MLB Handicapping: Best Betting Teams
by Trevor Whenham - 5/6/2010
We are more than 25 games into the regular season in baseball, so teams have had a chance to work out some of the early kinks and settle into something resembling their real form. This is a good time, then, to look at the teams that have been particularly kind to bettors so far this season. By looking at how they have done it we can draw conclusions about whether they can keep doing it. Here are the five most profitable teams so far this season:
Tampa Bay Rays - The Rays were expected to be a pretty decent team this year. Through the first month of the season they have been brilliant.
They have scored the most runs of any team this year - 160 runs in 27 games, or 5.9 per game. It really wouldn't be hard to win a lot of games when you are scoring like that, but when you combine the defensive prowess of this team you have something really potent.
They have allowed just 85 runs - 3.1 per game. Only San Francisco has been better. The team is strong defensively on the field, but the strength of the team has been the rotation. Of their five starters, ace James Shields has the highest ERA, and at 3.15 it's a long way from where you need to panic. The five starters are 16-3, and all except Wade Davis have at least twice as many strikeouts as walks. Nineteen of the 27 starts have been quality starts - an absolutely stunning ratio.
You can argue that the rotation is overperforming, and you would probably be right, but there is no doubt that this is a young and extremely talented collection of arms that still has their best days ahead of them. When a team is this good in both halves of the inning then they are going to make money at any odds - at least in the short term.
There's one factor above all that has made this team so good to bet on - they have lost just once in 12 road games. Road teams always go off at higher prices than they would if they were playing the same team at home, so winning road games is particularly profitable for their backers.
Minnesota Twins - The Twins have a shiny new outdoor stadium, and they are obviously loving not having to play in the hideous Metrodome - they are 9-3 at home. They are also a nice 10-6 on the road. Combine those two and you have the second best betting team on the season so far.
Unlike Tampa Bay, the profits for the Twins have been evenly split between the road and at home. What has helped the Twins be successful is their division. They have played 21 games against the AL Central - the most games that any team has played against their division. Most people would have guessed that the Twins would be the best team in the division, and at 14-7 so far against that group they are certainly proving that assumption to be true.
New York Yankees - There is only one way that the most public of teams can be profitable - if they win a whole lot of games. The Yankees are 19-8, so they have certainly done that. More significantly, they are a very nice 10-2 at home.
The public is going to be all over the Yankees at home in most cases, and that means that the only way that they are going to be profitable is if they win most of their games. Their current home winning rate is much higher than is sustainable, so it is very unlikely that this team will remain this profitable down the road.
Washington Nationals - It would have been difficult to find many people coming into the season that would have argued with the suggestion that the Nationals and the Pirates were the two worst teams in the National League, and perhaps in all of baseball. Through 27 games, though, the Nationals are holding their own - they are at 14-13 so far.
Where the success is particularly surprising the betting public is on the road. Last year the Nats were 26-55 when not sleeping in their own beds. So far this year they are 6-6. The public has yet to adjust to the fact that the Nationals are better than they were thought to be - in large part because it's far from clear that they can sustain this pace. As long as they keep chugging along like this, though, they are going to keep making us money.
San Diego Padres - The Padres aren't a very impressive road team - just 6-6. They are significantly better at protecting their home turf, though. They are 11-5 at home, and that's a big part of the reason why they are the fifth most profitable team in the league.
One factor that has been a pleasant betting surprise has been pitcher Wade LeBlanc. He didn't make the team out of camp, but was called up in mid-April as a replacement. In four starts this year he has been beyond brilliant. He has allowed just three earned runs in 23 innings over four starts while striking out 16 and walking just four. The team has won all four of his starts, and that has provided a good portion of the profits on the season.
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