The 2021 Major League Baseball season is so close you can almost taste it. And after last year’s condensed season, the MLB returns to a 162-game schedule. A 162-game schedule per team means 2430 games total over the regular season (plus, at minimum, 20 more in the playoffs). So many games mean so many betting opportunities.
Once you join one of the best sportsbooks at Canadasportsbetting.ca, we have some tips to help you have more success betting on Major League Baseball this season.
The Three Batter Minimum Rule
Last season saw the implementation of the rule that a starting or relief pitcher must face a minimum of three batters or finish the inning before you can switch in a new pitcher (barring an injury or illness).
The rule change presents an interesting opportunity for live bettors. The role of the lefty or righty specialist is diminished as they likely now must face additional batters. The manager on the other team also can make substitutions that could help the team score more runs – meaning there are more opportunities now for live bettors to bet on the over.
Repeating as World Series Winner a Rarity Nowadays
Entering the 2021 Major League Baseball season, the favourites to win the World Series are the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers are the reigning champions and arguably still the best team in baseball. However, repeating as the World Series winner the last 20 years has been pretty much impossible.
The last time a team repeated as winners were the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2000. In the previous 20 years, only the Yankees in 2001 and the Philadelphia Phillies (in 2009) have made a World Series after winning it the year before.
The Dodgers are not worth betting as World Series winners this season – especially with the competition in the NL West from the San Diego Padres and the improvement of other playoff teams.
The Simplest Rule of Moneyball Matters
If you are not familiar with one of the most basic and important rules of Moneyball, it is simply a higher on-base percentage will win you more games. Last season 16 teams made the postseason. All 16 of the playoff teams ranked in the top-23 for on-base percentage last season. The bottom seven teams all missed the postseason.
In 2019 – a regular baseball season – nine of the ten playoff teams ranked above league average in on-base percentage.
Having guys who can draw walks and get singles matters maybe more than ever in a league that now revolves so much around home runs and strikeouts.
Could Batters Start Catching up to Increased Pitching Speed?
This is something to watch early in the season – to see if you can benefit from it later in the year. What this means is over time, hitters in baseball adjust their approaches and swing speeds to match changes in pitching.
When more pitchers started to consistently throw 94 to 96 MPH, batters needed to adjust – and over time, batter success against this speed of pitch improved. With more pitchers hitting 100 on the gun – hitters need to evolve to meet this challenge. It will be interesting to see if batters have more success against the high-speed hurlers – which opens a betting opportunity against them. It also means betting on lower and off-speed pitching could work – as bat speed and approach causes more batters to swing early against slower pitching.
No More Designated Hitters in the National League
The addition of the DH to the National League turned out to be a one-off in 2020. Removing the DH from the lineup means pitchers go back to hitting in that nine spot – meaning we are likely to see a decrease in runs in the National League next season.
In 2020, three of the five highest-scoring teams were in the NL. In the two previous seasons, only the Dodgers cracked the top-five in scoring. Make sure you are not betting too many overs on National League games in 2021.
Last year, Major League Baseball adopted a rule used in the Minors during the regular season – teams starting extra-innings with a runner on second base.
Starting with a runner on second – or equivalently having your leadoff hitter reach second base – increases the probability of scoring at least one run by a massive margin. Based on data from 1957 to 2015 – the expected runs to start an inning is 0.49. When you have a runner on second with no outs, the expected runs is 1.10.
That is per team – meaning that rule change is adding 2.20 runs. If you are live betting a game late and expect the game to go into extra innings – bet on the over!
A Subtle Change to the Baseball in 2021
The MLB made a subtle change to the ball going into 2021 – that, based on an independent study, is resulting in balls flying one to two feet shorter on balls hit over 375 feet. While the drop may be small and relatively inconsequence on a per-player basis, the change on a league-wide level is something to monitor.
The change comes following a record high 6.6% of plate appearances resulting in a home run in 2019 (a record of 6776 home runs league-wide) and 6.5% of plate appearances in 2020.
Decreasing home runs does not mean a drastic change in scoring. In 2010, there were 4613 home runs hit and teams average 4.38 runs per game. In 2019 with over 2100 more home runs, teams averaged 4.83 runs per game – a difference of 0.45 runs. That is only 10% higher scoring versus 46% more home runs.
It is hard to know if one to two feet will make a difference. It is something to watch over the first month or two of the 2021 MLB season.