Could we possibly be seeing some light at the end of the tunnel?
Sports bettors desperate for action and a return to normalcy got a dose of good news yesterday when reports surfaced that Major League Baseball was considering a new plan to get the sport back up and running. According to USA Today, MLB officials "have become cautiously optimistic this week that the season will start in late June, and no later than July 2." The plan calls for at least a 100-game season and teams playing in their own ballparks but with no fans in the stands.
In an interesting twist, the plan would also include realignment based on location in an attempt to limit travel between cities. There would be no American League or National League but instead three 10-team divisions.
East: Yankees, Mets, Red Sox, Nats, Orioles, Phillies, Pirates, Jays, Rays, Marlins
West: Dodgers, Angels, Giants, A's, Padres, D'Backs, Rockies, Rangers, Astros, Mariners
Central: Cubs, White Sox, Brewers, Cardinals, Royals, Reds, Indians, Twins, Braves, Tigers
While we cross our fingers and hope it comes to fruition, let's discuss an important MLB betting 101 topic: Action vs Listed Pitcher.
Baseball is a predominantly moneyline and total sport, meaning the vast majority of bets are placed on which team will win the game and how many total runs will be scored by both teams combined. Spread betting also exists in baseball but it's far less popular. It's considered the "run line" with the favorite -1.5 and the dog 1.5.
One important aspect of baseball betting that gets largely overlooked by new bettors is the ability to bet "action" or "listed pitcher." Knowing the distinction is critically important because it can have a big effect on the outcome and payout of your bet.
In baseball, no player has more of an effect on the game than the starting pitcher. They are like the quarterback in football or the goalie in hockey. The oddsmakers set lines with starting pitcher matchups in mind and bettors will handicap games based on starting pitchers.
However, over the course of a long 162-game season, it's common to see starting pitchers get scratched. This means they were scheduled to start the game but will no longer pitch. This could be the result of an injury, a trade or a pitcher being pushed back to receive additional rest.
When a pitcher is scratched, the game is taken "off the board" (OTB), which means the odds are pulled and you can no longer bet on the game. Once the replacement pitcher is announced, the game is re-opened at new odds based on the new pitching matchup.
To protect yourself from these unforeseen surprises, MLB bettors are afforded the opportunity to place their bets via "action" or "listed pitcher." If you bet action, this means that no matter what happens you are locked into the team you originally bet on, regardless of whether either pitcher gets scratched. The odds of your original bet are adjusted or revised to the new moneyline price based on the new starting pitcher on the mound.
Why is this so detrimental? Because you would hate to spend all day analyzing and handicapping a matchup based on a perceived starting pitcher advantage but then the pitcher gets scratched and you're locked into a bad bet with an inferior pitcher on the mound.
To save yourself from this Russian Roulette scenario, you could instead bet "listed pitcher." This means both starting pitchers must start the game in order for the bet to count. If either get scratched, the bet is graded "no action" or "N/A" for short, meaning the bet is cancelled and refunded.
A third option is betting on "one listed pitcher." This means you can designate just one of the two starters as the listed pitcher. If the one pitcher you select gets scratched, the bet is voided. If the other pitcher you didn't select gets scratched the bet still counts.
In the end, the name of the game is having control over your bets. By betting "action," you are at the mercy of a pitching change and whatever the new line is. By betting "listed pitcher," you guard yourself against an unforeseen pitching change that could negatively affect your bet. For this reason, betting listed pitcher is the smarter way to go. Also, if you end up liking the new pitching matchup after the scratch, you could always just re-bet the game once the new line opens.