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> > Particulars to be aware of when betting the 2013 MLB World Series

Particulars to be aware of when betting the 2013 MLB World Series

After thousands of games over the course of the season, MLB’s season is down to the World Series, a best of seven series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Boston Red Sox. Whether or not you are a regular baseball bettor, the World Series provides unique betting opportunities, so let’s look at the particulars.

Does experience give the Cardinals an edge?

In 2011, the Cardinals won the World Series 4 games to 3 over the Texas Rangers. While their team has seen some turn over (most notably, Manager Tony La Russa and all-time great Albert Pujols are no longer with the club) the core bears some similarity to that championship team.

St. Louis also made the playoffs in 2010 and 2012, while Boston haven’t been to the playoffs since 2009. Experience is a difficult aspect to weigh, but if you believe in its importance, the edge goes to the Cardinals with a caveat; St. Louis’ success this year has been built in part on rookies.

Standout starting pitchers Michael Wacha, Joe Kelley and Shelby Miller along with first baseman Matt Adams have been key to the club’s success. Same seemingly goes for 2nd-year manager Mike Matheny, though there are those who feel his tactical game could use some work.

Recent World Series history between the two clubs is not relevant

The above details are relevant. Anything you may hear about recent World Series history between the two clubs is not. In coming days, we’ll be reminded time and again that in 2004, Boston won its first World Series in 88 years by demolishing St. Louis 4-0.

Only one player playing in this year’s edition, David Ortiz, was a full-time player for either team in 2004. The similarities are in the laundry, not in those executing the plays. We mention this as a reminder to focus on the data that matters. More on Ortiz in a moment.

Rule differences and the Designated Hitter

MLB is the only major professional organization whose two leagues operate under different rules. In the Cardinals’ National League (NL), pitchers who are generally unsuited to the task are forced to hit. In the American League (AL), the Designated Hitter (DH) hits in place of the pitcher. In interleague play, the home team’s league rules apply, so games 1, 2, 6 and 7 (all held in Boston’s Fenway Park) will use the DH, while games 3, 4 and 5 (hosted at Busch Stadium in St. Louis) will not.

This is important. On Monday, Boston Manager John Farrell announced that David Ortiz–normally the designated hitter–will be donning the first baseman’s mitt for the three games in St. Louis in order to keep his bat in the lineup. One of baseball’s best hitters for the past decade, Ortiz represents an improvement over regular first baseman Mike Napoli against St. Louis’ full compliment of right-handed starting pitchers, and a downgrade defensively. Ortiz is an atrocious fielder who is seldom given the chance to try. Of the 135 games Ortiz played this year, only 6 saw him take the field at first base, mostly because the DH rule afforded the Red Sox opportunity to let him hit without having to field. It’s conceivable that Napoli could catch or even try his hand in left field, but both scenarios are extreme longshots. Most likely, he’ll be benched for the St. Louis games. His is a big bat to lose.

St. Louis is better situated than most NL teams as the DH goes. The emergence of Matt Adams has filled the void created by injury to all-star Allen Craig during NL-only playoff contests. The newswire Monday included numerous articles declaring Craig ok to at least hit and potentially field, meaning at worst, St. Louis has an all-star bat they didn’t have in winning Division and Championship Series to get this far. This means St. Louis will actually be fielding the strongest lineup they have all year. Should Craig prove incapable prior to game 1, markets should move because the alternatives are dreadful.

The short form here is that Boston’s lineup and defense will be hurt in game 3-4-5, while St. Louis will be far less effected than expected.

Will Home Field Advantage have a role?

As discussed in this article on playoff baseball,the home team wins 53.8% of all games played in MLB, but adjustments have to be made for sampling like this one. Both Cardinals (67%) and Red Sox (65%) had strong regular season home win percentages, with fans of both teams known for knowledge and passion. Additionally, Boston’s Fenway Park has unusual dimensions that are tough on players who haven’t played with them before.

Beyond the question of the two teams though is the question of how to account for the interleague home-field advantage in your betting calculations. Some, like Tigers Manager Jim Leyland, think the changes hurt American League clubs:

“We play with the DH rules. The American League gets penalised, even though the record’s been decent over the years. We get penalised. Their pitchers are hitting and bunting all year, and they get the advantage of letting their pitchers rest and using the DH when they come here, and we gotta use guys six straight days without Victor Martinez or Alex Avila or somebody. That’s ridiculous. Totally ridiculous, and they ought to look into it…”

It’s a good quote, but Leyland, who announced his retirement Monday, is dead wrong about where the advantage lies. Contrary to popular reports Leyland’s subsequent retirement was not a result of Pinnacle Sports and the math proving him wrong.

Have a look at these win % numbers taken from Is There a Home Field Advantage in Interleague Play?, an in-depth look at interleague records from 1997-2009 by Economics Professor Paul M. Sommers:

EntityHome/Away/All?W%
AL Home 56.9
AL Away 46.8
AL All 51.9
NL Home 53.2
NL Away 43
NL All 48.1

In recent years, the AL has been considered the superior league, an effect of the arms race between the Red Sox and New York Yankees raising the level of competition. This accounts for the American League’s advantage overall, but what we’re seeing here is a greater home field advantage in interleague play (approx 5%) than in general terms (approx 3.8%). Ballpark familiarity could hold a sliver of influence here, but this is more likely a result of the influences Leyland mentioned, so his logic was sound even if he reached the wrong conclusion. Don’t do the same; adjust your calculations accordingly.

Click here for the latest MLB World Series betting.

Particulars to be aware of when betting the 2013 MLB World Series

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