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Alpharetta, GA, United States, 2008/04/24 - Grandmaster sports handicapper Joe Duffy of OffshoreInsiders.com explains how to use ballpark numbers in picking MLB winners. Most importantly, Duffy warns against the pitfalls of overplaying the “splits”.
A few years back we wrote an article on the importance of evaluating how teams hit left-handed and right-handed pitchers. In summary, we surmised it was important, yet keeping in perspective, we demonstrated how the numbers can be greatly affected by random chance. Hence we warned about becoming too dependent on deceptive statistics that are so often fools gold.
We have very similar thoughts about comparing ballpark statistics. There are some stadiums that could be classified as “pitchers’ ballparks” while others could reasonably be labeled more friendly to hitters.
Yet again, we have to give props to the four-letter evil empire ESPN. In their fantasy baseball section, they have a straight-forward “Park Factor” that compares that rate of stats at home versus the rate of stats on the road. A rate that is higher than 1.000 favors the hitter, with lower than 1.000 favoring the pitcher.
Still, statistical reliability would assume the quality of the opponent has been equal at home and on the road. Random chance indicates some teams will face or use a disproportionate number of aces and No. 2 starters in one location. This deviation is just one example.
Then there is wind direction to consider points out Stevie Vincent, Senior Handicapper at OffshoreInsiders.com. Perhaps several teams have had the wind blowing in straight from center a higher percentage while other squads has an overbalanced number blowing out to leftfield.
Why, according the ESPN Ballpark Factor, is Boston the top hitters’ park this year, but was 13th last season?
As of the writing of the article, Rogers Centre in Toronto is the second best pitchers park, yet the previous year it was a hitters paradise ranking 7th in hitting (24th pitching).
Petco Park is a rare exception. They are currently the top pitcher’s ball orchard after finishing first each of the previous three years and third in 2003.
So how do the elite gamblers use the stats? To measure the reliability of pitchers’ splits is how we employ them. For example, virtually every Padre is going to have statistically better stats at home than on the road. The fact that Chris Young, Greg Maddux, and David Wells have significantly better stats at home than on the road proves to be the rule, not the exception. Hence the educated eye realizes there is not an angle in their respective splits.
Yet Jake Peavy is actually a better pitcher on the road than at home. This is an advantage for the gambler. A pitcher’s splits are most effective when measured against the ballpark stats.
Is there an edge for the over/under better? Often short-term, but rarely is the edge long-term as the sportsbooks adjust. As of June 19, the Padres last eight road games and 11-of-12 has seen a posted total of 8.0 or higher.
Yet 15 of their last 18 home games have seen a total of 7.5 or lower. Thinking somehow the sportsbooks are oblivious to such angles is one way for a gambler to subsidize bookmakers.
The Park Factor statistic is a valuable handicapping weapon, but more for statistical validation. Those who think they’ve found the Holy Grail with stadium comparisons are not in the same ballpark as the sharpies.
Joe Duffy is former General Manager of the Freescoreboard scorephone network and CEO of OffshoreInsiders.com, the premier hub of world-class sports handicappers.