Going Against Big MLB Favorites
by Aaron Smith - 5/7/2010
If you have bet on baseball very often, you’ll probably notice that among veteran bettors and MLB handicappers the underdogs are quite popular. The primary reason for this is that baseball is a very different game than football or even basketball. The baseball regular season is 162 games, so it’s fair to say it is a steady and slow grind. Pitching matchups mean everything, and it’s often unknown exactly what the lineup will look like until about one hour before the first pitch. Betting on baseball requires a unique skill, and it tends to reward those bettors who are extremely disciplined.
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It’s important to realize that much of the public loves to bet on favorites in baseball, just like they do in many other sports. Why does the public love to bet on the favorite? The largest reason is they are looking for a quick buck. The average bettor sees a favored team with a strong pitcher and assumes they should win, and they will just build their bankroll up nicely in one night.
Another reason for the public betting on favorites so often is they simply aren’t very good at spotting an undervalued team, so they don’t try. There is always a solid reason for the team that is favored to have the edge, but the oddsmakers are wise, and they understand how the system works. The books will receive big money on the favorites even if they are inflated so, they would be crazy not to inflate their odds at least somewhat. This is where the average bettor is hurt in a big way.
There was a seven-year study done on baseball results that showed the record for baseball favorites at 9,619 wins and 6,891 losses. While that may sound impressive, realize that if you had bet one unit on the favorite in every single game during that time span you would have lost 641 units. This is terrific evidence that while favorites win games more often than not, there just isn’t money to be made betting solely on favorites.
The single best time to start fading those baseball favorites is when the odds get to -200 or greater. There are even times where you will see a team sitting at -300, which is just not reasonable based on the historical winning percentages in Major League Baseball. In any given year, the team with the best record in all of baseball typically wins no more than 60 percent of their games. For example, in 2008 the Phillies won the World Series, but won just 56.8 percent of their regular season games. At the same time, the worst teams in all of baseball generally end the season winning about 40 percent of their games. What is the point here? The point is if you are laying -250, -275, or even higher, you aren’t playing the percentages very well.
On the other side of things, consider how it could be profitable by taking large underdogs with odds of around +250. If you bet on these teams, you’ll know going in that you won’t win half of your games, but you don’t need to! In this scenario, you can lose many more times than you win and still end with positive units. If you won just 40 percent of the time, you’re bankroll would be increased nicely in one season.
The next time you see a strong team as a huge money line favorite; think twice before you go pouring money onto them to make a quick buck. Over the long run, it is a much wiser strategy to fade huge baseball favorites.
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