MLB Handicapping: Betting Season-to-Season Fluctuations
by Darin Zank - 3/6/2012
How often do we see this in baseball: team plays above expectations one season, but then takes a step back the next? Or a team plays way below expectations one season, but bounces back the next?
From what I can figure this happens to about eight to 10 teams every year. The prime examples from last year would be the San Diego Padres, who a season after shocking most of the baseball world by winning 90 games came back to Earth by going 71-91. And the Cincinnati Reds, who unexpectedly won 91 games in 2010, went 79-83 last year.
Most importantly to our discussion here, both those teams played 'under' their MLB season win totals last year.
You see, my fellow sports-betting fiends, money can be made by betting season over/unders if you can get a read on teams whose previous campaigns were fluke-ish to one degree or another, and backing a reversal of fortune.
Below is a short list of teams I think might make reversals this season, and picks on their season over/unders, which come courtesy of BetOnline Sportsbook.
Air Out in Arizona?
The defending NL West Champion Arizona Diamondbacks made the biggest jump in the Majors last year, winning 94 games, 29 more than in 2010.
For this season BetOnline is tagging the Diamondbacks with a wins 'over/under' of 86. That number is eight wins fewer than Arizona tallied last year, so obviously BetOnline thinks the Diamondbacks will take at least a small step back this season. And I concur.
Arizona went 43-29 within its division last year, but my guess is San Francisco, the Dodgers and Colorado might improve this season. And if they do it will be tough for the Diamondbacks to repeat last year's performance in the 'W' column.
Pick: Take the under 86 wins on Arizona.
Minnesota After the Massacre
Few teams, if any, got bit by the injury bug worse last year than the Twins, as Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Denard Span all missed more than half the season. Consequently, Minnesota suffered the biggest drop in the Majors, winning just 63 games, 31 fewer than in 2010.
For this year BetOnline has tagged the Twins with an over/under of 74 wins. But I view Minnesota as a solid organization, and I consider last year an aberration. After all, the Twins had averaged 89 victories per season the previous 10 years. And playing in the AL Central doesn't hurt their chances for a rebound, either.
Pick: Take the over 74 on Minnesota.
Diggin' on Detroit
The Tigers won 95 games and the AL Central last year, and their 14-win improvement over 2010 was the fourth-largest increase in the Majors. They got within two wins of the World Series, and over the off-season added Prince Fielder. So expectations are very high in Motor City for this year.
However, great expectations can be a tough thing to play with. And they'll miss catcher Victor Martinez. The Tigers went 50-22 vs. the Central Division last year. However, I have concerns since every other team in the Central has a chance to improve this season. So I have my doubts as to whether the Tigers will dominate their division like they did last year.
BetOnline is listing an over/under of 92 for Detroit.
Pick: Take the under 92 wins on the Tigers
On the Other Hand …
While I'm predicting reversals for the above three teams, I'm going with the reverse of this theory on the Milwaukee Brewers this year, mainly because I think the oddsmakers are overestimating the loss of Fielder. Milwaukee won 96 games last year, 19 more than in 2010, which accounted for the second-biggest improvement last year.
Now, without Fielder, BetOnline is tagging the Brew Crew with a wins O/U of 84, which means they think Fielder was worth about 12 wins last season. But Milwaukee still has a pretty decent starting rotation, and a decent bullpen, and they've added Aramis Ramirez to make up for some of Prince's lost punch. So while the Brewers might not win the NL Central again this year, I still think they will contend.
Pick: Take the over 84 on Milwaukee.
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