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Wagering on the World Series

October memories glare the brightest in baseball lore. From Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5 of the ’56 Series, to Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeouts in Game 1 in 1968, to Kirk Gibson’s blast in ’88, and Joe Carter’s Series-ending three-run homer in 1993. While home runs litter the top of the memorial landscape, October baseball can also feature memorable defensive plays and great pitching performances from starters and relievers.

This is important from a betting perspective.

Taking a content analysis of the last 11 years of the World Series, you’ll notice that pitching and defense shines a bit more on the October stage than offense. Over the last 11 years there have been 33 unders, 25 overs and 2 pushes in World Series play. Is this a fluke? Or are there reasons for more low scoring games?

There are reasons for it. Since the World Series is the last battle of the season, managers aren’t going to play their second-tier pitchers. This is why you see three- and four-man rotations in the World Series, whereas in the regular season teams employ a five- and sometimes six-man rotation. Simply put, the No. 4, 5 and 6 starters during the regular season aren’t going to see much (if any) important action in late October. The same is true for relief pitchers: A team generally has two or three quality relievers and three or four marginal/below average arms. Naturally, a manager is going to use his best often and go to his weakest arms only if necessary.

In addition, defense is a subtle, often overlooked aspect of baseball. There’s an old adage that teams win with pitching, hitting and defense, and it’s true. This is why you often see teams with outstanding center fielders, shortstops and catchers in the World Series, because a team needs to be strong up the middle. Good defense helps your pitchers, turning double plays and keeping the opponent from scoring.

Finally, the weather is cooler in October than in July and August, and it’s tougher to hit a baseball when it’s cold. When the World Series takes place in northern cities (Boston, New York, Cleveland, Chicago) it can be downright freezing in late October. In 2004, the Cardinals and Red Sox combined for 20 runs in Game 1 of the World Series in Boston, in a mistake-filled, walk-fest, sailing over the total. The next three games, however, went under the total in 6-2, 4-1 and 3-0 Red Sox wins. In the 2003 World Series between the Yankees and Marlins, five of the six games went under the total as pitching and defense excelled. In fact, this year’s World Series participants will be riding a 10-5 under the total run into Game 1. So remember, play defensively: pitching and defense shine in October.

By Jim Feist

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