MLB Series Betting
by Trevor Whenham - 04/06/2007
If you like variety when it comes to the bets that you make on baseball then the sportsbooks are more than happy to give you what you want. As long as people are willing to make a bet, chances are a book will offer it. One such offering that is interesting to look at is the Series Price. Though it's not a particularly common or popular bet, it is definitely easy to understand. You're just betting on which team is going to win a series - which team, for example, will win at least two games in a three game series. It's probably not a bet that you would want to make on every series, but it doesn't take much imagination to see particular circumstances in which it could be useful.
The biggest factor standing in the way of making this an attractive bet is the juice you have to pay. It's not offered by a lot of books, so the market isn't that competitive. That means that you certainly don't see dime lines, and you can see some spreads between the two prices that are truly disgusting. As with any sound bet, then, you need to be aware not only of what your chances are on the playing field, but also how much edge you are sacrificing to the house. If you don't feel you can overcome that edge over the long term then it's a bet that isn't worth making.
The other challenge with making this bet is that you are giving up control of some factors that you would normally consider in a bet. Though you can determine which pitchers are listed to start, there is no way of knowing for sure what will happen. If your ace misses a start and is replaced by a useless rookie, then all of the value in your bet will have evaporated. You could similarly be in trouble if a star player was hurt in the first game of the series. Those risks don't mean that the bet should be avoided, but the price needs to reflect the risk.
There are a number of scenarios in which this bet could make sense. The most obvious is if the price presents clear value. As with any bet, you will occasionally come across a price which seems far off of what you expect to be a fair market value. If the price is better than you would expect then you probably have a bet worth making. You could also use this bet to potentially get a better price if your team's ace will be pitching in the series. Minnesota, for example, has been a very safe bet the last couple of years when Johan Santana is on the mound, but the price is usually so high on his games that a bet is out of the question. Using a Series Price bet you would get a better price by betting on him, and you would only have to accept the risk of the Twins winning one of the other two games as well. You have the extra cushion in that case that you could possibly win the bet even if Santana were to lose his start.
Case Study - New York Yankees
The Yankees in 2006 illustrate perhaps the most powerful application of this bet. It didn't take any particularly astute handicapping at the beginning of last season to know with reasonable certainty that the Orioles, Devil Rays and Royals weren't going to be very good, and certainly weren't going to be nearly as good as the Yankees. The Yankees played those three teams in 13 three-game series over the course of the season. Their record over the course of those games was 25-14. That's a decent winning rate of about 64 percent. The problem is that you would have to average a win price of -180 just to break even at that winning rate. With a public team like the Yankees playing against truly bad teams the chances of getting that price regularly is almost zero. That means you can be in the situation of winning consistently and still losing money.
The opportunity to profit from this situation emerges when we look at Series Prices. The Yankees only lost one of the13 series against the dregs of the American League. That's a 92.3 percent win rate. Though that may be a little higher than expected, it would be rare to see a team of the caliber of the Yankees consistently lose series against truly bad teams. If you wanted to be even more confident in the series win you could only play series when the better team is at home. In this case, though, you would only need an average price of -1200 to break even. You're not going to have to pay anywhere near that much of a price, so you would be able to make a comfortable profit in this case. The Series Price bet turned a money losing situation into a money winner without really accepting too much more risk, and certainly not an unreasonable amount of risk.