same season). Just like with pitchers, you’ll need to check to see how well a team hits at home versus on the road, or how well they hit at a certain ballpark. Some lineups just hit better in certain parks based on how their lineup shapes up.
Other Factors - You can always do more research. Look at field conditions, grass vs. turf team success, injuries, and domes vs. outdoor parks just to name a few. Remember that you are looking for any edge and any opportunity to case in on it.