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It’s going to be an early start to the day in Japan on Monday. That’s because Shohei Ohtani, the 23-year-old dual threat sensation from Iwate, Japan, will make his pitching debut for the Los Angeles Angels against the Oakland Athletics. First pitch is scheduled for 5:05 a.m. in the Far East.
Ohtani was a tour de force during his time with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, but his results during the spring left a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, we’ve got ourselves a really intriguing betting opportunity with an unknown quantity toeing the rubber.
Los Angeles Angels (-126) @ Oakland Athletics (+114) | O/U: 8.5
4:05 p.m. ET on MLB Network
Probable Pitchers: Shohei Ohtani vs. Daniel Gossett
Ohtani Mania: This game should see plenty of action from bettors hoping to capitalize on the ever-intriguing Shohei Ohtani’s pitching debut. Some believed he should have started in the minor leagues given his spring training performance. Despite striking out more than a batter an inning, he was knocked around in games against major leaguers, minor leaguers, and the Mexican League’s Tijuana Toros squad. He also showed poor command, walking five batters in his final spring start. Given his high strikeout and walk numbers, we may see his pitch count balloon in the early frames, limiting his ability to go deep in the game. – Mark Gallant
Mark brings up some really interesting points regarding Ohtani. It’s never a great idea to take too much stock in spring training performances, but Ohtani’s lack of command was definitely a bit alarming. That being said, it’ll be interesting to see where the prop market opens for the Japanese talisman. He has the look of a strikeout artist, but if he can only go three innings — especially with the Angels handling him with care — he could be a good under play, especially because recreational bettors will want to be a part of the Ohtani magic in his first go-round. – Michael Leboff
Early Season Trend: When two division opponents that did not make the playoffs the year before meet within the first 10 games of the season, the underdog has gone 291-317 (48%) straight-up since 2005. A $100 bettor would be up $5,285. – John Ewing
Betting Market: Ohtani’s Angels are seeing the slight majority of bets and have gone from -119 to -126 since opening. The total, though, is seeing much more interesting action. After initially opening at 9.5, sharp action on the under pushed it down an entire run to 8.5. It has since been bet back up to 9. The weather is expected to be sunny, mid 60s, with a breeze blowing out to center/right-center. – Mark Gallant
San Francisco Giants (+165) @ Los Angeles Dodgers (-184) | O/U: 7.5
8:37 p.m. ET on ESPN
Probable Pitchers: Chris Stratton vs. Rich Hill
Not Over the Hill: Not too long ago, many folks thought Rich was over the hill. In 2015, he was pitching for the Long Island Ducks, which, for you beginners out there, is not an MLB team. Or minor league team for that matter.
He’s certainly not a hard thrower, but Hill’s 11 K/9 rate last season allowed him to pitch to a 3.32 ERA. He also held opponents to just a .178 average and .256 wOBA at home in 2017. The crafty 38-year-old veteran is not someone you should put your faith in to go 30+ starts and 200+ innings, but he should be effective when he’s healthy. – Mark Gallant
Spin Zone: It’s an intriguing pitching matchup as both Hill and Chris Stratton aren’t the overpowering type of hurlers who own backpages these days. Instead, the two pitchers rely on their fastballs to set up their curveball, which is the best pitch for both starters. As Paul Lo Duca noted in his Opening Day column, the shadows at Dodgers Stadium make it hard for batters to pick up spin and with two funky pitchers on the mound for a late afternoon PST start, the shadows could play a role early and help both of these soft-tossers find a rhythm. – Michael Leboff
Sunday Night Trends: On Sunday Night Baseball, road underdogs are 97-165 (37%) straight-up. A $100 bettor would be down $3,136 wagering on them since 2005. – John Ewing
Continuing with the Sunday Night Baseball theme, home teams receiving the majority ML ticket count on SNB since 2012, are 48-25 (65.8%) for +7.7 units. When division foes face off on SNB, the home team receiving the majority ticket count balloons to 74.4% and +9.6 units (winning by 1.1 runs per game). At the time of publication, the Dodgers were getting 68% of tickets. (See live percentages here.) – Evan Abrams
Betting Market: Though the Dodgers are one of the more popular bets of the day with 73% of tickets backing them, there has been some slight reverse line movement. With 62% of dollars actually on San Francisco, Los Angeles has gone from -185 to -180. – Mark Gallant