Handicapping the MLB Postseason

As promised, I'm back today to talk about handicapping the Major League Baseball playoffs. Things are a bit complicated this year...with a pair of rare "Game 163" spots for tie-breakers in both the NL Central and NL West divisions scheduled for Monday afternoon. Oddly, neither of the tie-breakers is an elimination game. Teams have to bust their butts just for seeding purposes!

I'll have to see what happens with pitcher performance in those games to determine if those will be a monkey wrench for our normal handicapping. For now, I'm going to focus on my traditional handicapping strategies.

You regular students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping know that I always start with PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS. For baseball, that means:

*Quality starting pitchers
*Shut down relievers in the last few innings
*Power hitters on offense

Those are the factors that matter post in postseason baseball. Always been true for as long as I can remember. The only evolution for handicappers has been what happens in the final innings. In the 1960's, ace starters were expected to go the distance. It was Bob Gibson's job to keep the scoreboard clean in the eighth and ninth innings. Once the mounds were lowered, and hitting conditions adjusted (better backdrops, a fairer strike zone), it became more difficult for aces to throw nine innings. Closers were needed to slam the door late. Currently, in the modern game, we're starting to see managers use the bullpen to get a stranglehold on the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings.

Here are the key stats to look at for each of my categories. Your homework today is to grab those stats for this month's participants. You'll be using these stats all month...so have them ready before the Wildcard games start Tuesday and Wednesday!

STARTING PITCHERS
*ERA and xFIP (which is "fielding independent pitching")
*K's per 9 innings
*Innings pitched per start
*Compare road/home stats to account for ballpark influences

LATE-INNING RELIEF
*K's per 9 innings
*HR's allowed
*Blown Saves

KEY HITTERS
*On-base percentage
*Slugging percentage
*Compare road/home stats to account for ballpark influences

It's very important that bettors are aware of ballpark influences on stats. That's because the mainstream media tends to hype players based on their stats, without understanding the illusions that are created by playing 81 games in either a good hitters' park, or a good pitchers' park.

For example, last year Houston's Minute Maid Park was the best pitchers' park in baseball. The Astros' offense was even more dynamic than realized because it was being held back so much in its home games. Conversely, some pitchers weren't as good as believed because they had been getting outs in poor visibility parks all season. What's going to separate YOU from your buddies is the ability to make adjustments for those realities.

So...one extra piece of homework...do a web search to get this season's ballpark factors from ESPN or other baseball websites. You need to know how each playoff site influenced games this past regular season.

I can't get too specific here in the coursework because I need to protect my own selections for paying customers. But, I will also outline these general principals I believe will be in play this month.

*Look for competitive baseball! Very little separates contenders this season. Even though Boston had the best record by a mile, much of that was because they were better at beating up on bad teams than everyone else was. Boston's record vs. other playoff teams was around 50/50. And, nobody's so good right now that they can be expected to dominate the field. Maybe somebody will get hot moving forward. Right now, you have to be very careful laying high prices because many games are true toss-ups.

*Playoff experience is likely to matter in crunch time scenarios. It wouldn't hurt you to review the number of playoff games on the resume of key players. There will be guys on Atlanta and Milwaukee with stars in their eyes. Houston just won a World Championship, and won't feel many butterflies at all. I'm still deciding myself how I'll pick spots with this angle. I am prepared to pick spots when the time arises. You should be too.

*Pay close attention to game starting times. The playoffs have some unique starts for television, which creates shadow issues on some fields that aren't normally in play. This favors pitchers dramatically, particularly those with electric stuff. Try not to bet Overs on totals in games with shadow issues. Consider fading highly regarded pitchers when visibility is going to be at its best. Use your analysis of this angle as an extra ace up your sleeve in the divisional round.

If you're not comfortable picking baseball on your own, but you'd like a shot at winning some extra money this month...KELSO STURGEON'S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the office by calling office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping wishes you baseball bettors the best of luck this postseason. I know many of you are from parts of the country where legal betting is NEW. This will be your first attempt at the playoffs. Follow my guidance today, and there's a good chance you'll be ahead of the market through the month. I'll see everyone again Friday when we go back to football in our coursework.