Weekly MLB Underdog Report
by Matt Foust - 07/11/2008
This marks our sixth week of dog watching, and I am sad to report that they performed rather poorly the past seven days. In fact, this week was the worst of the six we have observed as the overall win percentage was just 33 percent. While that's not the equivalent of chewing up shoes and peeing on the carpet, it still doesn't make you happy. However, despite the lackluster returns, there were a few bright spots.
This week's games covered 7/4 through 7/10. There were a total of 96 games with 95 of those contests featuring a lopsided money line. As stated before, underdog teams won 31 out of the 95 games for a 33 percent win percentage. Home underdogs still performed fairly well this week--they won eight out of 20 for a 40 percent mark. Road dogs were dreadful, winning just 23 times in 75 opportunities (31 percent).
It's starting to look like some of the Interleague Play numbers may have been an anomaly, but it may take a few more weeks of observation to positively conclude that. I suspect the American League's dominance over the National League may have skewed some of the home and road dog win percentages. Clearly, a number of sportsbooks had the wrong team favored during the course of interleague matches.
Dog(s) of the Week:
Taking the title this week is the New York Mets. The Phillies played host to the Mets for a four-game NL East showdown. The only game the Mets lost in the series was the game they were expected to win. So, they were a perfect three for three this week as a dog.
The Mets went into Philadelphia having won three games in their last six tries. They were also 13-10 as a dog going into the series and 20-26 on the road. Philadelphia was returning home fresh off a sweep of the stumbling Braves. The Mets didn't stand a chance in this series, right?
Here are a few factors that should have clued people in and led to some good money being laid on New York. Prior to the Phillies sweep of the Braves, they had won just two of their last eight overall and just one of their last six home games. Philly ace Cole Hamels would not see action in the four-game set either. And, the Mets got favorable pitching matchups throughout the series while receiving positive odds in three of the games.
These were not sportsbook goofs--Philly probably should have been slightly favored in three of the four games; however, there was good value in New York. The Mets won a +108 return with John Maine facing Jamie Moyer, a +114 return with Oliver Perez going against Kyle Kendrick, and a +123 return with Pedro Martinez out dueling Adam Eaton. None of the Mets pitchers were so dominant that they would have earned negative odds on the road against comparable rivals. But, they presented good value at positive odds precisely because they were at least the equivalent or somewhat superior to the opposing Philly pitchers.
Head Scratcher(s) of the Week:
This week's mystery line game took place on July 9 between the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics. The Mariners were receiving odds anywhere from +140 to +150 with Miguel Batista squaring off against A's hurler Joe Blanton.
As always, these lines tend to look okay on the surface. The Mariners are horrible, Batista is having a horrendous year, and Oakland is a solid club - especially at home where they were 29-21 prior to this game. A deeper dig will reveal that Oakland should have been favored but not anywhere close to a +150.
Going into this contest Seattle had won six of their last eight in Oakland. The Mariners had outscored the A's by an average of 2.38 runs per game over those eight games. Also, Oakland had won only three of Joe Blanton's last 13 home starts. Blanton had yielded an average of .4819 runs per inning in 2008 home games compared to Batista's .5915 runs per inning average in 2008 road games.
Granted, Blanton's numbers are better, but only slightly. Considering the other series factors there is no way that Seattle should have been getting +150 odds against a pitcher whose team had won only three of 13 home starts. The Mariners were a great value at +150.
A Look Ahead:
Yes, I was horribly wrong last week on my Brian Bannister versus the Rays observation. There was clearly no value in KC on that day (TB 11, KC 2). Thankfully, I was correct in my observations about the Angels and Blue Jays. So, let's quickly move on to some potentially interesting games/series this week.
The whole series between the Twins and Tigers should be interesting, especially from an underdog perspective. Minnesota, while a good team, is likely to receive positive odds in at least two of the remaining three games in the series. Despite their poor performance in Boston, the Twins are a good value in this role.
Tonight's game features the Twins at a +130 with Glen Perkins going against the Tigers Armando Galarraga. The Twins are a great value here as they are 3-1 in Perkins last four road starts. They have also won eight of 12 against the Tigers in 2008 and have taken three of the last four in Detroit. The Tigers are favored because they are 4-1 in Galarraga's last five home starts. However, Perkins road numbers are superior to Galarraga's home numbers (23.9 innings pitched/10 earned runs vs. 28.5 innings pitched/16 earned runs).