New rules, strategies impact game

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Totals as we know it are about to change.

With the introduction of the universal designated hitter, not to mention a schedule this year that will see teams play nearly a third of the normal amount of games, bettors should fully brace for over/unders that aren’t what would normally be expected.

American League pitching matchups may not see much of an uptick in their corresponding total, as they’ve always featured a DH regardless. But with the National League, adjustments will undoubtedly be made to compensate for the extra useful bat in the lineup.

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For instance, those anticipated NL East encounters between Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer will likely no longer include an over/under that hovers below 7. In fact, totals of 6 or 6.5 altogether might just become extinct in the regular season.

An additional bopper on both sides not only enhances the potential for more offense compared to when a pitcher is tasked with swinging a bat, it also brings about a change in strategy as well, as there will be fewer sacrifice bunts and more at-bats with runners on base.

The component of fewer games should also be a determinant in where an over/under winds up leading into first pitch.

With only 60 contests on tap for each ballclub, an extra emphasis might be placed on starters going deeper into games, as there’s now no season innings limit to worry about in getting a hurler through the campaign in one piece. That means it’ll be crucial to monitor someone’s splits the first time, second time and third time through the lineup.

Looking at last year’s numbers, starting pitchers fared considerably better in their assignments the first time opposing a batting order. In fact, hitters managed just a .245/.311/.419 line in 2019 when squaring off with a starter for the first time. In the second meeting, those marks jumped up to .261/.324/.452, while the third time through saw batters register a much more tasty .269/.330/.474 line.

So, these stats need to be accounted for if starting pitchers are going to be entrusted to go deeper into ballgames. Predictably, a hitter will have more success as they get more familiarity from seeing a pitcher.

At the same time, managers might try to treat each game like it’s a postseason affair due to the importance of each one. That means extending a shorter leash to the starters and going into the bullpen quicker for mix-and-match opportunities (while still following the new three-batter rule). It’s possible teams could implement a piggyback-type strategy for a pair of starters as well.

At the end of the day, the key for bettors will be to track and monitor each team’s tendencies. Which pitching staffs are typically seeing its starters in there for the long haul? What managers are playing the matchups and depending on their bullpens to get a majority of the outs?

Come July 23, we’ll all get our first looks at this new era of baseball totals. Start paying attention; it’s going to be as important as ever to keep track of pitcher usage in effort of developing an edge.

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