Things are in full swing over at TradeSports, with the site out of beta and now offering a mixture of daily, short-term and long-term contests. While Iíve only dabbled in the middle ground, both the daily and long-term offerings have drawn me in, despite some major differences between the games.
Iíll start by delving deep into my strategy for a pre-game daily MLB contest, and then discuss some of the long-term games, which provide yet another reason to be excited for the start of the NFLís season.
MLB Pre-Game Contest, Pittsburgh Pirates at San Francisco Giants (July 30)
$3.30 entry, five entrants, winner takes all ($15)
Each user gets a $50,000 budget
Requirement: Must risk at least $2000 on at least four different stocks.
-Giants to win ($54)
-Giants to win by more than 2.5 runs ($42)
-More than 7.5 total runs in the game ($49)
-Andrew McCutchen to have more than 1.5 hits ($27)
-Buster Posey to have an RBI ($33)
-Giants team to have more than 7.5 hits
-Pirates team to hit more than 1.5 home runs
The pitching matchup was between Charlie Morton and Tim Lincecum, both of whom struggled in their previous start but had generally been pitching well over the last few weeks. None of the stock prices were particularly surprising or unusual, which meant I had to put some serious thought into my decisions. Rather than focus on the stocks I picked, letís look at my expectations for the actual game.
Many of the things I looked at will be familiar to daily gamers who have extensive experience playing traditional salary games. Handedness splits, on both a team-wide and personal level, are almost always worth a glance. Recent performance needs to be considered, although itís a factor that seems to get too much weight from many gamers. And, of course, you always want to take a good look at the lineup, as one or two changes from a teamís ideal starting nine can have a major impact on run expectancy.
Anyway, I started by taking a look at Morton, who I knew had some interesting home-road splits. Some pitchers truly do seem to prefer their home mound to others, but a lot of times such splits can merely be chalked up to ballpark factors. In Mortonís case, his ERA has been much better at home the past few seasons, but his peripherals donít indicate anything significant, other than the fairly obvious fact that fewer batted balls land beyond the fence at pitcher-friendly PNC Park. Given that San Franciscoís AT&T Field is arguably even more favorable for pitchers, there didnít seem to be anything out of the usual here.
Far more interesting are Mortonís platoon splits, which had typically been pretty extreme until this year. While itís fair to expect some regression, Morton has completely shut down left-handed power this season, so it canít just be written off as a fluke. Iím not really buying his slight reverse platoon splits this year, but I think heís at least partially conquered his long-lasting struggles versus left-handed hitters. Of course, while interesting and useful to know, this wasnít all that important against a Giants lineup with four right-handed batters.
What really stuck out to me was the Giantsí inability to hit right-handed pitching this season, an issue that actually applies to both teams. Entering the game, San Francisco ranked 27th in wOBA (.296), 23rd in OPS (.673), 21st in K rate (21.2) and 14th in wRC+ (93) against right-handed pitchers. Of course, the Giants have really struggled over the last couple of months, and their numbers against righties in July were significantly worse than the poor season-long marks, even approaching Padresí levels of incompetence. So, I liked Mortonís chances to have a big game, facing a lineup that struggles against righties in a cavern of a ballpark.
Also worth noting: The Giantsí roster as a whole has solid numbers against Morton, but the guys who were actually in Saturdayís lineup (predominantly the typical starters) have lousy numbers. The sample sizes werenít big enough for me to put a ton of weight on this, but it was yet another factor working in Mortonís favor.
Moving on to the Pirates vs. Lincecum matchup, the story was a bit different. The Pirates entered the game with excellent numbers versus right-handers, ranking seventh in wOBA (.326) and OPS (.737), fifth in wRC+ (109) and 14th in strikeout rate (19.9). However, most of the Piratesí hitters had struggled against Lincecum in the past, albeit with the caveat that the former Cy Young winner used to be a much better pitcher.
Heíd actually been showing that Cy Young form before Wednesdayís game, with a poor outing his last time out preceded by four consecutive quality starts, including a no-hitter. Given that the strong traditional numbers were backed by a 37:11 K:BB over his previous six starts, there was reason to believe Lincecum might be partially back to his old ways.
All in all, I was a bit worried about Lincecum, but figured the game would be low-scoring, with seven runs or fewer and the home team (San Francisco) perhaps at a very slight disadvantage. As it turned out, both Lincecum and Morton took a beating in a game that ended in a 7-5 Giants victory. When the game plays out in the opposite direction of what you expected, itís pretty difficult to win. Unsurprisingly, I finished fourth out of five participants, ahead of only the entrant that forgot to make any trade. So, essentially, I was dead last.
Surveying the Long-Term Contests
As mentioned in my last article, TradeSports is now running a series of real-time, long-term contests that will play out over the course of the MLB/NFL/NBA season. Even better, the site has added money to the prize pool in many of the contests, giving users extra incentive to sign up. There are plenty of other options, but I recommend these five in particular, as theyíre the ones Iím currently playing in.
-2014 World Series Winner ($500 prize pool including $250 prize premium)
-Super Bowl XLIX Winner ($2,000 prize pool including $1,000 prize premium)
-AFC North Division Winners ($50 prize pool)
-NFL Rookies Big Questions ($750 prize pool including $500 prize premium)
-NFL QB Big Questions ($1,000 prize pool including $500 prize premium)
Now, as much as I love AFC North football, my favorite of these contests is the one revolving around the NFL rookies. Not only has the pot been tripled by TradeSports, but also thereís just something particularly entertaining about predicting rookie performance. Furthermore, these stock prices should notice plenty of movement before the season even begins, as most of the key rookies will need to earn their snaps. Have a good feeling about Johnny Manziel, Sammy Watkins, or Jadeveon Clowney this season? Step right in and take a crack at it. Personally, Iím riding the Johnny Football bandwagon to victory or defeat.