By Dave Schwab
The first full week in April marks the start of another MLB regular season as all 30 teams begin their quest to bring home a World Series title. It is also time for MLB sports bettors to sharpen their handicapping skills to bring home another winning season betting on the games. Anytime you have a sport that plays a 162-game schedule, you need to pace yourself out of the gate, but given that the Oddsmakers will need some time to sharpen up the moneylines for the early part of the new season, there is quite a bit of value to be found when it comes to betting on the first few weeks of games.
I have heard two different schools of thought from some of the top professional handicappers in the country when it comes to early season MLB games. Some believe that the pitchers have the edge against bats that will need some time to heat up. The other school of thought leans towards the batters having an edge as both starters and relievers continue to look for their best stuff.
To me, it really does not matter since every MLB game this time of the year has to be evaluated on face value. There are bound to be some rusty bats and squeaky arms on all 30 MLB teams, so the top betting moneyline tip is to pay close attention to the early playing form of a team as a whole. Just because the Chicago Cubs are overwhelming favorites to win the National League again in 2017 does not guarantee they will come flying out of the gate on opening day. In the same vein, there are bound to be one or two longshots out there that get off to a very hot start. You need to carefully analyze each team’s first two or three series of the new season to get a better idea of what to expect on a regular basis.
Exhibition baseball in Spring Training can offer some clues to how a MLB team might play in its early season games, but do not put all that much stock in the numbers. Look for teams that did have an encouraging run in either the Grapefruit or Cactus League and pencil them in as possible small unit plays in the first few weeks. Betting MLB moneylines this time of the year should be on a graduated scale since I do not think there are any six or seven unit plays on the board at this time.
Expect the unexpected and react accordingly. Just because one team’s ace has pitched lights out this spring does not justify a big unit play in his first start and just because a team’s lineup struggled to score runs the past month or so does not mean it will come out flat when the games start counting for real.
As a general rule, I tend to lean towards underdogs on the moneyline early in the season just because that is where all the value lies. It is much harder for the favorite to live up to early expectations than it is for the underdog to manufacture a big win here and there. Once again, you will want to avoid the temptation to go really big on any one matchup, but that does not mean that you should not pick and choose your spots when you think the moneyline for any game is off the mark. There are bound to be some soft lines here and there, it just takes some time and effort to identify them.