1. Avoid heavy favorites
By heavy favorites, I’m referring to teams listed at –170 or more. While these may appear to be safe bets at first glance, in reality they’re far from it. Rarely will you find a –200 favorite that isn’t overvalued. With upwards of 15 games on the MLB board just about every night, there is usually much more value to be found elsewhere.
A perfect example of this rule is last year’s edition of the Tampa Bay Rays. They were heavily favored more often than not, and despite a good overall record (84-78), they had the moneyline bettor down over nine units on the season.
2. Don’t put too much weight in starting pitchers
Pitchers are just one part of the baseball equation. When it comes down to it, very few starting pitchers can be relied upon consistently. Where you can find value, is looking at current team performance. Oddsmakers overvalue certain pitchers all the time, knowing that the public will bite. For example, Zack Greinke was favored in all but four of his 33 starts in 2006. However, the Kansas City Royals went just 17-16 in those games.
3. Pay attention to the schedule
Few bettors take a team's schedule into consideration when handicapping a game, but it is definitely an important factor. There are plenty of letdown spots to be found. For instance, in 2006 the Boston Red Sox went on the road to face the then lowly Rays followed by a trip to Kansas City. They proceeded to drop five of six games.
Were they looking ahead to series against the league-leading Tigers and AL East-leading Yankees at Fenway in the next week? Probably. Another good spot to look out for is when a team is wrapping up a disappointing or lengthy road trip. We tend to see a lackluster effort in the final installment.
4. Avoid betting against streaks
While there can be value in betting against highly publicized streaks from time to time, the bottom line is you’re going against the grain, and that’s not usually a profitable decision. In most cases, you are better off waiting until a streak finishes to start siding with or fading a particular team. We saw numerous double-digit streaks last season. Whatever you do, try to avoid chasing a team on a losing streak. A long losing streak can put you in the poorhouse in a hurry.
5. Don’t rely solely on statistics
There is a never-ending list of statistical categories tracked when it comes to baseball. While these numbers can a useful, they can also steer you in the wrong direction in some cases. Remember, there are stats that will support either side in most matchups. Uncovering the most important ones is critical.
Some categories that I put emphasis on are: starting pitchers' K/BB ratio, team bullpen ERA and team batting average over the last 10 games. The lesson to be learned is, don’t blindly back a team based on numbers. Be sure to take a look at the fundamental and situational aspects as well.