Nick: Pricing The Pirates

DIRECT FROM NEVADA
With Oddsmaker Nick Bogdanovich

HOW DID THE PIRATES REACH FIRST PLACE?!

When the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Houston Astros Friday Night, and the St. Louis Cardinals lost a late heartbreaker to the Cincinnati Reds…the unheralded Pirates unbelievably found themselves in first place of the National League's Central Division.

THROUGH FRIDAY
Pittsburgh .5274
St. Louis .5268

Okay, it was only by six one-thousands of a point. And, it was with a won-lost performance that would be well off the pace in the other divisions. But, still, it was a shocking feat for a team that most bettors and fans expect to go about 62-100 every season.

Pretty much everyone in out here in Nevada (sharps, squares, oddsmakers, janitors) have been skeptical of the Pirates all season. They keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. In fact, it's safe to say that everyone is STILL waiting for that shoe to drop. I don't know of anyone who's taking the Pirates seriously as a playoff threat right now.

Here are some of the reasons:

*The starting rotation is hard to love. This isn't a team that gets a lot of strikeouts. And, the market has reacted very dramatically in the direction of strikeout pitchers in recent years. High strikeout pitchers always get a lot of respect unless they're obviously wild or home run prone. If you see a minor-league call up get immediate respect in the line, you can assume he's a flamethrower.

Pittsburgh throws to contact in general. It's worked so far. But, few expect Jeff Karstens to have an ERA of 2.34 for the full season (he's allowing almost a home run per game but has a low ERA!). Paul Maholm had an ERA below 3.00 entering the weekend, but was at 5.10 last year and 4.44 the year before in full campaigns. It would be one thing if these guys found new pitches that turned them into strikeout heroes. That's just not the case.

*Pittsburgh's offense is 20th in the Majors in runs scored per game, and 25th in home runs. What's going to happen when the pitchers fall back to earth? This isn't a case where an up-and-comer is scoring a lot of runs and nobody's noticing. Pittsburgh's just not that great.

*Pittsburgh's been getting rich against the bad teams in their division. Friday Night's win made them 8-2 vs. Houston. They're also 6-3 this year in their division against the horrible Cubs. That's 14-5 combined vs. Houston and Chicago.

PITTSBURGH THROUGH FRIDAY
14-5 vs. Houston and Chicago
34-38 vs. Everyone Else

We have to be careful here. Bettors need to know who can beat bad teams! Pittsburgh's made a ton of money this year for gamblers who recognized their improvement…and figured out early on that these guys were definitely a cut above the Astros and Cubs. And, they've certainly held their own against some quality opponents. They have winning records against the Cards and Reds in their division (but are 0-5 vs. Milwaukee).

I think it's best to say it this way:

*Pittsburgh probably isn't as good as their won-lost record
*Pittsburgh probably IS still better than the market realizes

There's such a wide gulf between how Pittsburgh is being priced and their performance that you can still make some money with them even as they fall back to earth.

My best advice is this:

*Look to take Pittsburgh vs. bad teams. They're playing like they care. A lot of bad teams have already thrown in the towel on the season.

*Look to take Pittsburgh with Karstens and Maholm until those guys look like they're starting to struggle.

*Stop fading Pittsburgh! I know some guys who keep doing that because they think there's no way the Pirates can keep this up. That's probably true. Just wait until you see the decline before you start betting it. If it's going to happen, you'll still make money fading them at that time. It's silly to drop several units anticipating something that hasn't started happening yet.

*Price Pittsburgh like a team that's destined to finish around 78-84 or so right now. That will capture their improvement from last year, but also the regression to the man probabilities for the second half of the season. Adjust that to the good if the pitcher's become more dominant of the offense heats up. Adjust it down if the bubble bursts and the team goes on a losing streak. Maybe Pittsburgh is really an 85-77 type team. It's just as likely that a fade to 74-88 is in the offing during the dog days of summer.

I think we're going to see some big changes in the coming weeks in baseball. Some teams who were playing well are going to fall off the map. Some teams who were playing poorly are going to make personnel or managerial changes and get things moving in the right direction. It's very important that handicappers like YOU pay close attention to what's happening with all 30 Major League franchises.

Or, you can take the easy way out and use the BEST BETS from your friend behind the line! My top plays can be purchased daily right here at the website. I've got great rates for the rest of the season too. If you have any questions, call my handicapping office at 1-877-822-2276.

The great thing about sports betting is that there's always a new surprise waiting around the corner. I'd bet there wasn't ONE person in Nevada, or maybe even America that believed the Pittsburgh Pirates would lead their division at any point after the All-Star Break. You just never know for sure. As long as you can master the possibilities, you'll always appreciate how the best information comes DIRECT FROM NEVADA!

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by VegasSportsMasters.com. For more information on NICK BOGDANOVICH'S handicapping packages, call 1-877-822-2276.

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