MLB Simulations – May 31, 2012

3 games on today’s MLB schedule. 1 system play: Red Sox -133.

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NBA Playoff Simulations – May 31, 2012

1 game on today’s NBA schedule. No system plays

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5 Steps To An Effective Baseball Betting Routine

Major League Baseball is my favorite sport to bet. The long season and many games each day provide plenty of good betting opportunities. But a bettor can get overwhelmed with information and spend too much spinning their wheels.

This post outlines 5 steps you can use to narrow your search for good betting opportunities and create an effective handicapping routine. By limiting the games to focus on, you can spend your valuable time handicapping good betting opportunities. I recommend using a spreadsheet or pen and paper to keep track of these five steps and take notes when handicapping. Also, keeping notes and a bet log helps create a routine for handicapping games. And a routine helps you weed out certain biases in your handicapping or keep you from missing a key pieces of information.

Here are 5 simple steps:

1. Key Stats

One of the easiest ways to eliminate no-play games quickly is to compare key stats that drive team’s production. For baseball, I use 4 key statistics: On-base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, Bullpen WHIP, and Starting Pitcher WHIP. There are plenty of other useful statistics, but I use these as a quick match up guide. Using stat tables on any number of sites (e.g. ESPN) or a game matchup from a site like Statfox, you can quickly highlight games where one team has an advantage. If a team doesn’t have an advantage in 3 or 4 of these categories, throw out the game. If a team only has a slight advantage in 3 or 4 areas, I will keep it on my focus list but with any minor negative I will eliminate the game. You can eliminate half of each days games by following this rule.

2. Starting Pitcher

Now that we have eliminated games where a team has no significant statistical advantage, check starting pitcher form. Again, this should only take a few minutes. If your starting pitcher is not on form (i.e. pitching well or cycling into a hot streak) eliminate the game. A positive sign might be a top starting pitcher coming off a win following one or more losses. A bad sign might be a pitcher coming off a loss or giving up several hits and earned runs following a winning streak. Or a pitcher coming off the disabled list. If you notice a negative trend (or even the belief that he is entering a down streak) you can eliminate the game. You may have other factors you use to determine an in-form pitcher, the key is eliminating games with probable off performances by starting pitchers.

3. Team Batting and Handedness Preference

You have eliminated games with no significant stat advantage and pitchers out of form. Now check how the opposing team performs against pitcher’s with the same throwing arm as your starting pitcher (i.e. How does team X hit against right-handed pitchers?). If an opposing team’s overall On-base Percentage is .300 but .320 against left-handed pitchers (your pitcher is left-handed) you can eliminate the game. If the opposing team has a .320 On-base Percentage but .300 against left-handed pitcher, you can keep the game on your focus list. If you want to dig deeper, review how your starting pitcher has performed against today’s batters (click here for an example).

You can also use this approach to evaluate your team’s batting against the opposing pitcher. If your team hits much worse against left-handed pitchers (and tonight you are facing a lefty) you can eliminate the game.

4. Historical Angles

Your remaining teams have a statistical advantage, a pitcher in form, and preferred batter vs. pitcher matchups. Are there any situational angles that we can use to eliminate or highlight a game? Some negative angles might be: a road favorite coming off 3 losses, a sub .500 team coming off a loss following an extended win streak (3 or more wins), or a good team who has clinched a series with the final game today starting a series the next day against a division rival. At this point when you have 1 or more negative angles, you should eliminate the game unless Steps 1 – 3 are overwhelmingly favorable and you have other strong positive historical angles too.

You don’t have to have positive angles to keep the game on your list, but having positive historical angles can make games a higher priority. In general, I don’t eliminate or keep games as strictly in this step as in Steps 1-3 and 5.

5. Ratings or Predictive Scoring

By now you are likely  down to a few games. Time to check to see if your team should win based on a rating system or predictive scoring model. If you follow this blog, you know I rely on models for each  major sport. Use ratings and models as a guide. They are key to highlighting games with positive expected value. For several sports I use one or more ratings systems and a predictive model. You could make this the first or second step, but for MLB I prefer to use steps 1 -4 and my models to develop a fair line before I see the actual line.

Using your ratings system or model, check to see if it predicts your team to win. What about betting value? Compare the implied probability of the money line to the expect win probability based on your ratings/model. If your ratings or scoring model doesn’t predict a win and/or there is negative betting value eliminate the game. Otherwise you now have a short list of games to bet and you handicapped them yourself. I will post on how I build lines using predictive models and ratings in a future post.

I post my ratings almost every day, feel free to use them.

Putting It All Together

The 5 steps outlined above can give you a good basis for a regular handicapping routine. By following these steps you will be able to quickly determine the better team, eliminate teams with negative match ups or in down pitching cycles, use historical angles to eliminate bad spots for teams, and use a ratings system to establish a baseline for the score and  fair betting line. By establishing a handicapping routine you can eliminate personal biases and prevent information overload, while ensuring you know the better team and are getting value.

Also, you can use similar techniques to narrow down your game list for any sport. I use this approach on MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, NCAAB, and NCAAF (each with their own tweaks of course).

A few tips to create a betting routine that works for you:

  1. Find reliable data sources. I use SagarinStatfox, Foxsheets, Baseball Reference, Park Factors, Pregame, and ESPN.
  2. When you find your data sources, setup each one to auto-open in our browser when you start it. This will put each source in a different tab and be ready to go when you open your internet browser.
  3. Learn to use Excel and it’s “Get External Data from Web” feature. This will allow you to update specific tables you use in one excel file; saving you time from entering data into spreadsheets and not having to learn screen scraping to capture data.
  4. Setup a summary page in your spreadsheet that you can quickly check the 5 steps above for each game. This will be a big time saver. The purpose is to provide all the key data you use to make decisions summarized on one page.
  5. Record bet results. Using your results, you can find weaknesses and constantly improve your process.

Once you get your process and tools in place, your routine becomes more efficient and less time-consuming.

This was a high-level review, but feel free to ask questions about specific examples or situations. Follow me on Twitter for all my simulations and posts. Good Luck!

MLB Simulations – May 30, 2012

15 games on today’s MLB schedule. 3 system play: Reds -123, Rangers -215, and Mariners/Rangers Under 10.

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NBA Playoff Simulations – May 30, 2012

1 game on today’s NBA schedule. No system plays

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MLB Simulations – May 29, 2012

14 games on today’s MLB schedule. 3 system play: Yankees +121, Tigers -155, and Reds -121.

CLICK HERE for today’s MLB simulations.

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NBA Playoff Simulations – May 29, 2012

1 game on today’s NBA schedule. No system plays

CLICK HERE for today’s NBA simulations.

Follow me on Twitter for all my simulations. Good Luck!

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