God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 5
Joe Duffy (www.godspicks.com)
How New is New?
There is a common belief among gamblers that first year head coaches are safe to bet on in the preseason because they are going to be eager to impress. There is a functional truth to it, but the oversimplification of this tenet can and is naive. We won’t argue as a general guideline new coaches might be more eager to get that “W” under their belt more than a senior counterpart in a inconsequential contest but the “newness” theory goes beyond the head coach. Even if the head man returns, new coordinators who are in charge of play calling, new schemes that do happen even with returning coaches and new key personnel are often more important to handicapping, however it’s not because of a desire to win a meaningless game.
When major changes are made from the previous year, key players will play longer in the initial preseason games and play calling will be much less vanilla. Basically the more changes made, the more the preseason is needed to evaluate even proven players.
The NFL coaches have their own website, appropriately NFLcoaches.com that lists all changes from head coach, to coordinators to position coaches. However the ultimate source for how the changes will and will not effect the spread outcome is still the hometown newspapers which are extremely accurate for playing rotations and how sophisticated schemes and play calling will be.
The new coaches creed is not false, but much further inspection is required before blindly betting. Of equal emphasis is cognition that the theory does not begin and end with the head coach.
More and more databases are carrying sophisticated statistical analysis of umpiring statistics especially how they relate to the over/under. Backtracking I have found no statistically significant time tested value.
In fact, Baseball Prospectus does a breakdown from a different standpoint than many of the gambling sites. Too often we find that for example an umpire’s ball/strike ratio does not correspond into more or less runs. In other words, arranging a list of all umpires based on which call the highest number of strikes is much too dissimilar to that of which umpires games result in the highest number of runs, slugging percentage and batting average. Cross referencing with over/unders on the gambling sites, there is even less correlation. Random chance will have umpires behind the plate with unequal power and pitching matchups to their counterparts.
One must also realize that umpires are constantly evaluated with consistency topping the list of criterion. By no means would I suggest there are no variances among the umpires but they are much closer to being uniform than starting pitchers, bullpens, ballparks, defenses, weather conditions and other factors.
If an umpire were blatantly a pitcher’s or batter’s umpire, he won’t last long in the Show. Acknowledging they had been lax, baseball took corrective steps in 2001. According to Ralph Nelson, MLB’s Vice President, Umpiring, “Beginning with Opening Day there should be a recognized and consistent application to the strike zone, but it may not be as drastic as some may have anticipated.” He continued, “Major League Baseball does not feel that players or teams should have to adjust to individual umpires.”
Hence even if there was an edge to the gamblers in the early years, this advantage has been lost since baseball is taking extra steps to insure uniformity. Sorry folks after an in-depth and objective harmonic analysis we conclude trying to handicap umpires is pseudo science.
Waking Up is Hard to Do
We discussed in a previous Tid-bet how and why mid-season coaching changes more times than not have short-term benefit essentially because it lights a temporary fire under a team. Teams more and more often simply go through the motions and it takes some type of stimulus to put and end to it.
Though years of experience tells me replacing the coach is the ultimate short-term wake-up call, it’s not the only one. Kenny Rogers’ well publicized attack on a cameraman was followed by the Rangers ending a funk with an impressive winning streak. Making a few monetary units riding that streak ourselves, we knew it was no coincidence. The proverbial “players only team meeting” is another instance. Always keep an eye for falling teams to have something to rally around. It need not be positive, in fact often is not. Sometimes in baseball for example it’s a manager shuffling the batting order on in basketball a coach changing line-ups.
In basketball there can be major ramifications as often changes mean a quicker line-up that means more scoring or it could mean a defensively challenged team makes corrections in that area. As we’ve said intensity or lack thereof shows up more on the defensive end in hoops. Hence as another rule the rebirth generally makes evident itself in lower scoring games.
Joe Duffy of Godspicks.com is perhaps the most published and respected author on sports gambling theory and has been featured as a regular guest as the handicapping expert on the Rick Ballou Show on Sporting News Radio, the Meat and Potatoes gambling show, Grogan’s Fantasy Football show, Radio Baseball Muse and Finn on Sports. Formally of the famed Cadillac Club 900 number, his plays can be gotten one and one place only: part of the Dream Team of Godspicks.com
God’s Tid-Bets, Vol. 5