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Rays Betting Series: Root, root, root for the (Padres?)

Consider it an emotional hedge

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the 2019 season, and with the expansion of legal sports betting in the United States, we will check in on some Rays-centric betting tips for upcoming games and series, and look at bigger trends in the sports betting world, writ large.

I must emphasize that this column is most meant for fun. I am by no means an expert, and if you know anyone who has a gambling problem, please contact Gamblers Anonymous. Never bet more than you can afford, and sports betting isn’t for everyone.

However, for those who are excited to sports bet responsibly, hopefully we’ll give you some good tips and tricks every couple weeks. Here’s the introduction to the series, and here are some key terms to help you along the way.

Welcome back to the Rays Betting Series, it’s been a month, but we’re back at it ahead of an intriguing road series in San Diego.

Wide Lends Trend: Don’t believe your eyes

One of the most hotly debated topics of RaysLand this year has been the bullpen. For much of the season (especially June and July) it seemed as though it was a definitive weakness of the team. There were calls for massive upgrades, as well as plenty of fans damning Kevin Cash for his bullpen usage.

Ignore the Twitter Sheep.

Looking at the 2019 season as a whole, the Tampa Bay Rays have the third-best bullpen by ERA (3.73), fourth-best by FIP (4.03), and fifth-best by xFIP (4.22). Adjust for ballpark (FanGraphs’ ERA-), and they are the tied for second-best run prevention bullpen in baseball this season.

What does that mean in terms of gambling?

It’s big for live gambling. If the Rays are holding a small lead in the middle innings, even though it may seem as though they have blown lots of those games, they do so far less frequently than most teams. Put a bet on them to cover. Same deal with over/unders. Even if both teams in a Rays game score a couple runs early on, don’t be afraid to take whatever live bet comes in for the under—or at least the under for the team Tampa Bay is playing.

Especially in a close game, when the trio of Colin Poche (3.50 xFIP), Nick Anderson (-0.39 xFIP with the Rays), and Emilio Pagan (3.20 xFIP) are likely to come in, I like the Rays odds in-game.

Bullpen ERA is up, as a whole, in baseball this year. The Rays had a bullpen ERA of 3.75 last year, but in comparison to the league (which is where you can pick up some profit at the margins) their 2019 bullpen is actually quite a bit stronger in terms of run prevention (83 ERA- in 2019 compared to 90 in 2018). Use that knowledge.

Gambling Best Practices: Check the lineup

Oftentimes, you’ll want to jump on lines when they first come out (typically late the night before for baseball). The baseball betting market is incredibly savvy these days, and the lines will move out of your favor within the first few hours. However, if you miss that initial rush, it’s best to wait until right after the starting lineups come out, especially on getaway days. Teams like the Cubs or Phillies who see a big drop off at the catcher spot from their starter to backup, or teams that aren’t afraid to give a superstar a day off can be extremely useful late bets. Baseball is the ultimate team sport, but a lineup with a surprise off-day for Mike Trout or Cody Bellinger etc. is often worth an under bet, and maybe even a potential outright fade.

Bet of the Day: San Diego Padres (-130) over Tampa Bay Rays

Some of you may see this and say Heresy! You could never bet against your team. That’s a dangerous game for many reasons. If you just like to put money on your favorite team and win a bit here and there — I’m all for that. But if you want to make the most of a potential earning, you have to be willing to go against your squad when the numbers say so. Plus, it can work as a perfect emotional hedge and win-win! The Rays lost tonight, oh well, at least I won my bet. My bet lost last night, oh well, at least the Rays won.

Monday night is as good a day to go against the Rays as ever. Tampa Bay is looking at something like a Diego Castillo-Austin Pruitt-Andrew Kittredge platter, a trio that should send a shiver down the spine of any Rays fan. Castillo’s last outing was his first clean outing since July 26, and while he has yet to give up a run in either of his Opener gigs, he’s been moved there in part because Cash has trusted him less and less towards the ends of games (along with Stanek being traded). Pruitt is Pruitt. Kittredge I actually like a decent amount, but a lot of the equation is on the other side of things as well.

Joey Lucchesi toes the rubber for the Padres tonight, and while his season-long numbers (4.19/3.95/4.21) are far from elite, he has a 20:8 K:BB in his last three outings, with the lone mediocre start coming against the Dodgers. He’s also a changeup/cutter lefty, and we all remember those CC Sabathia starts... The Rays are 25th in baseball in terms of production against cutters, and while they are in the top ten against changeups (ninth), their overall productions against lefties is still a hair below where it is against righties (100 wRC+ against LHP vs. 104 wRC+ against RHP).

If you can’t bear to bet against the Rays, the under is another potential bet, although with the line stuck at 8 right now, I’d avoid it. If you can get 8.5, give it a look, though. Especially given how the Rays offense looked in Seattle, along with the fact that these are two of the best bullpens in baseball so you should do a little bit better at avoiding those late-inning blow-ups that just kill over/under bets.

Series Tracker

In the last edition of this series, I talked myself out of what ended up being an easy 16-4 winner, but I still think the logic was sound: Sometimes the right play is to stay away. In terms of the long-term play we made last time, FanGraphs currently has the Rays pegged for 93 wins, with BP even more bullish at 94.

Rays Betting Series Tracker

Date Bet Odds Bet Amount Potential Payout Result Net
Date Bet Odds Bet Amount Potential Payout Result Net
6/7/2019 Rays to win first inning +270 $1.00 $3.70 Loss -$1.00
6/18/2019 Under 10 -112 $1.00 $1.89 Win $0.89
7/2/2019 Over 8 -109 $1.00 $1.92 Win $0.92
7/12/2019 Rays season win total over 91.5 -110 $1.00 $1.91 TBD TBD
8/12/2019 Padres to win -130 $1.00 $1.77 TBD TBD
Total XX XX $5.00 $11.19 XX $0.81