Weekly MLB Underdog Report
by Matt Foust - 06/20/2008
This week saw our beloved spoilers make a partial return to earth. However, they did have a shining moment on Saturday, as they took nine out of 15 games. These weren't pedestrian payouts either, the winning odds for the hounds ranged from +100 to +182, with only one winner being below +140 odds. Yes, last Saturday was certainly a good day for astute dog players. Let's see how the rest of week shaped up.
The week of 6/13/08 through 6/19/08 featured 91 games. In those 91, there were 36 underdog winners for a win percentage of 40 percent. There were five home underdog winners in 17 opportunities and 31 road dog winners in 74 opportunities. This marks a flip-flop in what we've seen from home and road dog win percentages. Road dogs recorded a 42 percent win percentage and home dogs saw a significant drop, falling from 48 percent last week to 29 percent this week. This could have something to do with most of the games being of the interleague variety, we shall see in the coming weeks if there is a noticeable difference.
Dog(s) of the Week:
Two teams will again share the title this week, and in doing so they will provide a little bit of an explanation for this week's reversal in home and road dog win percentages. Our first dog of the week is the Kansas City Royals. KC managed to pull out four wins in five 'dog' opportunities. Now, nobody's surprised that the Royals were featured as a dog in five road games, but the four wins are probably a shock to many. However, this team may not be as bad as many perceive them to be. Granted, it's hard to overlook a 12-game losing streak, but consider that outside of that streak the Royals are 31-30 and 18-16 on the road. There is evidence to suggest that the losing streak was an anomaly of sorts.
KC victimized a Diamondbacks team that was 4-5 in their last nine home games prior to the KC series and they swept a Cardinals team that was missing Albert Pujols and Yadier Molina. However, the perception was still that of two teams far superior to KC and headed in opposite directions from the lowly Royals. The Royals won with odds of +113, +124, +135, and +157. Part of being a good handicapper is distinguishing between perception and reality and seeing the situation for what it is.
Our second team is the Boston Red Sox. Yes, this is a surprise because what sports book would make the World Champions a dog four times in one week? The answer is all of them. The Sox punished the books and rewarded backers by winning three out four in the dog role.
A second look reveals why it was that Boston took the underdog role four times. They ran into a red hot Edinson Volquez in Cincinnati and then proceeded to Philadelphia to face a (at the time) smoldering Phillies team. Good is good though, and Boston has the lineup to take on any pitcher and any team and come out victorious. If Boston is ever featured as a dog four times within a week, take the money and run. You could have this week at odds of +106, +129, and +145.
Head Scratcher(s) of the Week:
This week's biggest mystery goes back to the Kansas City/Arizona series. Always be on the lookout for lines based on past reputation or the most recent performance. Saturday's game between the Royals and D-backs featured Royals rookie Luke Hochevar versus future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson, and the Royals were getting odds anywhere from +150 to +160. Not an amazing development that they were a dog, but the odds did not reflect the matchup and made the Royals an excellent value play.
Johnson was coming off his two best home starts of the season against the Giants and Tigers. In these games he pitched an average of seven innings and allowed an average of just one earned run. However, if you threw in his previous four starts, his home numbers were almost identical to Hochevar's road numbers. Johnson was allowing about 3.33 runs per game in his last six home starts and Hochevar was allowing about 3.2 runs per game in his last five road starts, in the same number of innings worked. The Diamondbacks had also lost Johnson's last four starts. These numbers clearly show that the Diamondbacks did not have an overwhelming advantage on the mound. When this is the case a dog can usually stay in a game, regardless of location, and at +150 or better odds they represent good value, as the Royals did in winning 12-3.
A Look Ahead:
This week, again, features mostly interleague action, and --as always--keep an eye out for American League teams playing at home. If my numbers are correct the AL is 39-21 playing at home in interleague play for a cool 65 percent win percentage.
Here are a couple of series/games I am looking at:
The Angels heading to Philadelphia is an interesting matchup. The Angels are likely to be a dog in at least two of the three games and they are 13-8 in this role. Los Angeles is also 21-12 on the road. The odds are not likely to be enormous either way in this series, but the Angels do represent value as a dog regardless.
Tonight's game between the Reds and Yankees is also one to watch. The Yankees are on fire right now, having won seven in a row; the Reds are at the other end of the spectrum having lost five in a row. However, despite their poor road performance and the Yankees current streak, Cincinnati represents good value at +135 odds tonight. I know that sounds crazy with Mussina pitching well and New York being 4-1 in their last five home games, but Reds starter Edinson Volquez has become a true stopper. The Reds are 5-1 in his last six road starts and opponents are averaging just 1.83 run per game in that stretch. Cincinnati will be in this game with a chance to win.