Backing a baseball team because a hot starting pitcher is on the mound is a common practice for anyone who has gambled on baseball on a regular basis. A dominant pitching performance can often be the sole reason a bettor wins or loses a baseball wager.
But what happens when you place a bet on the Nationals to win on the moneyline because Max Scherzer is on the hill, and he gets scratched 20 minutes before the game with a back issue? Well, prior to this season, your bet was simply voided.
Once a new starting pitcher is named, the sportsbook offers revised odds. And, often times, the replacement pitcher is hardly imposing, and is rarely worth backing. Which means instead of putting a little money behind an elite starting pitcher, you’re stuck watching a Triple-A journeyman making a spot start with no action on the game.
At least, that’s how things were before this season. But now, at least one sportsbook in Las Vegas is changing baseball betting.
The Westgate SuperBook announced that it is no longer listing starting pitchers when it posts the line on a Major League Baseball game. In other words, although the SuperBook will shift the odds on a game if the scheduled starter is scratched, any bets already placed on the game remain live, regardless of the starter.
So, if you’re excited about backing Gerrit Cole and you place a big wager on the Yankees, have some Pepto-Bismol handy, at least until you see Cole take the mound. Because if he gets scratched and the Yankees’ sixth-best reliever or the bat boy or a grounds crew member has to make an emergency appearance, well, if you placed your bet with the SuperBook, you’re locked in.
Given the current health situation facing baseball and the world, the SuperBook’s announcement isn’t all that surprising. There’s a strong chance that with the increased health and safety protocols MLB has implemented, several pitchers could test positive for COVID-19 and be scratched shortly before their starts this year even without showing any symptoms.
But, truth be told, the COVID-19 situation isn’t the only reason the SuperBook is making the switch. With more and more teams embracing the idea of starting a reliever for an inning or two or piggybacking starters, oddsmakers have had a difficult time finding the right line. That has been particularly true given that teams employing the strategy often wouldn’t announce their “starting pitcher” until shortly before the game.
“It’s a decision we have discussed for a few years now, and with ‘openers’ becoming more prevalent, it made sense, especially for a 60-game season from a guest experience standpoint,” said Jeff Sherman, VP of Risk Management for the SuperBook. “We felt like there would be numerous refunds this season on totals and run-lines with anticipated pitching changes, so this way, bettors are in action,” meaning that their bets are locked in regardless of the starting pitcher.
The SuperBook’s change in approach will have a major impact on professional bettors, but it will also affect the everyday baseball bettor, too. And both the SuperBook and other linemakers are going to be closely watching the impact on both the book and the sports gambling community.
“The challenge for the book will be the time someone bets against (Clayton) Kershaw or (Justin) Verlander and gets it at +300 and then they are scratched for a reliever and the new price is +150,” said Dave Sharapan of CG Sportsbooks. “Ideally, it will even out, but it makes monitoring social media and being privy to good information even more important.”
Long overdue and a welcome change this season…
Teams that used a reliever to start games last season made it a daily headache for books…
Books & bettors will both feel pain on occasion, but it’s fair.
Play ball https://t.co/4gMvHqndIQ
— Sportsbook Consigliere (@SportsbkConsig) July 14, 2020
The SportsBook’s new approach won’t just affect moneyline wagers, but also bets on the run line, where a bettor backs a team laying or getting 1.5 runs. The same goes for wagers on the total runs to be scored in the game. Once a bettor places his or her wager of any type on a baseball game with the SportsBook, that bet is locked in, regardless of the starting pitcher.
At least one group of sports bettors won’t be complaining about the SportsBook’s change: those who play daily fantasy sports. A serious DFS player will often closely monitor injury reports and late scratches prior to gametime, seeking any small edge they can gain on the field.
With a growing crossover between daily fantasy sports and sports gambling, those who engage in both are already at an advantage and should have no issue with waiting until the last moment to place their bets. As for others who felt comfortable with their analysis based on the scheduled starter and who could rest easy knowing that any change would simply void their bet? Well, the times, they are a’changing, at least at the SuperBook.
Although the SuperBook is the only sportsbook that has publicly announced a change in how it will account for starting pitcher changes, it is doubtful that it will be the last. With the 2020 MLB season set to begin next week, anyone planning to place a baseball bet this year would be wise to check with their local book to see if it will be following the SuperBook’s lead.
Whether this new landscape becomes the norm likely depends on several factors, not the least of which is the public’s reaction to the change this season. But, for now, baseball bettors should be ready to wait until the last possible moment before placing their wagers. Either that, or make sure to keep the antacids close by.
Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our How To Section — including How to Make an Online Sports Bet — or head to more advanced strategy — like How to Set and Maintain Your Sports Betting Budget — to learn more.