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Injury to star shows strength of Astros

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

Carlos Correa
© USA Today Sports Images

Houston Astros star shortstop Carlos Correa will miss up to two months with an injury. That plus our first in-depth Q and A with a bettor in our Wednesday report. 

MLB: Astros lose MVP candidate Carlos Correa for 6-8 weeks with thumb injury
Carlos Correa tore ligaments in his thumb Monday night taking a swing against the Seattle Mariners. The injury will require surgery. Correa is likely to miss 6-8 weeks, the same timetable we saw for Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels when he suffered a similar injury. 

The Astros have so much hitting depth that the loss of Correa won’t be too damaging. Plus, they’re already 63-31 after beating Seattle 6-2 Tuesday Night. They can go 37-31 and still reach 100 wins. Playing .500 ball the rest of the way would get them past 95 wins. We’re not likely to see a collapse.

But, we are likely to see some impact on overall team performance because Correa was putting up great offensive numbers (playing his home games in a pitcher’s park!) while playing a demanding defensive position. Generally speaking, it’s not hard to find first baseman who can mash. It’s VERY hard to find shortstops who can mash! 

Let’s express that impact using weighted on-base average, a stat you’ve heard Gill Alexander discuss often. Here’s how “Houston shortstops” have performed in the key indicator stat compared to spots further down the rankings

MLB performance at shortstop position in wOBA (weighted on-base average)

1…Houston .403

5…Red Sox .328

10…Angels .319

15…Cubs .306

20…Florida .285

Correa is so much better than the field at his position that Houston’s wOBA advantage is 75 decimal points over fifth place, .84 over 10th place, almost a full 100 points better than average (middle of the Majors), and well over 100 better than twentieth place. Compare that to a “slugging” position like first base.

MLB performance at first base position in wOBA

1…Atlanta .424

5…Toronto .389

10…Colorado .368

15…St. Louis.357

20…San Francisco .340

First, you can see that Houston is getting “first base” type production from Correa, as Houston’s SS wOBA would rank in the top five at 1B. Secondly, the differentials are much tighter at 1B. Atlanta is only 35 points better than fifth place, 67 better than the middle of the Majors, and still only 84 better than 20th place.

In short, having a shortstop who hits like a first baseman is HUGE because you have two first basemen in your batting order while the other team has one and a much weaker hitting shortstop. This is why second baseman Joe Morgan was such a key performer for the Big Red Machine back in the day. Everybody had a first baseman who could hit. Cincinnati had a Hall-of-Fame slugger who could also play great defense at a demanding up-the-middle position that didn’t feature many sluggers. It was like having Tony Perez as your first baseman, and Hank Aaron as your second baseman. 

Experienced handicappers know to evaluate performers compared to the norms for their position. That helps get a true read on why teams succeed or fail…helps you evaluate trades…helps you predict the impact of an injury…and puts you ahead of the general public that tends to focus on raw numbers rather than context. It’s an important concept for bettors to master.

(In other important MLB personnel news, Arizona acquired star outfielder J.D. Martinez from Detroit in a trade. Fangraphs provided a comprehensive analytical breakdown of that acquisition.)

Baseball Betting: Q and A with VSiN City subscriber and sports bettor “Coast2Coast”
After last Wednesday’s tutorial on exploiting “arbitrage” scenarios in Major League Baseball, one of our first newsletter subscribers contacted us to let us know that he’s been successfully using arbitrage thus far this season. The bettor, known for years as “Coast2Coast” in sports betting forums and @C2CHoops on twitter, has been mixing his regular bets with in-game “live” betting to create these profitable scenarios. 

We asked him to explain further, and it turned into a full-blown Q and A session.

VSiN City: Can you explain to our audience what you’ve been doing?

Coast2Coast: I bet a game before it starts. Then if my team gets ahead early in the game, but I’m not confident in what I’m seeing from my starting pitcher, I may live bet the other side to lock in a profit. Let’s say I had bet $150 to win $100 on a favorite at -150, and they got ahead by two runs early in the game. I could then get the trailing team at about plus 300. If I bet $62.50 at plus 300 it will win $187.50. I’ve locked in a profit of $37.50 no matter which team wins.  

The trick of course is to be fast and be sure you are getting fair value on your in-game bets. If you watch the in-game betting markets, you will get a feel for what typical odds are for different situations.

VSiN City: Can you give us a recent example?

Coast2Coast: On July 8, I had 1 unit risked on the White Sox at 130 vs Colorado. The Chisox got ahead 4-2 in the fourth, but neither starting pitcher looked on their game, both bullpens are questionable, and early leads aren’t safe in high scoring ballparks. So, I bought .75 units at 207 on Colorado to win 1.55 units.  Sure enough, Colorado came back and tied it in the eighth, but then Chicago won it with a ninth inning home run. But I didn't really care about the outcome as I had a 0.55-unit win locked in either way since the fourth inning.

VSiN City: Many pro bettors would question bailing on an underdog bet when your team jumped to an early lead. Why were you more comfortable locking in your profit?

Coast2Coast: This high-scoring season seems to be a pretty good one to hedge bets like this as there seem to be more come from behind multi-run rallies than I recall from previous years. That would be a good topic to study more in-depth.

VSiN City: Thanks very much for adding in that additional approach to last week’s discussion on arbitrage betting in baseball. In sports betting forums and on twitter, you’ve mostly been known for college basketball analysis through the years. What attracted you to baseball this season? 

Coast2Coast: Early in the season, I would listen to Gill Alexander’s analysis on “A Numbers Game,” and I became more interested in baseball analytics.  I always knew about these analytics, but didn’t really study them or put them to use.  But Gill helped me do that by explaining them and each day, providing the data and his perspective for all the games.  I started small and have gradually become more invested as I have come to understand which data are most relevant to winning plays.  I am still a long way from building a comprehensive model to guide me. But, I use a few different sources of data, a growing feel for the value of each data point, and I’m feeling confident as the results so far have been solid. Listening to Gill and his guests has tilted the odds more in my favor. 

VSiN City: We understand you don’t want to give away too much about your process because it might take away your edge. What can you tell our readers regarding “which data are most relevant to winning plays?”

Coast2Coast: As a rookie baseball bettor, I was well-served by studying a range of analytics. For readers who are considering betting baseball, don’t pay too much attention to Win/Loss, ERA, batting average – the commonly reported stats.  Those stats are mostly useless for me to bet baseball.  I hardly look at them.  For pitchers, I look at WHIP, FIP, xFIP, Sierra, ground ball percentage, fly ball percentage, batting average of right-handed and left-handed batters against them, walks, strikeouts and a few more. I also look at a few hitter statistics, including batting average against right-handed and left-handed pitchers.  I’m still working on refining my models to determine how best to weight each factor. But for beginners, it need not be complicated.  There are data sources in which you can get these data for every pitching matchup every day in a spreadsheet layout in about ten minutes a day.  And when you line up opposing pitchers’ data, sometimes differences in certain metrics are much more significant than a betting line suggests.

VSiN City: What data sources do you recommend?

Coast2Coast: These data for baseball are available free on fangraphs. And if you listen to Gill, he will sometimes add data from other proprietary sources.

VSiN City: Any all-purpose betting advice that will help readers in baseball, college basketball, or any sport?

Coast2Coast: One observation I have is that many sports gamblers suffer greatly from what psychologists call the “recency effect.” That is, people remember most what they saw last. How many times have you heard a commentator talk about a player’s or a team’s performance in the last game and imply that is a predictor for the next game. Human performance just doesn’t work that way. We all have long-term performance levels, ratings and trends in our jobs. Having our boss evaluate us solely on how we did our job yesterday or over the last week would be silly. But such is the nature of how many people evaluate athletes and teams and try to pick winners.

I think the mainstream sports media unintentionally skews, and maybe harms the thinking of their listeners/viewers who are bettors. Most print and broadcast media don’t focus their interviews or stories on bettors’ need for long-term perspective. Let me be clear here. I am not “blaming the media” for this. Helping their listeners/viewers think like smarter bettors is not their role. I’m just saying that bettors have to be careful about how much weight they put to information they get through the media. So, my best recommendation to bettors is comb through the data yourself, look for longer-term performance data than just the last game, last three games, or even the current season.

VSiN City: Many new bettors are thrown by the challenges of money management. What’s your best advice to readers who are just getting started?

Coast2Coast: Start small and be conservative with bet size. Never overbet any one game. I flat bet the same one unit amount most games and only occasionally go more than a flat unit. For me, a unit is about ½ of 1% up to 2% of my bankroll, depending on the sport  I will increase my unit size as my bankroll increases, but no 5x or 10x bets for me. I may have a rare 2x or 3x bet, but I’m talking maybe a few times a season when both situational and fundamental handicapping produces a strong play.

VSiN City: Thanks so much for taking time to answer these questions for us, and your kind comments about Gill Alexander and “A Numbers Game.”

Coast2Coast: To use an old analogy, most sports forums, touts, and radio hosts and their guests tell you what fish they are going to buy. Gill is one of the few sports media members I have seen in my 40 years of sports betting who helps teach people how to fish. Gill and his guests provide analysis and data. This is very different from most sports radio hosts who interview players, coaches, managers or just share their stories and opinions. That can be entertaining or interesting at times, but rarely do those interviews provide much actionable information for bettors.

Wednesday Wrap up: Horse Racing and CFL Preview
We greatly appreciate Coast2Coast taking us through his arbitrage approach and providing those other tips. As VSiN City continues to grow and evolve, we plan to include more Q and A sessions with professional bettors. 

Before calling it a day, we also wanted to alert you to a special horse racing article posted Tuesday here at the website by Ron Flatter on the summer sessions at Saratoga and Del Mar. The latter begins today. Saratoga starts Friday. We’re very happy to be welcoming back newsletter sponsor NYRA Bets, who was with us through the 2017 Triple Crown. They’ll help us keep you abreast of developments at Saratoga through Labor Day.

We promised a preview of the first CFL game of the week…Montreal at Ottawa…that kicks off Wednesday evening. Ottawa opened just over a field goal at -3.5. The Redblacks have been bet up to -4.5 or -5 at most stores. The Over/Under opened at 50.5, but is now down to 50 or 49.5. Remember that this is the first of TWO games this week for Ottawa, who also plays a Monday Nighter in five days at Toronto. 

  • Montreal: 2-2 straight up, 2-2 ATS; but three of four have been at home
  • Ottawa: 0-3-1 straight up, 3-1 ATS, three of four have come vs. CFL powers

Despite being winless, Ottawa is seen by the market as the superior neutral field team. They’re obviously in a must-win game against a divisional foe. That said, Montreal is the fresher of the two teams. And, the Alouettes have covered two of three as an underdog because their league-best rushing attack shortens games while their defense disrupts opponents. 

Defensive Yards-per-Play by game vs. common opponents

  • Montreal: allowed 5.5 to Edmonton, 6.5 to Calgary
  • Ottawa: allowed 6.3 to Edmonton, 7.2 and 7.9 to Calgary

Handicappers who believe in the “defensive dog” theory will be looking at Montreal getting at least four. Others who like the intangible of a “must-win” home team have already pushed the line higher off the opener. 

If you’re reading this on our website home page, don’t forget that new subscribers will automatically entered to win a free entry into the 2017 Westgate SuperContest. That’s a $1,500 value. The drawing will be held August 19 so you out-of-towners will have time to set up a proxy. (Prior subscribers are already locked into the draw!) Subscribers also get access to those very helpful daily South Point betting sheets. Subscriptions are FREE, and get VSiN City delivered to your email box every morning. 

We hope you liked our first Q and A session with a pro bettor. If you have any comments or questions on that, or anything else in the VSiN universe, please drop us a note. You can follow us on twitter for programming bulletins throughout the day by clicking here. 

Back Thursday for pennant race baseball coverage and previews for the rest of the CFL weekend.

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