This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
I grew up in a betting environment, part of which was these football parlay cards. Surely you've seen them, long lists of games to be played that weekend with lines, often ridiculously skewed (Cowboys -7/Giants +6). Throw in five or 10 bucks, pick a few games, get rich. When I was a kid, sometimes my mom would let me pick some games for her, and when I went off to college, making my picks from the other side of the country each week was one of the ways in which we stayed close.
At the bottom of all those cards was printed, "For Entertainment Purposes Only." Wagering that five or ten bucks wasn't entirely within the bounds of the law, not in 1988, and come to think of it, not now. That phrase always stuck in my head, and I've used it now and again to tag sports betting content in my various outlets. I may have used it a decade ago, when I made baseball picks here at RotoWire for a season.
Times have changed considerably. Since the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was declared unconstitutional in 2018, sports wagering has gone from something we do in the shadows to a major part of the media landscape. You still can't legally bet the Yankees everywhere, but you can in about half the states of the union, with more to come. If you're reading this, you may be doing so while checking the odds on an app, reading to kick off the baseball season with some action.
This column will serve as a companion to that action. I'm not a sharp, just a guy who has been watching baseball for 45 years, studying it for 35 and writing about it for 25. In this space, I'll share picks 3-4 days a week, the reasons for them and the principles that back them up. Other RotoWire writers will share picks throughout the week, too.
There are two main approaches to sports betting now. One looks at it as a market; the Giants are +130 at nine books and +140 at a 10th. You bet the +140 because that outlet is behind the market. The other looks at it as sports. I think the Giants have a better than 44 percent chance of winning, so betting them at +130 has value. The latter is a professional bettor's approach, the former more common among casuals, sometimes dismissed as squares.
It's my theory that a smart baseball fan can make money using the latter approach, and we're going to spend the next six months testing that theory. Well, we'll have a little more fun than that sounds; my goal in this space will be to provide picks, but also to make you laugh and hopefully get you to enjoy your action a little more. I've been reading my friend Chris Liss' football picks at RotoWire for a long time, and his "Beating the Book" column is a pretty good model for what I'll be doing here. Don't tell him.
We'll have plenty of time to talk theory and practice. Let's kick off the season with some picks. Odds are from DraftKings unless otherwise noted, and RWBucks are ... for entertainment purposes only.
1 p.m. Yankees/Blue Jays under 8 (-117). This is backdoor way of betting on Gerrit Cole, my pick for AL Cy Young and MVP. It's a cold, damp day in the Bronx, which will suppress run scoring, and the Jays are down George Springer from their rebuilt lineup. Call it 5-1 Bombers for 1 RWBuck.
3 p.m. Phillies -110 over Braves. Many of these early season picks will be driven by preseason assessments, which for me includes the pick of Aaron Nola as NL Cy Young winner. Max Fried, coming off a very fortunate season on balls in play (.268 BABIP, 4.9% HR/FB), starts for the Braves. Let's welcome his regression with 1 RWBuck.
4 p.m. Rays/Marlins under 7.5 (-120). Pretty happy to get the hook in this one, which features the two teams I project to have the second- and third-fewest runs scored in their games this season with their current No. 1s on the mound in a good pitchers' park. There's some risk to this bet once the Marlins get into their bullpen, however. 1 RWBuck.
That's it for today. There will be some days when we spray the board, but for now let's stick with these. Thanks for reading, and enjoy Opening Day!