Weekly MLB Underdog Report
by Matt Foust - 06/27/2008
Oddsmakers are no doubt anxiously awaiting the end of Interleague Play. They have had trouble getting the line right the past couple of weeks and dog watchers have made a killing as a result. In a previous article I declared the week of June 6 through June 12 the "Week of the Dog". Well, it lost the title this week in stunning fashion. If you weren't on this gravy train I feel bad for you. Let's check out what happened.
This week's numbers cover June 20 to June 26. There were 87 games featuring teams with positive odds or a team getting better odds than their opponent. There were 42 underdog winners in those 87 contests for a win percentage of 48 percent. Last week we saw road dogs win at a better percentage than home dogs, that trend continued this week. Home teams in the spoiler role garnered eight wins in 21 chances (38 percent). Road dogs were off the charts this week; they had 34 wins in 66 opportunities for an outstanding 52 percent.
Dog(s) of the Week:
It seems to be difficult for one team to take this title outright, but the Minnesota Twins did this week by going four-for-four while playing the role of the dog.
The Twins were 23-28 as a dog coming into the week and they were also riding a three-game win streak. Their first dog win came at home against a struggling Diamondbacks team and pitcher Brandon Webb. Minnesota was getting +140 odds in their 5-3 victory over Arizona. Oddsmakers were figuring that Webb's previous two starts, where he gave up 10 earned runs in a little over eight innings, were a mere glitch. Also increasing the odds in the Twins favor was the fact that hurler Livan Hernandez had been dreadful in three of his last four starts.
Minnesota finished the week by sweeping the Padres in San Diego and doing so as a dog in every single game. They received odds of +151, +119, and +102 in facing Padres starters Jake Peavy, Greg Maddux, and Josh Banks. Clearly the sports books were waiting for the Twins to collapse and they figured it had to be against Peavy or Maddux. Not exactly great thinking as San Diego had lost six of seven entering the Twins series and was a modest 5-5 in Peavy and Maddux's last 10 starts.
Earning honorable mention this week is the Los Angeles Angels. I had mentioned last week that they would be a good value play against the Phillies in Philadelphia as they were likely to be a dog in at least two of the three games. They were a dog in all three games, and they swept the series - including a Game 3 go against Cole Hamels with +155 odds.
Head Scratcher(s) of the Week:
As the percentages would indicate, there were a number of games this week that left one wondering what the oddsmakers were doing. For the sake of length, I'll narrow it down to two contests.
The first game we will examine was the June 23 game between the Mariners and Mets in New York. The starters were Felix Hernandez and Johan Santana, and the Mariners were getting +160 odds. On the surface this might appear to be reasonable. After all, Seattle stinks and Johan Santana is an outstanding pitcher. However, that makes it reasonable that the Mariners occupy the dog role but not at +160 odds. A deeper look would show that Seattle was likely to be in this game to the end as the M's had won three of Hernandez's last five road starts. Felix had given up only nine earned runs in those five games as well. Were the Mets likely to blitz Hernandez anymore than the Mariners were likely to pound Santana? No, they were not. Seattle was a great value at +160 odds and they won the game 5-2.
The second game took place on June 24 between the aforementioned Twins and Padres. The Twins were +150 odds as stated before with Kevin Slowey matched up against Jake Peavy. Again, this might seem logical - Peavy is a Cy Young winner and, when healthy, is a stopper; but, Peavy was not that far removed from the DL and had struggled against the Yankees in his previous start. The Twins had just won six games in a row and Slowey had given up just three earned runs in last two starts (14 innings). How often are the Padres going to overwhelm a good pitcher with runs in their own park? The game was likely to be close and the Twins represented great value at +150 odds. They won the game, 3-1.
A Look Ahead:
Tonight's game between the Phillies and Rangers could be a high scoring shootout and it features the Rangers as a +102 underdog at Rangers Ballpark. Last week American League teams were 5-2 when billed as a home dog. Going for the reeling Phillies is Bret Myers, and, while he can be good, he is not dominant. Granted, the payout is not that much but there is still value in the Rangers.
June 30 marks the kickoff of a major AL East showdown between the Red Sox and Rays. Last time, Boston got the best of Tampa at Fenway. The results of that series and the fact that the Red Sox are World Champions could mean some favorable odds for the Rays at home. Tampa Bay has proven that they are for real and they would certainly represent value as a dog, especially at home where they are 30-13. Do not look for anything drastic as far as odds are concerned, but that series is worth monitoring.