Let’s first just take a minute to celebrate that we are having an opening day! It was just a month ago we all were waiting on the reporters to give us an idea of how the CBA negotiations were going as they were clinging to a chain-linked fence watching the participants walk back and forth. I am so glad we are beyond all that! Yay for baseball.
This will not be a usual opening day. First off, the schedule was just moved to this date so this is a normal weekend of games for MLB as the schedule lays out. Yes, there were time changes made to the start of these games to account for a feel of opening day. However, this means several things. It means not all teams will open their seasons on the same day. This alone is not unusual as this was normal several years ago. Some of the teams are opening with a 4 game series and others with a 3 game series. Again, not the most unusual of circumstances. As we look at this with a focus on wagering, let’s look at what to expect on the field as that is where I think we will see a significant variance.
The shortened spring training has lessened the number of weeks for starting pitchers to build up their arms to be able to throw 8 or 9 innings. Haha. Like they do that anyway. We have pitchers starting on Thursday that have maxed out pitch counts in the spring with a range from a low of 30 to a high of 84. Ideally, an MLB pitcher will add 20-25 pitches each start. As they get to around 55, they usually will graduate those pitch counts by 15, not 20. The idea is to maintain and build strength in the arm, not to see how many pitches they can throw. It is done by building repetitions gradually thus less wear on the arm. This means we will have very few pitchers ready to go deep into the games, thus we will need more arms to fill those innings, so the bullpens will be highly used for the first two weeks or so. Keep this in mind when selecting your wagers! It would be a great idea to know what to expect from the starters in terms of usage. You can then formulate an opinion on whether a first 5 innings wager, full game wager, or pass is best. For example, I have an entire list of the pitchers and their max counts, with how many pitches they have thrown in the spring. I feel relatively comfortable that I can gauge how far each one could go in a game. This is an edge!
Another common issue will be that hitters are not ready either! A normal spring will have the batters take at least 50-55 at-bats with highs in the 70s. The 2022 spring saw the range be at 30-35 at-bats and the highs in the 40s! This means the batters will not yet have seen enough live pitching to have their timing sequenced properly. They need the next week and a half or so, then they will be caught up. This tells the astute gambler something as well. Pitching will be ahead of hitting for the first 7-10 days! As we keep compiling opinions on what the season on the field will look like, we can combine these thoughts to make great, smart investments.
I would like to think of these games as 2 in 1. Handicap the starting pitcher and then handicap the bullpen. Ideally, we should be doing this all season, but it will not be more crucial than at the start of this season. In a normal game in June, a pitcher goes at least 55-60 pitches to save on the bullpen usage no matter how he is doing unless injured. These are not that way, there will be “hard” pitch count limits and will not go beyond them but by a handful or so. It means we need to know who is available to pitch out of the bullpen. We MUST identify them and what quality they bring to the game. Every team is set up with their best guys for the 7th, 8th, and 9th innings. Bullpen guys are there to replace a tiring or ineffective starter but make no mistake, they are relief pitchers because the starting pitcher is better than they are. Ok, this means we will see many pitchers who will border on MLB quality. The batters will put the ball in play against these pitchers! Look for runs to come later in games than at the start of games.
Lastly, know the weather conditions. If you can get air density numbers, you have a big edge. At least know the wind speed, the wind direction, and the temperature. These will also have an effect on the games. See this article for more on weather effects: https://mlb-daily.com/2022/04/04/weather-affects-on-mlb-games/