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Introduction to our new Rays Betting Series

Any sharps out there?

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

While it may still be stigmatized in certain areas, there’s no doubt that the future of sports betting is bold and bet-iful...

With last year’s supreme court decision that overruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, several states have already legalized sports betting with many more states on the horizon.

While Florida itself seems to be a little slow on the uptick in this regard, as more and more stories like this one lay out the potential benefits to states legalizing sports gambling (nearly $20 million in new revenue for New Jersey so far), state legislators will feel more and more pressure to join their fellow states in legalization.

As such, it seems like a good time to get in front of this speeding train. Baseball as a league has recognized that legal sports betting could play a huge role in the future of the sport, as Rob Manfred himself has gone on record as saying that he sees sports betting as “a great source of fan engagement.”

Of course, this is a huge 180 from where past MLB Commissioners landed, and a large jump from where the stigma around the sport and its relationship to gambling has often landed over the years.

Most famously, the all-time MLB hits king, Pete Rose, is still sitting outside the hallowed halls of Cooperstown because of his dalliances with sports betting while still involved with the sport as a player/manager in the mid-1980s.

This made somewhat more sense at the time, however. The only real connection the sport had to gambling was, for so long, the historic Black Sox Scandal.

The full story has layers and layers of nuance and misconceived notions (check out more, here), but its impact was undoubtedly felt across the sport for decades, and likely even into the modern day, some 100 years later.

However, the game (and the world at large) is simply far different than it used to be.

Baseball players are now paid farrrrr more than their 1919 brethren (the story goes that Shoeless Joe Jackson — one of the Black Sox and also one of the 30 or so best hitters of all time — couldn’t pay his sister’s $5000 medical bill, and that’s why he took the money), meaning that the potential to fix games would be far more difficult for outside influences. There’s also the fact that terms like “organized crime syndicate” aren’t really in existence anymore, because, while there are certainly still sketchy people doing sketchy things, they don’t have the hold on society like they did in the days of Al Capone, Nucky Thompson, and the rest of the like.

As such, Major League Baseball should feel far more comfortable supporting this new era of sports betting. And you, the potential sports bettor, should feel more comfortable — and less stigmatized — about enjoying what is undoubtedly a vice, but hopefully a far less harmful one than some others out there.

(Time to pause for a very serious link out to Gamblers Anonymous. Just because sports gambling has the potential to be a fun and non-detrimental experience doesn’t mean it will be for everyone. If you know anyone you are worried about in this regard, please, please click that link and learn more.)

With all of that in mind, and given that I have now had almost a full season of legal gambling in New Jersey to get my feet wet (along with any other pre-2018 gambling knowledge I had accumulated), I figured it would be fun to start a Rays-centric gambling series here at DRB. Every couple weeks or so, I’ll poke in to look at some potential trends that might help anyone betting for (or against, no judgement here) the Rays either in the short-term or long-term future.

The sports gambling world has wizened up over the years, so it can be tricky to get a strong return, but there are advantages to be had here and there, especially if you can bet with your head and not your heart.

I have been making a series of very small bets on the past year and am tracking any and all factors to see if I can help myself (and now you!) find any advantages in the market. So far, the return has been strong, with a 6.4 percent Return on Investment on my MLB betting.

I want this to be useful for any and all readers out there, so please don’t hesitate with feedback in the comments section; I am more than amenable to setting the column up in a way that most benefits the reader.

Personally, I am thinking that the setup could look something like this:

Wide Lens Trends

Looking at Rays underlying metrics that could impact future performance.

Last 30 Days

Seeing what numbers are hidden by those slow/fast starts that tend to cloud our judgement.

Gambling Best Practices

Any tips I have noticed that have played a role in recent successes/failures.

Overview of the Week

Looking surface level at the Rays matchups for the week, with potential money line and over/under predictions.

Bet of the Day

Because the official baseball lines typically don’t come out more than 24 hours in advance of the game, prognosticators are a bit handicapped (no pun intended) with their bets they can hand out. As such, on the day the article comes out, I’ll look through any potential Rays bets for the day and hand out what I think is the Best Bet. That being said, I will never force a pick, so sometimes this will merely be a suggestion to stay away from the game entirely, one of the best practices I have implemented so far.

This is just an introduction, but while we’re here, I might as well give you a Best Bet for the weekend.

As of writing, all lines have been set for Friday’s series opener against the Red Sox, with some books having series lines for the four-game set as a whole.

(We’ll use the lines from PointsBet, one of the least sleazy companies in an industry filled with questionable practices, but one of the betting best practices we’ll note often is to “shop the lines” by looking at what each different sportsbook has for their lines, as any little difference in the line can make a huge difference in the long run.)

The line has opened up with the Red Sox (-121) as slight favorites over the Rays (+100) — don’t worry, we’re also going to do an introductory article about the terms and numbers you’ll see in gambling and what they mean — but it’s at a prop bet that has been quite beneficial in 2019 that I’m going to go back to the well for on Friday.

The Rays are +270 (if you bet $1, you profit $2.70, getting $3.70 back total) to win the first inning. The Rays have dominated first innings this season. They have the second-best wRC+ in baseball (133), while allowing the second-lowest xFIP (3.40).

Meanwhile, the Red Sox have the second-worst first inning wRC+ in baseball (55), and while their first-inning pitching has been solid (fifth-best 3.79 xFIP), Rick Porcello has been quite pedestrian with a 4.50 first-inning ERA in 2019, and a 4.21 figure for his career. Yonny Chirinos, on the other hand, has given up only two runs in his six first innings, and has been noticeably better (2.78 ERA vs. 3.91) as a starter vs. when he has had an opener.

Now, the caveat comes that all of this data parsing gets quite small sample size-y when it comes to trying to find trends for betting, which is going to make some of you react like Harland Williams in There’s Something About Mary, but the team trends shown above at least have a little more meat on their bone.

So that’s your first recommendation of the year, I’ll be tracking my recommendations here to hold myself accountable, and as noted before, please feel free to leave thoughts/suggestions in the comments. Good luck, all you bodacious bettors!