MLB Handicapping: Betting Studs and Duds
by Trevor Whenham - 8/8/2012
We’re heading into the home stretch of the baseball season. Teams have about 50 games remaining before the playoffs — or the golf season — starts. There is still plenty of time for lots to change between now and then, but teams have played enough games that we have a pretty good sense of which teams are rewarding bettors and which are punishing them. Here’s a look at the five studs that have been most profitable, and the five duds that have burned up the most betting dollars:
This one isn’t too hard to figure out. For 20 years this team has failed to post a winning record. When a team is that bad for that long bettors constantly assume that they are going to be hopeless forever.
It’s too early to get too excited about this team — they still have more than 50 games left to play, and they have cooled down a bit recently. Still, if the playoffs started today they would be a National League wild card team.
It’s been a long time since this team has been relevant in June, never mind August, so it’s no surprise bettors have consistently underestimated this team this year. They are the most profitable team in the league right now, and if they do manage to make the playoffs there is a good chance that they will remain that way.
If you had surveyed 100 people before the season about which team would be second in the American League East on Aug. 8, 99 of them would not have said the Orioles, and the one that did was probably drunk. Somehow, though, the Orioles are cruising along well above expectations while Tampa Bay can’t get much going and Boston and Toronto are disappointing mightily despite their massive payrolls.
What has really made Baltimore profitable is that they are not only winning far more than expected, but they are a stunning 32-25 on the road. That makes them by far the most profitable road team in the league.
Washington isn’t nearly the surprise of the two earlier teams on this list because everyone knew they were on the rise after the draft picks they have secured the last couple of years.
They have the best record in baseball right now, though, and by any measure that’s ahead of schedule.
They are strong both on the road and at home, and they are consistent — a perfect recipe for betting success.
The Reds have benefited from playing in a division that has been pretty underwhelming this year. That only partly explains the success of this team — they have the second-best record in baseball, and they have done it on the backs of very good pitching and solid bats.
The biggest sign of the strength of this team is that though Joey Votto has been brilliant when he has been playing, he has missed significant time and the team has been just fine without the MVP.
It’s almost as if this current Oakland squad watched “Moneyball” in the offseason and learned how they were capable of playing.
There is no good reason why this team should be any good, but they are tied for the last wild card spot right now, and they have proven to be tough.
It’s hard to believe it is sustainable because they are so bad at the plate, but they are far exceeding the very meager expectations most people had for them, and that means they are generating serious money for baseball handicappers.
Let’s not over-complicate this one. This is the least profitable team in the league for one simple reason — they are really terrible.
When a team loses almost 68 percent of their games they are going to punish the people who are consistently stupid enough to bet on them.
It’s not like this team is underachieving, either. If anything, they are doing a little better than expected given the sorry state of their roster right now.
The Rockies are almost as bad as the Astros, and they have been almost as unkind to those who have bet on them.
The team took some big gambles with their rotation heading into the season. Sadly, none of them have paid off.
Having pitching you don’t trust when you play in a hitter’s ballpark is sure to make for a long year.
Philadelphia was a popular pick to win their division — and even to represent the NL in the World Series. They have been a mega-power for years, and there was no good reason to assume that they would fall from those heights this year.
They haven’t fallen, though — they have plummeted.
Injuries have killed them, and they are sitting last in their division. It’s not going to get dramatically better this year, either.
They are in a dogfight with the Marlins and the Red Sox for the title of most disappointing team in the league this year.
Turns out Prince Fielder was important after all. While Fielder’s new team, the Tigers, is likely heading to the playoffs with him as a big reason for it, his old team is struggling.
They are a solid 32-26 at home, but a disastrous 18-33 on the road.
They were sellers at the trade deadline, so there will likely be no late season charge, either.
Miami went all in before the season — flashy new stadium, logical new name, mouthy new manager, expensive free agents, and a whole new attitude. Their big hand got cracked, though, and now they are sitting in front of just a couple of chips.
Now it’s just getting depressing — they accelerated their typical sell-off. The Marlins have a serious illness in their organization that they really need to purge.
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