Does cold weather equal 'under' in early-season baseball?

Does cold weather equal 'under' in early-season baseball?

Does cold weather equal 'under' in early-season baseball?
Covers.com

Bettors don’t get too many chances to get one over on the books, but that doesn’t stop us from chasing dubious theories in hopes of them paying off.

Right now, there’s a lot of chatter going around because some people think the books are vulnerable to “under” bets in early-season MLB games.

The theory rests on an assumption (and you know what Benny Hill said about assumptions) that a perfect storm bears down on the sportsbooks at this time every year. Various elements can lead to lots of low-scoring games and plenty of winning “under” bets, so the thinking goes.

The first factor is weather. Ballclubs have just spent the last month or so basking in the tropical conditions of Florida and Arizona as they went through the motions of spring training. Now, suddenly, a bunch of those clubs have to relocate to northern cities like Cleveland, Boston, Milwaukee, etc. where winter hangs around like an unwanted houseguest in the month of April.

These frosty conditions obviously affect pitchers and hitters alike, but for the most part, batters seem to struggle the most with it as they linger in the dugout between at-bats and deal with decreased circulation and cold hands in the batters box.

“The cold weather at this time of year definitely has an effect on both hitting and run production,” says Covers Expert Ted Sevransky. “On chilly nights, batters tend to have an even tougher time.  I don't play many overs the first week or two of the season.”

The other thing working against hitters in any ballpark, regardless of weather, is the developmental curve at this juncture in the season. In any skill game, it’s going to take a while for players to shake off the accumulated rust of the offseason and round into form. Pitchers, who arrive at spring training before position players and have only one aspect of their game to work on, have a developmental edge on the rest of the players who have to hone their hitting and fielding. Traditionally, pitchers are sharper in the first month of the season than hitters.

That’s why a lot of handicappers pay special attention to teams in northern climates in the first month of the season.

“Some of the parks that are generally regarded as 'over' type stadiums,” says Sevransky, “like Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati and Citizens Bank Ballpark in Philly, aren't always the over machines that they're cracked up to be until the weather warms up a bit.”

These are generally accepted baseball truths, but they don’t necessarily hold value for total bettors.

It’s hard to glean any significant insight from stats after two or three games, but Philadelphia and Cincinnati, which both finished 20 games to the over last season, are both 1-1 on the O/U so far this season.

However, bettors who like to lean on systems and theories should know that handicappers like Sevransky, who place value on the under at this time of year, also pick their spots with a healthy dose of discretion.

Consider the situation at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark this past week. The Phillies saw 17 runs scored in their first game, followed by just one run the next day, which seems to indicate that you shouldn’t make the mistake of confusing this idea for an all-encompassing, across-the-board, green-light for under bets.

Regardless of what time of year it is or what the weather man is saying, if you’re going to lay a bet, you have to look at all the elements involved in the game.

For example, if it’s true that hitters aren’t in midseason form at the onset of the season, then it follows that they should be a little rusty in the field as well. Judging by the 43 errors that were committed in the first two games of the season, it’s fair to say the fielding wasn’t so hot (that number would put all MLB teams on pace for a combined 3,483 errors for the season after a total of 2,892 last season).

Fielding is probably the most underappreciated element of the game and the most overlooked by handicappers. Errors at key moments in a game can lead to runs and those runs can easily make the difference on your betting ticket.

So while weather and rusty hitters may be a factor at this time of year, they’re not the only things that have an impact on the final score. Bookmakers aren’t going to give bettors gifts at any time of year and if you look at the over/under results at cold-weather parks so far this year, there doesn’t seem to be an edge anywhere.

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