MLB Handicapping: The Baltimore Orioles Are Bad But The Betting Markets Know It
When sifting through some of the worst seasons in MLB history, nearly all took place before before the modern era. The two exceptions being the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119) and the 2018 Baltimore Orioles (47-115). Last year’s Baltimore team was comically bad; a product of a poorly run organization that two years prior lucked into 89 wins and a Wild Card berth. That season was essentially a death sentence as the Orioles felt they could continue to compete in arguably the toughest division in MLB with a horribly constructed and aging roster. They paid the price some in 2017 as they regressed to 75-87 but it was 2018 when rock bottom was reached. From a betting perspective is where the Orioles achieved true infamy. From a basic moneyline perspective, Baltimore was nearly -54 units in the red. Over the last decade, there have been a handful of money burning type teams — in a typical season one or two finish around -30 units. But -54? Not even close. To put it in perspective, if you bet against Baltimore in every game last year the average moneyline price was a fairly rich -167. You still won +36 units. And if the run-line was your weapon of choice (avg. price -110), +23 units. These numbers shouldn’t come as a shock. When you’re outscored by 1.67 runs per game and notch 47 victories in 162 tries, -54 units is inevitable.
But the real question is, how will the 2019 Baltimore Orioles fare from a betting perspective? Most projections show some “improvement.” FanGraphs has them finishing 62-100. The betting markets aren’t as bullish with sportsbooks offering 57-58 wins. For the sake of this exercise, let’s split the difference and say the Orioles win 60 games (they obviously could win more or less but just follow along). If you take last year’s average moneyline price against (-167) and the Orioles reach the 60-win plateau, you end up with a near dead even season (-1.8 units). That’s a far cry from -54 units and not a profile most bettors looking to fade Baltimore would be willing to religiously follow for six-plus months. Of course, given the make-up of this year’s roster, it’s a lot easier to envision the Orioles closer to 47 wins than say, 70. But after last year’s historically bad performance, it’s very conceivable that average bet against price of -167 will be even higher in 2019. The same holds true for that sexy run-line bet where the -110 baseline starts to creep up to -120 and beyond. And lastly, let’s take into account the opposition. The Red Sox and Yankees combined for 208 wins in 2018 and are projected for 191 this season. The Rays are pegged for a 6-7 win regression. Toronto is in the midst of a rebuild. Those teams make up nearly half of Baltimore’s schedule.
Betting on moneyline sports seems very cut and dry; just pick the winner, right? Unfortunately, such a cavalier attitude can injure your bankroll in a hurry. The point here isn’t to advocate Baltimore as a “bet on” team. Scroll through the end-of-the-year results of the worst teams in MLB and you won’t find many +’s next to their name. However, it’s imperative to understand that Baltimore was projected to be a 77-win team last season and undershot that by 30 wins. This year’s squad is projected to win 58 games. That average moneyline price we talked about (-167), remember, that encompassed an entire season. The Orioles didn’t start the season with a baseline price of +150. In fact, Baltimore’s average moneyline price the last 10 games of the season was +260! On 35 occasions last season, the Orioles were a +200 or more underdog. Imagine how much more frequent that profile will be in 2019 when instead of starting the season with a projection that suggests “competitive” you’re pegged to be unequivocally the worst team in MLB? Like I said, there’s nothing about this team that even whispers “bet on” but the path to big profits in 2019 probably doesn’t include a daily fade either.