Weekly MLB Underdog Report
by Matt Foust - 07/18/2008
The all-star break reduced our sample size this week; however, there were still plenty of games to examine. Based on the way the early part of the week shaped up, it would have been interesting to see what kind of percentages a full slate of games would have returned. Suffice it to say that we are seeing a return to normalcy since the end of Interleague Play, and that means home dogs are usually a pretty solid play.
There were 48 games this week (7/11-7/17) that featured a team with better money lines. All but 10 of those games were of the positive return variety. Underdogs scratched out 22 wins for a 46 percent win percentage. There were 12 games in which the home team was getting the more favorable money line. Home dogs won seven of those 12 contests for a 58 percent mark. Road dogs won 15 of the remaining 36 games for a 42 percent tally.
Dog(s) of the Week:
This week the Cleveland Indians won the 'Dog of the Week' title after dispatching a suddenly sinking Rays' team. The Indians swept the four-game series but were the underdogs only twice in the time frame used, making them a perfect two-for-two on the week.
Cleveland came into the Tampa Bay series having lost 10 games in a row; all but two of those losses came on the road. While the Rays pitching staff is certainly formidable, the Indians staff threw the ball well in this series while their offense scored 31 runs in four games.
Taking a closer look at the Rays can gain more insight into the results of the series. Coming into Cleveland, Tampa Bay had lost three games in a row and most telling was the fact that they had eked out just five runs in those three losses. It doesn't really matter how good your pitching is if can't score any runs. The Indians took advantage of this by winning 8-4 (+127) against the Rays' Matt Garza, and 5-2 (+130) facing Scott Kazmir. By the way, the four runs that Tampa scored in the Garza outing were the most they scored in any game of the series.
Always keep an eye out for a team's run production numbers. These things tend to be cyclical and if a team is having trouble locating the ball, you may find a good value play in their opponent. Granted, Cleveland wasn't knocking the cover off the ball when they returned home to face the Rays, but after having lost 10 in a row they were bound to turn things around sooner or later. Remember - cyclical.
Head Scratcher(s) of the Week:
This week's most puzzling game took place on July 11 with the Twins taking on the Tigers in Detroit. Minnesota was a +140 underdog with lefty Glen Perkins going head-to-head with the Tigers Armando Galarraga.
Occasionally, even when a line is bad, you can figure out what the oddsmakers were doing, but this line made no sense in any way at all. It seemed to be based purely on Galarraga's home record and nothing else. The Tigers were 5-1 with Galarraga pitching at home in 2008 (one loss to the Twins 9-4), and while his numbers were good - they were not lights out.
A little research would reveal Minnesota to be an outstanding value at +140 odds, and also make this line one of the most ridiculous of the year. First, the Twins were 3-1 on the road when Perkins started for them. Perkins had not allowed more than three earned runs in any single 2008 road game. While Galarraga's home numbers were good, Perkins road numbers were better. Also, even though the Tigers sport one of the league's best batting averages against lefties, their run production numbers against southpaws are in the bottom third of the league. Secondly, it would appear that the bookmakers totally ignored the fact that the Twins are a good team. Yes, they have struggled on the road some, but not at Comerica Park. Minnesota was 4-3 at Comerica in 2008 heading into this game. Additionally, the Twins were 18-11 in Game 2 of a series prior to this outing, 29-22 off a win, and 30-32 as a dog. All the numbers indicated they would be in this game and most likely win it, which they did by a score of 3-2. Of course, I mentioned some of this in my 'Look Ahead' last week.
A Look Ahead:
There are a few intriguing possibilities this evening as the league goes headlong into the second half. One game that is particularly compelling is the Phillies at the Marlins. Philadelphia has been rather atrocious playing in Florida recently, but tonight they have the veteran lefty Jamie Moyer going for them. Moyer is 9-0 against the Marlins in his career and 4-0 against the Fish in their ballpark. His last outing in Florida broke a string of four consecutive losses for the Phillies at Dolphin Stadium. Right now Philly is a slight dog at +103 odds.