MLB Handicapping: Best Baseball Trends for Profits
by Darin Zank - 4/29/2014
This week we're concentrating on a couple of our favorite baseball handicapping theories that, while not gospel, can be used to tease out some interesting information. We've been tracking bullpens, trying to figure out how they affect wins/losses and "over/unders" and everyday lineups, and how they perform against right-handed and left-handed pitching.
It's our guess that the information contained within these two factors does not play a large role in how bookmakers line games, but it might play an underrated role in determining the outcomes of games.
We use a constantly updated list of the best and worst bullpens in baseball to form three types of bets: taking the best bullpens in games they're matched against the worst bullpens, betting overs in games involving two of the worst bullpens, and betting unders in games matching two of the best bullpens. This is what we've found so far this season.
Through Sunday we had tracked 17 games that involved two teams on our "worst" bullpens list; 13 of those games played over their posted totals.
On the other end of the spectrum we found 16 games that involved two teams on our "best" bullpens list; nine of those stayed under the totals.
And in games matching a "best" pen against a "worst" pen, the better pen had won 26 of 41 games, to the tune of a $915 profit (based on those $100 bets).
New to our "best" bullpens list last week was San Diego. Last year the Padres pen quietly ranked 10th in the Majors with a 3.39 ERA and went 40-for-53 in save opportunities. That put them on the fringe of our "best" bullpens list. Coming into this season, though, we had questions about this unit, grading it at about a "C." But so far San Diego relievers have been super; they lead the Majors with a 1.94 ERA and are 11-for-12 on save conversions.
That pen has been very valuable, because the Padres, who rank dead last in all of baseball in scoring at less than three runs per game, and only rank 21 st with 12 quality starts, are just one game under .500 at 13-14, after taking the first game of a three-game series in San Francisco Monday night.
Also, bettors might note San Diego has trended toward the unders this season by a 19-6 margin.
Also on our updated list of the "best" bullpens are the Nationals, Giants, A's, Brewers, Red Sox, Pirates, Royals and Braves. Those top nine bullpen teams have combined to trend toward the unders by a 125-95 margin (57 percent) this season.
Meanwhile, our list of the "Fahrenheit 451" brigade (where the firemen START the fires) consists of the Astros, Phillies, Tigers, White Sox, Reds, Rangers, Angels, Jays and Cubs. Those nine teams have combined to lean toward the overs this season by a 120-94 (56 percent) margin.
Bullpen matchups we'll be watching this week include the Cubs and Reds (Tuesday-Wednesday); the A's at the Rangers (Tuesday-Wednesday); the Tigers at the White Sox (Tuesday-Wednesday); the Jays at the Royals (Tuesday-Thursday); the Nationals at the Astros (Tuesday-Wednesday); the Padres at the Giants (Tuesday-Wednesday); Milwaukee at Cincy (Thursday through Sunday); Washington at Philly (Friday through Sunday); Oakland at Boston (Friday through Sunday); San Francisco at Atlanta (Friday-Sunday); Detroit at KC (Friday-Sunday); and Texas at the Angels (Friday-Sunday).
Most everyday lineups include more right-handed hitters than lefties. Some lineups are fairly balanced; a few lineups can go heavy lefty. Of course, standard baseball belief is that right-handed hitters are better against left-handed pitching, vice-verse for left-handed hitters. Though the first month of this season we've been trying to discern which lineups are best and worst when facing righties and lefties and how we might profit from this information. Here's some of what we've found.
Using stats like team OBP and slugging percentage rather than relying solely on win/loss marks, our list of the top lineups so far against right-handed pitching includes the Rays, Twins, Rockies, A's and Rangers. Those five teams are a combined 51-36 against right-handed starters this year.
Our list of the top lineups against lefties includes the Rangers, Yankees, Tigers, Rockies, Nationals, Phillies and Braves. Those seven teams are a combined 32-19 against left-handed starters this year.
Our list of the worst lineups against righties consists of the Mariners, Padres, Mets, Pirates, Cubs and Astros. Those six teams are a combined 47-71 against right-handed starters this year.
Finally, the list of the worst lineups against lefties includes the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Royals, Cardinals, Rays and Astros. Those six teams are a combined 14-30 against left-handed starters this season.
The Mets are a bit of an anomaly; they own some of the worst offensive numbers against righties, but they are 13-8 against right-handed starters. However,
that just makes us think they'll start trending back the other way any time now.
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