GAMBLING GUIDE

How to profit off the Rockets in the playoffs

James Harden and the Rockets are just under 4-1 to win the title. But there is a better way to play. Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Although football is behind us, some would consider this as the prime time in sports. With the conclusion of March Madness, the push for the postseason in the NBA, and Opening day approaching, the action is plenty for gamblers.

I had a friend ask me the other day about putting money on the Rockets to win the NBA Championship this year, and I hesitated to answer once I looked at the futures odds market.

Odds to according to Vegas Insider

Golden State Warriors    6/5
Houston Rockets    3.8/2
Cleveland Cavaliers    10/1
Toronto Raptors    12/1
Boston Celtics    30/1
Oklahoma City Thunder    40/1
Philadelphia 76ers    60/1
Portland Blazers    60/1
San Antonio Spurs    60/1
Washington Wizards    100/1
Utah Jazz    200/1
Indiana Pacers    400/1
Milwaukee Bucks    400/1
Minnesota Timberwolves    450/1
Miami Heat    500/1
New Orleans Pelicans    500/1
Denver Nuggets    1000/1
Los Angeles Clippers    1000/1

The Rockets currently sit as the second favorites to win the NBA title. According to Vegas Insider, they only trail the Golden State Warriors, and betting on Houston to be this year's champion will pocket you about $150-190 for every $100 you wager depending on the spot you wager at. Although some might think as this as a decent payout, I tend to think a different approach might be the best idea. Especially if you play through a local that adds the extra premium when players bet the home team.

At +150-+190 on the future wager, if you were to bet the Rockets series by series you might come out with a better payout.

For example: let's suppose the Rockets and Warriors are on a collision course that leads to the Western Conference Finals. When they do meet, will the Rockets even be favored although they hold home court?  Since the 2014 season, The Rockets have fallen to the Warriors 11 times while only winning on three occasions. They did manage to win the heads-up series this year, maybe giving Houston some added confidence.  Let's presume the defending champions are fully healed, the Super Team of the modern era Golden State Warriors should be slightly favored in the Western Conference finals, let's guess leaving Houston at the +125-140 range (projected). Let's suppose the Rockets pull off the upset and advance to the Finals against either Boston Cleveland or Toronto, how much would Houston be favored vs. either Eastern Conference opponent? Let's guess around the -130 to -170 range. These are all estimated figures, but using these numbers betting the series individually would ultimately net you more profit, rather than making a future bet. This can be classified as a mechanical parlay.

Using the Mechanical Parlay Method; you wagered $100 on the Warriors series in the conference finals at let's say +125, Rockets win giving you a bankroll of $225 (100+125) going into the finals. Now when you wager that $225 at anywhere between -130-170, let's suppose worse case scenario -170, your payout would be 225+ 132.35= $357.35
If you were to have bet the Rockets on the future bet at +190, or even up to +225, you wouldn't profit as much as breaking it down individually (+290/+325).

When gambling, every part of the juice matters and can ultimately make you a winning or losing gambler. Stay sharp and look for any angles you can take advantage of, or in this case, not get taken advantage of.

For any questions or comments reach me at @JerryBoKnowz on twitter.

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Here's what the data tells us about Bregman. Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Alex Bregman had a rough season in 2020 by his standards. He slashed .242/.350/.451 in 42 regular season games. His regular season included a trip to the 10-day IL for a hamstring strain he suffered in mid-August. His surface-level struggles continued in the postseason, where he slashed .220/.316/.300 in 13 games. However, that postseason sample size does include a tough luck game against the Tampa Bay Rays where he went 0-for-5 with five hard hit balls.

All-in-all, 2020 felt like a lost season for Bregman. He never really got going. He got off to a slow start, but he's always been a slow starter. Once he started to pick it up, he strained his hamstring, and he played poorly after returning from the hamstring strain. Then, he started to turn his batted ball quality around in the playoffs, but he hit into a lot of tough luck outs.

Hard Hit % - 33.6%

Barrel % - 3.9%

K% - 14.4%

BB% - 13.3%

Chase % - 18.1%

Bregman comes from the Michael Brantley school of hitters. He has elite plate discipline and elite bat-to-ball skills. This makes Bregman a fairly consistent hitter. That may sound odd considering his 2020 "struggles" but even an extended period of poor performance for him resulted in a .801 OPS and a 122 wRC+. If his valleys are still 22% better than the league average hitter, then that's a pretty reliable producer.

There aren't any alarming trends in Bregman's statistics. Yes, his K% was slightly up, his BB% is slightly down, but it isn't a massive difference in either category. His Chase % was up, but again, 18.1% is elite discipline. The biggest drop was in his Hard Hit%, where he fell from 38% to 33.6%. Even so, his average exit velocity only dropped .4 MPH, so there's not really a catastrophic trend here.

His .254 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) was low, but he's never put up really high BABIP numbers. In fact, his BABIP has gotten worse every year of his career, from .317 to .311 to .289 to .281 to .254. While his BABIP will likely spike back up next year, it isn't enough to be the difference between the 2019 and 2020 versions of himself. His xBA and xSLG weren't out of whack either. His .256 xBA isn't much better than his .240 AVG, and his .400 xSLG is actually worse than his .451 SLG.

Bregman is as forthcoming with his hitting mechanics, approach, and mental cues as any big leaguer out there. Here is what he had to say about his swing this year. This was a Zoom press conference with the media following the Astros game on September 25th against the Rangers.

Bregman says he wants to hit balls in the air to the pull side and on a line to the opposite field, but in reality, he was hitting flares to the opposite field and hitting them on the ground to the pull side.

The data mostly backs up that claim. In 2019, on balls hit to the pull side, Bregman had an average exit velocity of 90.7 MPH at an average launch angle of 16°, a 40% Hard Hit %, and a 16% HR%. Since Bregman has elite bat-to-ball skills, most of those metrics didn't change. In 2020, his average exit velocity was 90.6, essentially the same as 2019. His Hard Hit % was 42%, a touch better than in 2019. However, his average launch angle dipped from 16° to 11°, which contributed to his HR% dropping all the way to 9%. Bregman hit 47% of his pull side swings on the ground. In 2019, that number was 40%. He absolutely had less production to the pull side in 2020.

The data gets a little hazier going the opposite way when comparing 2019 to 2020, as Bregman actually performed slightly better to the opposite field in 2020 than 2019, but he also only had 20 batted balls to the opposite field all season. Considering the small sample size, it isn't worth diving too deep into the data.

He's right that most of the balls he hit that way were flares. He had an average exit velocity of 83.4 MPH with an average launch angle of 32°, but that's about the same as what he did in 2019. A lot of the statistical drop off comes from balls that were backspun rockets to the pull side in 2019 becoming top spinners or roll overs in 2020.

Bregman also performed horribly against breaking balls in 2020. He batted .150 with a .250 SLG against them in 2020. He had an 84 MPH Average Exit Velocity against them and whiffed 26.5% of the time against them.

It was a far cry from 2019, when he hit .265 with a .588 SLG, 87 MPH average exit velo, and whiffed 18% of the time.

Those numbers lend credence to his statement on his mechanics. It's tough for a hitter to have adjustability against breaking balls if he's blowing out his front side and pulling off of the baseball.

Bregman will spend the offseason working on these mechanical fixes and getting back to the hitter he used to be. If he's consistently hitting the ball in the air to the pull side next year, and he's performing better against breaking balls, then he should be right back in the mix for AL MVP.

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