Some books opt not to list starters

The 2020 Major League Baseball season finally begins Thursday night with the feature game being the defending World Champion Nationals hosting the Yankees with a brilliant pitching re-match from Game 1 of the World Series between Max Scherzer and new Yankee Gerrit Cole. 

Most of us will have some sort of opinion on the game with a bet, but the question is whether or not you’ll list the starters as part of the bet, or whether your sportsbook will even allow you to specify.

When the European sportsbooks started flooding into the American market as PASPA was repealed two years, they brought their European software with them which had no idea what a listed pitcher was as part of a bet. For those that don’t know, Nevada books have forever offered a betting option where you can list the starting pitcher and if that starter doesn’t go, it’s no action, or if you choose “action” you get the adjusted price. The listed pitcher is automatically in play with totals and run lines.

But with new baseball philosophies mixed in with the coronavirus pandemic, the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook and the South Point are eliminating the listed pitcher option. All bets are action in baseball with totals and run-line bets still having to go 8.5 innings for action. The changes haven’t been made permanent for future years, but VP Jay Kornegay says they’ll re-evaluate how it went in 2020.

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“Obviously the wiseguys and limit bettors aren’t going to like it because betting baseball is like an investment to them, and we had that in as part of a conversation we started last year with all the opening starters from the bullpen when we had more off- pitchers than we could remember,” Kornegay said.

It can be a double-edged sword when dealing with the customers on a pitching change, most of which didn’t realize their total or run-line bet has specified pitchers. So when they come to cash the ticket the next day, the guy looking to cash a five-team parlay with the amount printed on his ticket gets paid a reduced price because one of the starters did not go.

But there’s a great counter-point to the other side as far as being protected with pitching changes as Station Casinos sportsbook director Jason McCormick discussed why they’re not changing their baseball rules.

“You’re going to have the same guy who has the Yankees with (Gerrit) Cole pitching get scratched and the Yankees lose,” McCormick said. “He goes four out of five on the parlay and wants that reduced payout (no action). Baseball wagering is based on pitching, the fundamental part of the wager itself.”

He’s right. The price starts and ends with the starting pitchers.

Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White just completed all his updated baseball ratings and has Cole as the top-rated starter worth 75 cents with Mike Trout as the top position player worth 20 cents which shows how much value to the number key starters can be.

“Look, what we’re doing is no different than making a price change on other sports that we’ve been doing forever,” Kornegay explained. “What is different from adjusting a price immediately on the Lakers when announced two hours before the game that LeBron’s not playing? Or how about if Tom Brady is out for the Bucs and the line goes from -7.5 to -3? How come we don’t list LeBron or Brady as a must-play for action?”

Kornegay said they started doing action regardless of who the starter was when they began taking wagers on Korean Baseball and no one had a problem with it. But MLB may be a different animal in Nevada just because so many have been trained to think a certain way. It’s going to force bookmakers at the SuperBook to always be on their toes on the information game where fixed prices now make it attractive to beat the books to the punch.

“We’ve been playing that game forever in all sports,” Kornegay said. “So it’s really not as a big a deal as it may seem.”

I think most will agree that we’re just happy baseball is back to bet on and keep us entertained. But if the opening starters and a virus in the air with regular positive tests begin to happen more, we may see other books look to join the SuperBook and the South Point  and bail on listing pitchers in what would be an extraordinary move for the industry here in Nevada.

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