MLB Handicapping: Interleague Play Betting System
by Robert Ferringo - 05/22/2009
The American League dominates Interleague Play like Dick Cheney dominates Muslims. The Defenders Of The Designated Hitter hold a modest 1,536-1,420 edge in the 12-year history of MLB cross-dressing. But over the last five seasons they have won the head-to-head matchup each season while going an outstanding 702-557 (.559 winning percentage) overall.
Over the past two years only the New York Mets (17-13 for +240) have a winning record and have turned a profit against the American League. (The Cubs are 14-13 but have been a losing wager.) And over the last five years the St. Louis Cardinals (43-38 for +300) are the only National League team to sustain a profit.
And while all of these statistics are bad news for despisers of the designated hitter they represent great news for baseball bettors.
The idea that blindly betting on the American League seems like a good one then, right? Well, not really. The oddsmakers understand that the A.L. owns the Senior Circuit so naturally the juice on even average American League teams is through the roof. However, there is one very simple system that I have picked up in my travels that really feeds on the idea of DH dominance.
Play on all American League home teams that are favored in the first game of an Interleague series. That's it. Simple and effective.
Over the past five years these favored A.L. home teams in IL openers have gone an outstanding 120-50. In each of the past five individual years bettors would have turned a profit on this system and overall $100 bettors would have brought in around $5,000.
Now, the average spread on these 170 games was around -155, so we're looking at a lot of high-juice situations. But remember: you only pay the juice if you lose. And the bottom line is that this system has turned a profit every year and it has earned a fat cumulative profit. So why mess with it?
And the reasons for the success of this system can certainly be debated. But I think that the basic idea is that organizations get "up" for Interleague games in a different way than they do for intraleague series. Players understand that they are representing their own league and they don't want to get embarrassed against a bunch of players that they don't usually square off against. It's this same reason why teams that lose Game 1 of an Interleague Series or lose in a blowout (five or more runs) generally bounce back quickly and win the next game. It's a pride thing.
Also, it seems particularly tough for National League teams to adjust to that first game with a DH after a long stretch of playing within the Senior Circuit. The rosters and makeup of teams in the National League are set up completely different American League teams. Players get out of their comfort zone and managers have to shake up lineups and alter late-inning maneuvers. All of this has an impact and could contribute to the American League's dominance.
But the bottom line is this: this system (or is it a trend?) has proven itself as a moneymaker. At this point I don't care to figure it out, I just want to go with it. Here are this year's prospects for the first wave of Interleague games:
Detroit (-140) over Colorado (7 p.m., Friday, May 22)
New York Yankees (-150) over Philadelphia (7 p.m., Friday, May 22)
Minnesota (-125) over Milwaukee (8 p.m., Friday, May 22)
Chicago White Sox (-120) over Pittsburgh (8 p.m., Friday, May 22)
Oakland (-140) over Arizona (10 p.m., Friday, May 22)
Seattle (-135) over San Francisco (10 p.m., Friday, May 22)
You'll note that the only American League team that is hosting a series this weekend that isn't on this list is Boston. The Red Sox are home dogs as Dice-K squares off with Johan Santana and the Mets. The Dodgers (over the Angels), Cincinnati (over Cleveland) and Washington (over Baltimore) are the only other National League teams to be favored on Friday. Other than that it's American League as chalk across the board.
Carpe diem, my friend. And good luck.