Baseball is unique in that it’s a day-after-day, spring-to-summer-to-fall grind. The season lasts more than 180 days and included 162 games. That’s 162 chances to win, lose, celebrate, or take it on the chin.
As a baseball fan it can become daunting to pick game winners every night, from late March to early October in the regular season, navigating the increasingly complicated nature of starting pitching and bullpen usage.
That’s why prop bets can be a welcome activity during the marathon that is the MLB season. Sportsbooks offer many ways to place prop bets on any game, and since there’s usually a game every day, that gives you plenty of options.
Popular MLB Prop Bets
- Player to get X+ number of hits in game
- Pitcher to get X+ number of strikeouts in game
- Player to hit a home run
- Last inning a run is scored
There are others related to team runs. For example, FanDuel offers a “Race To” prop bet where you select which team will get to three runs, four runs, or five runs, and so on.
But for the purposes of this column, I want to examine which players make sense as home run prop bets in the last few weeks of the season.
Does clutch performance exist? Are some players better inclined to do well when the season is on the line? There are different thoughts on this, but one thing is for sure, we have no shortage of data to show us how players have done in the last month of the season.
Highest Home Run Percentage in Sep/Oct, 2016-2020*
|PLAYER||HR%||HOMERS||AT BATS||CURRENT TEAM|
|Hunter Renfroe||10.3||24||246||Red Sox|
|Domingo Santana||12.5||17||212||Free Agent|
|Matt Kemp||13.6||19||258||Free Agent|
*Regular season games. Home run percentage is at-bats divided by home runs.
The table above shows the batters who have most frequently hit home runs in September and October of the regular season dating back to 2016. While some of the hitters on the list are to be expected, as credentialed power hitters, there are a few that stand out.
Good Prop Bet Home Run Slugger Candidates
Hunter Renfroe has never hit more than 33 homers in a season, and now that he’s in Boston with the tempting Green Monster wall only about 300 feet away in left field, he may be a hitter to watch in the last stretch of the season, as far as homers go.
After a downslide last year in the pandemic-shortened season, Joc Pederson is swinging the bat better for his new team, the Braves. Seeing as how Atlanta is taking control of the competitive NL East race, Pederson will be playing a lot of meaningful baseball in the last few weeks of the season.
While he’s never hit more than 21 dingers in a season, A.J. Pollock is revitalized this season for the Dodgers, on his way to breaking that personal-best. As the Dodgers chase the Giants, Pollock will likely get lots of playing time from manager Dave Roberts.
I’d also watch Luke Voit, the Behemoth In The Bronx. The big right-handed slugger recently returned from the Injured List, and he’s finding his groove at the plate. He’s capable of going crazy with home runs down the stretch. Same with Miguel Sano, who swings from the heels in Minnesota, though the Twins are hopelessly out of the playoff chase.
Of course, the typical suspects should also make up your betting slip: Shohei Ohtani, Aaron Judge, Fernando Tatis Jr., Adam Duvall, Max Muncy, Freddie Freeman, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and other home run leaders for the 2021 season.
Your Special Baseball Moment of the Week
Tomorrow will mark the 70th anniversary of an unusual moment in baseball history. On August 19, 1951, at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, the Browns sent up a pinch-hitter named Eddie Gaedel.
That doesn’t seem odd: teams use pinch-hitters all the time. But the player in question was making his big league debut, and unlike today when every prospect has been ranked and analyzed up and down by the time he makes it to the majors, in 1951 you could sneak someone onto your roster.
It wasn’t hard to sneak Gaedel. He was only 3’7 and had never been seen by a baseball scout. In fact, Eddie had never played an amateur game of baseball, let alone one under contract as a professional.
The idea, which we can better describe as a “stunt,” sprung from the fertile mind of Bill Veeck, owner of the Browns. Veeck never met a promotion he didn’t like. If it drew attention to his team, that’s all Wild Bill cared about. And Gaedel was his masterpiece.
There was no rule stating that a team couldn’t send a little person to the plate. Veeck had submitted the paperwork to the league office the previous day to add little Eddie to his club. All he needed to do was wait for an opportunity to use his secret weapon.
Gaedel entered the second game of a doubleheader between the Browns and Tigers in the bottom of the first inning as a pinch-hitter. The uproar was immediate: from the Tigers bench, from Detroit pitcher Bob Cain, and from umpire Ed Hurley, who summoned Browns manager Zack Taylor to the field. But Veeck had armed Taylor with Gaedel’s contract, which his manager produced from his back pocket, and Taylor was left no choice but to let Eddie bat.
The 26-year old Gaedel wore uniform number “1/8” on his back and carried a toy plastic bat to the plate. Cain tried desperately to float a pitch over the plate in Gaedel’s tiny strike zone, but he was unsuccessful and Eddie trotted to first base after four pitches with a walk. The little showman even had the confidence to doff his cap and wave as he was removed for a pinch-runner to the alarmed and delighted crowd, who couldn’t believe what they were seeing.
That was it for Gaedel. The league office ruled that such stunts were against the spirit of baseball. Eddie never again played in a big league game, though he did resurface years later as part of another Veeck idea, when he dressed as a “little green Martian” during an on-field stunt in Chicago.
All these years later, we are more sensitive (and rightfully so) toward people like Gaedel. But back then little people were often employed in the entertainment industry. The appearance of Gaedel in a major league uniform would never happen today, but it serves as an interesting footnote in the history of the game.