We’re as excited here in the Tuley’s Takes home office as everyone else about this week’s start of the MLB season. We’re so excited that we’re breaking out in song.
You see, every spring a young man’s fancy turns to baseball, and for as long as I can remember, I would pop “Baseball’s Greatest Hits” into my cassette player. I’d get into the mood for opening day by listening to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” and DeWolf Hopper’s 1906 rendition of “Casey at the Bat.” I’d also listen to classic songs like “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” “Joltin’ Joe DiMaggio,” “Van Lingle Mungo,” “Move Over Babe (Here Comes Henry),” “Baseball Card Lover” and “Willie, Mickey and the Duke (Talkin’ Baseball).” But my favorite was and still is Steve Goodman’s “A Dying Cubs Fan’s Last Request,” though it lost some of its maudlin, self-deprecating appeal with the Cubs’ 2016 title.
Rhino Records released this compilation album in 1989, so my personal tradition lasted about 30 years until I had to keep it in proverbial mothballs this spring as baseball and all other sports were shut down in mid-March. But now the music is back, and so is baseball.
I’m looking forward to the real games, especially because I believe it’s going to be a contrarian bettors’ playground. I’m looking to fade a lot of the conventional wisdom out there.
Tuley’s Takes on season-long wagers
Under. Under. Under.
My best advice for those looking at season-long wagers is to bet the Under. I know everyone wants to bet Over the season win totals for their favorite team or the teams they expect to be the best this season as well as for their favorite players, but my default position is Under or pass.
I’m convinced no one really knows how the teams will perform after this unprecedented delay. We’re starting to see which players appear to have stayed in shape, but it’s still uncertain how pitchers will hold up, and it’s even more of a mystery how team chemistry will play out.
All that uncertainty is even before we throw in the biggest question mark: Which players, or even big portions of teams, might be sidelined after testing positive for COVID-19? There’s no way I would want to sweat out an Over bet on a team or a player who misses a week or two.
In January, before we knew of the coming pandemic, I gave out the Astros Over 94.5, White Sox Over 84.5, Brewers Over 82.5 and Padres Over 82.5 as my favorite season win totals. All my bets have been canceled, as those were obviously for a 162-game schedule. I still like those teams’ chances to have better records than expected, but take those with a grain of salt if playing at the current numbers of Astros Over 35, White Sox Over 32.5, Brewers Over 30 or Padres Over 30.5.
Now the only season win totals I’m considering are the Dodgers Under 38 and Yankees Under 37.5. Even with a shorter schedule, it will be hard for any team to have a winning percentage of .633 or better even if its players stay healthy.
One narrative I agree with: I’ve heard some recommending betting Mike Trout Under on his player props as he plans to go on paternity leave when his wife gives birth in August. Of course, this already ties in with my Under-or-pass mantra, though for an entirely different reason.
As for World Series, AL and NL futures, I have no plays on which I am willing to tie up part of my bankroll for several months.
But I am going to bet a few division wagers. Again, back in January, I gave out the White Sox + 275 to win the AL Central, so I like their chances of overtaking the Twins and Indians now at + 300 at the Westgate SuperBook. I also think the Brewers and Padres are worth a flier at + 600 to win the NL Central and + 800 to win the NL West, respectively. The Brewers have more teams to climb over in the Central, and the Padres have to overcome the mighty Dodgers, but at least the prices seem fair.
I think the odds are too short on the Rays (+ 300) in the AL East or any team in the AL West to overcome the Astros. I think the NL East is playable, though I can’t make up my mind if the better play is on the defending champion Nationals at + 225 or the Phillies at + 500.
Tuley’s Takes on individual games
Over. Over. Over.
I’m sure no one expected that, but I’m looking to bet Overs in early-season games. A lot of people are predicting pitching will be ahead of hitting, especially early in the season, but I’m not so sure.
I remember hearing all the experts saying scoring would be low in the Korean Baseball Organization because of the lack of offense, but I’ve been cashing Over tickets the last two months as the pitching quality has been lacking in that league. I’m still skeptical that MLB starters will dominate, and I really question how deep they’ll be allowed to go into games. That should lead to a lot of overworked bullpens — and remember how many blown leads we saw last year.
The fact that NL teams will also be using the designated hitter should lead to higher-scoring games. I’m fully aware that oddsmakers will shade NL totals a little higher as a result, but I still believe we’ll see an offensive explosion, and I’m going to be on it early.
Of course, I’ll be monitoring things from the start Thursday and Friday and will back off if pitchers are indeed ahead of the hitters more than I’m predicting.
As for sides, it should come as no surprise from my well-established dog-or-pass reputation that I’ll be looking for live underdogs from the start. Again, there’s so much uncertainty that I can’t see why anyone would lay money on favorites early in the season, but I’m sure the public will do it and we’ll fade it.
I usually don’t like picking baseball games several days in advance, but these are the opening-day plays I’m considering:
Thursday: Nationals + 129 vs. Yankees and Nationals-Yankees Over 7.5.
Friday: Blue Jays + 150 at Rays and Blue Jays-Rays Over 7, Brewers + 117 at Cubs, Rockies-Rangers Over 9, Diamondbacks-Padres Over 8, Angels + 130 at A’s and Angels-A’s Over 8.5.