Game-day pitching changes throw curve at bettors

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

May 19, 2019 03:51 PM

Game-day pitching changes in Major League Baseball are becoming a huge problem for betting markets. And it’s only going to get worse this season.

More and more managers are using “openers” from the bullpen to pitch the first inning or two. They don’t have to decide a day in advance which guy they’re going to use. In fact, there’s a tactical advantage in not letting your opponents know who’s going to start. 

Also, in any doubleheader caused by an earlier rainout, managers can be coy about which hurler will start the opener, and which will start the nightcap. 

All this is a headache for oddsmakers and bettors. Typically, most bettors prefer to “list” the starting pitchers in a scheduled game. That way, if there’s a late scratch because of an injury, the bet is also scratched and the bettor gets a refund. There’s nothing worse than putting your money down on an ace, only to find out he discovered a blister in the bullpen and some mediocre long reliever is getting the nod instead. 

Though, there’s also an option to just bet “action,” which means that any pitching change gets re-priced, but your bet still stands. You’re still rooting for the same team (or Over/Under) after a pricing adjustment for the new pitcher. Most sharps refuse to bet this way (and many are adamant because they don’t want oddsmakers to have that much control over their money). But there are situations where betting “action” might make sense.

  • You’re riding a hot offense, and you don’t really care who the opposing pitcher is. 
  • You’re looking to fade a team at a dead spot in their starting rotation, and you don’t care which mediocrity is finally chosen to start. 
  • You’re betting a trend or an angle that doesn’t have anything to do with pitching (this isn’t something many sharps would do, but many recreational bettors would).
  • You’re just betting a small amount for fun, and pricing adjustments aren’t going to affect your enjoyment. 

Sports books and sharps preferred when all teams were on set starting pitcher rotations, and announced their “probable pitchers” well in advance. Now, there’s additional paperwork, and unwanted frenzies when last-second “surprises” are unveiled. 

Things are trending badly for oddsmakers and bettors. Teams are having success with “openers” in the first inning. Success gets copied. Baseball managers have no obligation to make life easy for the sports betting industry. They’re trying to win games.

For bettors, the best advice is as follows…

  • If you’re making a bet specifically because of the starting pitchers involved, you obviously should list those pitchers. Then, remember to go collect your refund if there’s a change.
  • If you’re focused more on the teams, or a special angle that has nothing to do with the starting pitchers…you can just bet “action.” Your bet will be live at prices that are adjusted to reflect the new starting pitchers. 

Check with your local sports book for more details. 


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