With the rise of sports betting, many wagerers have taken up the thrill of in-game betting, and the sport that’s the most natural fit for those in-game wagers – Major League Baseball – opens this Thursday.
Why is baseball the perfect sport for in-game betting? Because of the many games within the game. It’s a team sport that comes down to one-on-one matchups: batter vs. pitcher. One swing of the bat and the game could change in an instant. And the pace of play allows for plenty of opportunities for bookmakers to make new markets and for bettors to find value with more information than they had before the game started.
Plus, baseball has no clock … until now.
When the opening pitch is thrown on Thursday, it will mark the first time it has been subject to a clock. Major League Baseball has introduced a 15-second pitch clock which is designed to increase pace of play and requires pitchers to throw the ball within 15 seconds with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a man on base. If they don’t, a ball will be called. There are also new rules for the batter. Hitters have to be in the box facing the pitcher before the clock ticks down to seven seconds, or they will be tagged with an automatic strike. There’s no doubt, this will make for some interesting pitch counts and much quicker at-bats.
As a bettor, it’s important to bear in mind these changes when betting on the outcome of the next pitch or an at-bat, especially across the first few weeks of the season as the players -- and fans -- will be getting used to the new rules. A player like Manny Machado, for instance, could quickly strike out simply because he takes too much time to get back into the batter's box. Machado ordinarily would not be a strikeout candidate.
As the game tempo is expected to increase, bettors should also bear in mind that there will be latency between what they are seeing on the TV screen and what markets are being offered online. With a 40-second delay, those at home will need to watch their betting app -- and not the actual game -- in order to keep up with what is happening in real time.
Operators will be forced to speed up their real-time markets with the pitch clock, and the window to place bets on a next-pitch market will be a mere 15-20 seconds, according to Ryan Keur, VP of Revenue and Trading at Simplebet.
However, the at-bat markets will have more options to enter. “The at-bat markets are available both prior to the at-bat, but also throughout the entire course of the current at-bat,” says Keur.
In terms of in-game betting, or what is often referred to as “micro-betting” or “micro-markets,” the at-bat market has been most popular according to Keur. Specifically, the eight-way market.
“The most popular at-bat market is an eight-way exact market, which allows a fan to bet on whether or not Aaron Judge will hit a home run, strikeout, single, etc., on this specific at-bat,” said Keur.
Even more interesting, Keur added that about 70% of Simplebet’s handle on the at-bat markets comes during the current at-bat. “Fans tend to enjoy seeing the odds shift as the count moves from 0-0, to 1-0, etc.,” he said. “The fastest growing in-play bet late in the season was the ability to bet over/under on the miles per hour of the next pitch.”
Simplebet specializes in using machine-learning and real-time technology to make every moment of every sporting event a betting opportunity. The new pitch clock rules limit some of that time, so it’s something they monitored closely in spring training.
“Every second truly does matter,” said Keur. “The introduction of the pitch clock forces operators to rely heavily on the dependency of technology. Without automated market mechanics and pricing, it will be nearly impossible to create, price and settle markets in a matter of seconds. As a result of the pitch clock, we have continued to work with our partners to push the limits in regard to bet delay/suspension. We have several partners that will roll out a zero-second bet delay on pitches for the upcoming season.”
So, yes. They have it figured out. If you want to micro-bet the next pitch, you’ll have the chance and the markets should be accurate. However, unless you’re at the game, it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun to me.
The only micro-bets I will be making will be for come-from-behind wins. The live market updates on an inning-to-inning basis – rather than pitch-by-pitch – seem reasonable to me when I am watching a game from my sofa. Add in the extra as-yet-unknown variables with the new pitch clock, and as a bettor, I’d rather play more of a long game.
Though, maybe I’ll also occasionally be tempted to bet on a walk-off home run when Yordan Alvarez is at bat.
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