Big MLB Favorites Continue to Dominate
“Tell me what is going to happen in the future, not what took place in the past,” is a mantra most successful sports bettor follow. For every insightful gambling related Tweet I come across, there are 20 that spit out some meaningless trend or mythical high return parlay bet that no one actually made. But analyzing the past isn’t always a bad thing and under the right circumstance can lead to success in the future. The other night I can across a Tweet from a Las Vegas oddsmaker that complained — perhaps tongue-in-cheek — that MLB underdog prices were too high. The Tweet in question came after the Kansas City Royals cashed a now Twitter-famous +360 in their win over the -440 New York Yankees. The Tweet led me to a MLB historical betting data base and ultimately down an endless array of rabbit holes. It’s pretty easy to find “profitable profiles” in MLB or any sport for that matter. Plug in a swatch of time and a few parameters and within no time you’ll come across a sexy looking ROI. For baseball bettors, both big and small, the -200 moneyline favorite has always been a benchmark. For one, it’s a nice round number. And for a lot of bettors — myself included — it’s a stop sign. We all know the old adage of “even the best teams only win 60 percent of the time.” Meaning, laying -200 or more is just too risky over the long term. But is it? The results of my journey tell a far different story. If you take -200 or more favorites over the last five years the results are nothing short of shocking. On a 1-unit scale, our -200 or higher favorites won +156.5 units. Using over 1,100 games, the average price tag was -235 meaning there was a 70 percent winning expectation. The results were instead 74 percent. Below are the year-by-year results of the last five years.
2014: 99-27 +39.9 units
2015: 115-42 +20.1 units
2016: 198-86 +1.2 units
2017: 229-71 +62.8 units
*2018: 195-68 +32.5 units
Overall: 836-294 +156.5 units
The question now becomes how can we apply this information moving forward? The answer is not easy. My experiences as a gambler has me believing the market will eventually correct itself. Look no further than the previous five-year swatch. Our profile lost money in 2009, 2010 and 2013, broke even in 2011 and went for +40 units in 2012 — the epitome of a meaningless trend. But MLB has undergone a lot of changes since then; a number of which assist the strong and punish the weak. Home runs continue to rise, pitcher velocity is at an all-time high, bullpen usage is up, from offices have stronger analytics (the rich are a lot smarter than they used to be), and this year in particular a slew of bad teams are essentially tanking.
Handicapping the MLB is a beast of a job; analytical-based groups with big bankrolls that make thousands of wagers tend to be the most successful. They’re also better equipped to handle the large swings that come with routinely playing big favorites. That doesn’t mean, however, that the small bettor can’t partake. After all, the goal of the exercise is to win, which means a good bet is a good bet no matter if you’re laying -240 or taking +1.5 on the run-line. While I won’t be pounding every -200 favorite for the remainder of the season, that aforementioned trip down the rabbit hole helped me discover something I’m now far more willing to utilize.
*The data used in this article was as of 7/30/2018