Tuesday, October 21, 2008

First (and Last) Online Sports Bets

OK well after all my talk to the contrary, I had to go and jinx the Phillies' World Series run. My good friends among the blogger crew know that one of my defining characteristics as a degenerate gambler is that I am one of the worst sports bettors of all time. Not quite Waffles-bad, mind you, but I might actually be close. Let's just say that I have literally had more success in my small number of bets on sporting events once I have gotten frustrated and jaded and literally started betting against what I felt sure was the better, smarter bet. But even then I manage to lose more often than I win. Suffice it to say, I am a truly terrible evaluator of lines and such and, although I have fared reasonably well in predicting games against the spread in my lifetime when there was not actual money on the line, when I actually put up my hard-earned dough to back up my instinct, I've been wrong far more often than I've been right over time. Sports betting is hard business, and mostly everyone I have ever personally known who has gotten heavily involved in it eventually comes to the same conclusion -- these linesmakers are good at what they do, and it is really tough to consistently beat them out. There's a reason that even the best handicappers in the world are only what, 53, 55% winners over time. The shit is hard.

So the Phillies - Rays World Series begins on Wednesday night shortly after 8pm ET, and the Tampa Bay Rays, playing in their first World Series as a franchise -- in fact, their first playoffs as a franchise -- are up against my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, playing in our sixth World Series in over 120 years of (mostly losing) baseball. Any real Phillies fan can recite from memory that small handful of World Series appearances for our team -- 1915 (lost 4-1 to the Red Sox), 1950 (the "Whiz Kids" -- swept by the Yankees), 1980 (won it all, 4-2 over the Royals), 1983 (lost 4-1 to the Orioles after winning Game 1), 1993 (lost 4-2 to the Blue Jays, thank you Mitch Williams), and now here in 2008. The Rays were pretty much the best team in baseball this year, compiling a 97-65 record, five games better than the Phillies' 92-70, and the Rays did it in arguably the toughest division in baseball, playing all those games against the Yankees and Red Sox over in the AL East.

The Rays' four projected World Series starting pitchers have ERAs of 3.49 (Kazmir), 3.56 (Shields), 3.70 (Garza) and 4.38 (Sonnastine). Now that is impressive, especially coming out of the American League. This compares favorably with the Phillies projected WS rotation of Cole Hamels, easily the best pitcher on the field in this year's Fall Classic (3.09), Myers (4.55), Moyer (3.71) and Blanton (4.20 and 4-0 with Phillies after July 17 trade from Oakland). Both staffs are strong both with starters and relievers, but the Rays' pitching staff really differentiates itself with its consistency top-to-bottom, whereas the Phillies have the on-again-off-again Brett Myers and of course the 47-year-old man with the 75-mph fastball in Jamie Moyer, fresh off a nice fat shelling at the hands of the Dodgers in Game 3 of the NLCS.

On offense is where the Phillies really shine, as a quick look at the projected starting lineups for the two teams will show:

Phillies: SS Jimmy Rollins (.277, 11 HRs, 59 RBIs, 76 runs, 47 SB), RF Jayson Werth (.273, 24, 67, 20 SB), 2B Chase Utley (.293, 33, 104, 113 runs), 1B Ryan Howard (.251, 48, 146, 104 runs, 199 strikeouts), LF Pat Burrell (.250, 33, 86), CF Shane Victorino (.293, 14, 58, 36 SB, 102 runs), 3B Pedro Feliz (.249, 14, 58), DH Greg Dobbs (.301, 9, 40 in 226 at-bats), C Carlos Ruiz (.219, 4, 34).

Rays: 2B Akinori Iwamura (.274, 6, 48), CF B.J. Upton (.273, 9, 67), 1B Carlos Pena (.247, 31, 102), 3B Evan Longoria (.272, 27, 85), LF Carl Crawford (.273, 8, 57), DH Cliff Floyd (.268, 11, 39), C Dioner Navarro (.295, 7, 54), RF Gabe Gross (.242, 13, 38), SS Jason Bartlett (.286, 1, 37).

Just look at those season home run totals. Just from the nine projected starters, the Phils got 190 homers during the regular season, while the Rays' nine starters produced just 113. The middle of the Phillies' lineup is downright scary, regardless of who is on the mound, with Utley, Howard and Burrell alone combining for 114 homers (more than the entire Rays team this season!) and 336 RBIs. Even though I, like pretty much everyone in Philadelphia, am not a big Pat Burrell fan, he is a great guy to have coming up behind Utley and Howard in that batting order. And Howard's 48 homers and 146 RBIs in a league sans steroids is the stuff that only legends are made of these days. Even though the Rays have been producing big time on offense in these playoffs, the bottom line is that the Phils' lineup is significantly better than the Rays', and this is our big chance to equalize the overall better starting pitching coming out of the Rays' rotation.

All this being said, I see some real value in the World Series lines I'm seeing out there, and I basically have to jump in with a small bet just to support my team. The Phillies futures to win the World Series were at +130, having been bet up by the public money mostly flowing towards the Rays in the earlygoing here, with the Rays at -110. This means that you have to bet $110 to win $100 if you bet on the Rays straight-up to win the Series, but for a bet on the Phillies to win, you only have to bet $100 to win $130. To me that looks like a fat line, and one which I had to jump in on with a token bet. It my not win, and anyone who is surprised if the 97-win Rays team with the stronger pitching staff and home field advantage take it down is a baseball buffoon, but at +130, I see value in that bet sitting here right now regardless of how the series ends up. So:

Date placed:
Oct 20, 2008 11:19p Single #125403879
Baseball - Futures (Game) Moneyline
Best of seven (2-3-2)
(1991) Philadelphia Phillies (Series Prices) +130 Wed@8:20p
Competitor:(1992) Tampa Bay Rays (Series Prices)
Risk US$ 76.92 to win US$ 100.00

I also plopped some cash down on this double bet on the Series and Game 1, given that we have ace Cole Hamels pitching on more than a week's rest to start the Series on Wednesday

Date placed:
Oct 20, 2008 11:21p Single #125404008
Baseball - Futures (Game) Moneyline
(PHI vs TB) 2008 MLB World Series Championship
Game and Series Double
All wagers have action. Both parts of the wager must come true for outcome to win. Singles Only.
(2022) Philadelphia Phillies win Game 1 – Philadelphia Phillies Win Series 11/4 Wed@8:20p
Competitor:(2023) Philadelphia Phillies win Game 1 – Philadelphia Phillies Lose Series
Risk US$ 100.00 to win US$ 275.00

Again, it's not that I can't conceive of the Rays winning Game 1 or winning the Series. The Rays are favored to win both, and as I've gone over above, they are favored with good reason. They were the better team over 162 games this year, and they beat down on the Central-winning White Sox and then the vaunted Red Sox in the playoffs to get here. Meanwhile, the Phillies beat a wildcard Brewers team with little offense who basically backed into the playoffs thanks to the unmitigated losery Mets after the Brew Crew even fired their coach two weeks before the season ended, and then a Dodgers team that was obviously overrated after sweeping the always overrated Cubs in the NLDS.

As I said above, my bet here is more a confidence vote in support of my team than a strong feeling that the Phillies are going to win. I do think a +130 there is some value to the futures bet though -- I was expecting +120 or so myself, and I think the Phils are not getting quite as much credit from Vegas as they deserve. And although this Phillies team is not exactly full of players with World Series experience, at least we were in the playoffs last season, and plus our last two Septembers were chock full of big games -- every single one of them, really -- and two years in a row now our players have stepped up big time in the clutch, whereas basically this entire Rays team has never even sniffed the playoffs before. And I feel like no one is giving any credit to this differential in experience between the two teams, which clearly weighs in Philly's favor.

But most of all, as I mentioned last week, the city of Philadelphia, and those crazed fans, need this win. Far more than some donkeys in the body of water known as Tampa Bay need it. They don't need shit. In Philly, they need this win. Desperately. It's been 25 years since one of the top-five markets in the country tasted the thrill of a championship. The Phillies last year became the first franchise in the history of professional sports to lose 10,000 games. If you want a quick and easy flavor of how bad it's been for the Phillies since their formation in I think 1882, how about this for a sick fact: this year is the Phillies' 11th postseason appearance in their 126-year history.

That's right. The Yankees have just ended a streak of 15 consecutive postseason appearances. 15 in a row. The Phillies are just experiencing their 11th postseason since 1882. And I'm not even getting in to how many of those 115 years of futiilty involved last-place finishes in their division. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, handicappers.

Phillies in 6!!

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Blogger Riggstad said...

Go Phils!

In retribution for the Bucs and the Lightning!

We owe the bay area a good ass woopin'

Not this time Hoy! You win!

9:44 PM  
Blogger Snuffy said...

Now knowing your history of betting, thank you for guaranteed Rays World Series win.

Riggstad hit it right on the head. Every major sports win for Tampa has gone through Philly.

11:22 PM  
Blogger BadBlood said...

Hopefully you realize no baseball team from Florida has ever lost a post season series. ;)

11:50 PM  
Blogger Alceste said...

I wonder if ruiz and feliz are going to drag the big 4 down -- phillies are stacked at the top of the lineup, but the back-end can be brutal (particularly when dobbs isn't playing) and the bench non-existent -- the worst starting hitter for the rays was pretty close to league average this year -- that's not good enough to face hamels, but probably is against the rest of the rotation

1:52 AM  
Blogger corron10 said...

Go Phils... I ok with the bottom of the lineup as long as they can turn it over. Dobbs is better with the bat, and Feliz is better with glove. Charlie is going to be play the odds here and will accordinate with lefty/right match ups.

2:46 AM  
Blogger Mr. No Name For Me said...

Good luck to the Phillies. Have you seen this video on the housing mess? Very insightful history of how it started...


6:14 AM  
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