As we enter the final stretch of the regular season, I often adopt a betting philosophy that many of my colleagues harp on as being “ridiculous” and “overprotective.” I like to believe that their observations are nothing more than rancid hyperbole, but I like to keep my winning percentage as high as possible — as any acute sports bettor should — and, because of this, I typically leave no stone unturned. In this case, this is the third year in a row now that I seriously look at pitchers who are usually considered “safe bets” and then look at what type of position their team is in.
In other words: Is a star pitcher, one I would normally place my money line bet on, playing for a team that is so far out of contention that not even an Angels in the Outfield type of miracle could save their season? If that is the case, I stop betting on them. No questions asked. As mentioned, my colleagues think I’m ludicrous for doing so. But, I believe there are too many mental — and managerial — intangibles at play in these type of situations. And, whenever there is any slice of doubt, I am not willing to place my cash on a bet. I would rather play it somewhere else where I know I am almost guaranteed to get a solid return on investment.
For an example of this, one has to look no further than Felix Hernandez and the Seattle Mariners. Granted, Hernandez is five outings removed from a perfect game. And, granted, he has been one of the most consistent money earners in baseball betting this season. But, the Mariners are 16.5 games behind the AL West-leading Rangers. There is absolutely no shot of salvaging the season. No playoffs. Not even a moral victory.
So, in my mind, I am asking this: What legitimate reason does Hernandez have to pitch at a Cy Young-caliber level? Aside from the pundits who will say, “because he is a winner — and winners want to win,” I say nothing. And his last two outings tell the story. In his last two starts, Hernandez has allowed nine earned runs. In contrast, he allowed only 10 earned runs in his previous eight starts. And, to make matters worse, he has only lasted 4.2 and 7.1 innings in his last two starts. From a betting perspective, he is no longer a pitcher worthy of the money-line bet.
In the end, Hernandez is simply one example of this happening all across the league. Will there be exceptions? Of course. Heck, Hernandez may throw egg on my face his next outing and throw another perfect game.
But I doubt it. It is much more likely that Hernandez is actively thinking about his offseason vacation plans rather than ball placement while on the mound. Personally, I cannot blame him. I just hope those of you just getting into baseball betting for the first time recognize the dangers of betting on a pitcher whose team is completely and utterly out of the race (or out of anything, for that matter). You will be much more successful (especially financially) if you begin to place your bets on those pitchers hurling for teams still in contention, or those who are nearly locks for playoff positions.