How to handicap MLB umpire betting stats
By: Covers Staff
One of the best kept secrets among sharp baseball bettors is using MLB home plate umpire stats when researching their daily wagers. And Covers is one of the few outlets to find these certain stats – especially as they pertain to the MLB betting odds.
Every umpire is different. Some have a large strike zone, benefiting pitchers, while others have a small strike zone, which helps hitters. Some give the home team the benefit of the doubt and others are not rattled by their surroundings.
Umpire crews are announced before the start of a series and follow a standard rotation from game-to-game, moving clockwise. That means that if an umpire is behind home plate in Game 1 of a series, they will be at third base the following night and the first base ump from Game 1 will take over calling the balls and strikes in Game 2.
Here are some simple steps to take when factoring umpire stats into your baseball bets:
The one MLB wager that utilizes umpire stats the most is betting baseball totals. You can find how a team is playing offensively as well as how the starting pitcher is performing in recent efforts, and should weigh those factor against the umpire calling the balls and strikes.
During the course of the MLB season, Covers tracks the Over/Under results for each game as well as for each home plate umpire. You can simply go to our MLB umpire stats and find which umpires call more Over winners and which ones are involved with more Under winners.
Factoring those umpires with a particular lean to the Over or Under, along with the teams’ current form and starting pitchers, should give you a good idea of which side of the MLB total you want to wager on.
Matching umps and pitchers
As mentioned above, some umpires have a liberal strike zone while others call the game much tighter. Recognizing how a home plate ump calls the balls and strikes can give you a huge edge when capping starting pitchers and Over/Under totals.
For example, if an umpire is known for having a big strike zone and is calling a game with an accurate pitcher, who likes to paint the corners, then there is a good chance the pitcher – and their team - will excel given those added inches.
This also gives value to the Under, as the pitcher will strike out more batters than walk, putting less men on base and therefor allowing fewer runs than normal.
However, if you have a command-based pitcher on the mound and an umpire with a stingy strike zone behind home plate, that pitcher could struggle to get Ks as they attempt to nibble the corners of the strike zone.
That quickly translates to more balls than strikes and can often force a starter to throw pitches they wouldn’t normally make – just to appease the umpire – and change their approach to each hitter as they find themselves walking more batters than normal. This opens value to play against those pitchers as well as the Over, with more men getting on base due to elevate walks.
Home/Away and team trends
While MLB umpires are supposed to be neutral when it comes to home and away teams, there are some umpires who side with the host teams more than the visitors. There may be a subconscious factor at play with these types of umpires, who feel like they need to appease the home crowds. However, there is a flip side to those trends, as road teams have prevailed more often with certain umpires behind home plate.
Along with these Home/Away and Over/Under records, Covers generates unique umpire trends for each and every MLB game on the schedule. Throughout the course of a 162-game baseball season, betting trends will develop between home plate umpires and MLB clubs and their starting pitchers, giving leans toward certain sides and totals.
These unique betting trends can be found in Covers’ MLB matchup pages and in-depth game trends for every MLB contest on the board.
How to handicap baseball betting odds
By: Steve Merril
Handicapping Major League Baseball begins with starting pitchers but there are other factors baseball bettors must consider when placing their wagers on the diamond.
Photo By - USA Today Images
Baseball betting provides more investment opportunities than any other professional sport. NFL teams only play 16 regular season games, while NBA and NHL teams play 82 games. Major League Baseball teams play almost twice as many regular season games with 162.
For six straight months (April-September), bettors have almost 15 games per day to handicap and find investment opportunities in the MLB betting odds. The biggest edge a baseball bettor has is selectivity.
Oddsmakers and sportsbooks must post a line on every game, however, bettors don’t have to wager on every game. A bettor can sit back and isolate the number of games per day which present value. Here’s how to find value when betting on Major League Baseball odds.
Baseball teams play more games than any other sport. This means as the season progresses, you have a substantial amount of statistical data to analyze. The starting pitchers are the most important factor in setting baseball lines. Two offenses could be equal, but if one team has a substantially better starting pitcher on the mound, they might be anywhere from a -150 to -200 moneyline favorite.
When analyzing the pitching matchup, there are three key statistical categories to analyze: 1. ERA (earned run average) tells how many runs per nine-innings the pitcher is allowing. Any number below 3.50 is solid, and below 3.00 ERA is All-Star quality. 2. WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) gives a good indication of how many base runners a pitcher is allowing each inning. A WHIP below 1.30 is solid and below 1.10 is excellent. 3. K/BB (strikeout/walk ratio) and K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) are also useful as this once again shows which pitchers are able to keep runners off of the bases by striking them out.
While starting pitching is still the key factor to handicapping baseball, it has become less of a factor in deciding the result of games. This is because most starting pitchers only last 5-6 innings per game, which means bullpens now play a bigger role in the outcome. For this reason, you must also factor in bullpen statistics such as ERA, WHIP, and save percentage.
Handicapping the bullpens is a bit tricky since you never know which actual relief pitcher(s) will be brought into a game. Therefore, using overall seasonal numbers for the entire bullpen is a good barometer. Also, look to play against teams that have used several relief pitchers in the past one or two games as fatigue often becomes an issue.
When analyzing offensive statistics, you can look at the overall team numbers such as runs per game, team batting average, and OPS (on-base + slugging percentage). Be sure to break down the offensive numbers for home and road games, as well as the difference when facing right-handed pitchers (RHP) and left-handed pitchers (LHP). Some teams often exhibit extreme home/road dichotomies or perform substantial better against righties or southpaws.
With the long 162-game regular season, momentum and current form are important handicapping factors. Look to back teams playing well and avoid teams that are struggling, until they turn the corner. This is especially true with current offensive momentum (good and bad). Also, keep an eye out for injuries or teams that might be resting starters.
The nice thing about betting the moneyline in baseball (and no pointspread) is that you only have to pick the winner. However, money management remains the most important element to long-term success, therefore you want to avoid betting big moneyline favorites. Once the moneyline reaches -170 or higher, you are better using the -1.5 runline instead.
When playing moneyline odds favorites you should play to win one unit. For example, on a -120 favorite, you risk $120 to win $100. When playing moneyline underdogs, you should risk one unit to win more. For example, on a +140 underdog, you risk $100 to win $140. This will keep your money management system consistent. While some plays are stronger than others, you should still keep your unit sizes between 1 to 5 percent of your total bankroll.