Rookie Reds phenom Elly De La Cruz on Saturday became the first Cincinnati player since 1919 to steal three bases in the same inning, swiping second, third, and home after singling in what would prove to be the game-winning runs against the Milwaukee Brewers.
The NL Central-leading Reds are 23-7 since calling up Cruz, who is the first player in Major League Baseball history to notch 40 hits and 15 stolen bases (he has 16 thus far) in his first 30 games. While Cruz is a uniquely talented base thief, he couldn’t have timed his MLB entry any better, as this is the first season where pitchers are limited to two pickoff attempts per at bat. Also, the bases are bigger.
As a result, steals are way up this season — and sports bettors have taken notice.
When asked if he’d seen heightened interest in wagering on stolen base props, Kambi’s head MLB trader, Robert Dyer, replied, “A hundred percent, and that’s only gonna grow. We’re still working on the model because of how much that rule has changed the game. It makes it very hard for our model to price those guys — De La Cruz, Ronald Acuna, Fernando Tatis — who can steal and hit for power.”
In the season’s first half, stolen bases were Kambi’s ninth most popular prop bet, but Dyer expects it to grow as he and his team broaden the market to include more players and options.
“If I could predict it now, at this time next year it’ll be the second most popular prop behind the home run.”
Live (or in-game) wagering “has grown astronomically in the past few years,” said Dyer.
“The more offers you put out there, the more action you’re gonna get on them,” he explained. “Every day, we’re trying to work on our model to increase bet offers.”
This growth has not come without its challenges, however, as MLB’s new pitch clock means that certain pitches don’t count if they’re thrown after time expires. With the results of individual pitches ranking among Kambi’s more popular live markets, that has led to some difficulty in grading or voiding them properly.
“For us, the challenge is voiding bets on the pitch clock,” said Dyer. “Before the season started, we put in ‘pitch must be thrown.’ Last week, the second pitch in a game was voided, so now is the second pitch the second pitch or is it the third pitch? It kind of messes up the entire at-bat. It causes confusion both for us and the customer.”
That being said, he added, “It hasn’t affected us as much as I thought, to be honest.”
Yankees’ backers flex their muscle
Shohei Ohtani was Kambi’s most bet-on player in the first half of the season, which stands to reason since the Angel is both a slugger and a pitcher.
“We had a game where Shohei started and he had 13 or 14 props just for himself,” recalled Dyer.
Under normal circumstances, Aaron Judge ranking third on Kambi’s list wouldn’t be at all peculiar. But Judge has retained that lofty position despite missing the last 31 games with a toe injury, which speaks to the betting might of the large state of New York and, to a lesser extent, New Jersey.
Topping the list of teams bettors backed during the first half on Kambi’s platform — which powers such mobile sportsbooks as Bally’s, BetRivers, and Unibet — were, in descending order: the Texas Rangers, New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves, and Tampa Bay Rays.
“The Rays were 13-0 to start and we couldn’t make them short enough to not take bets,” Dyer explained.