MLB: Baseball Bettor’s Silent Killer



2008-05-29

Have you noticed what’s been going on in major league baseball this season? Nobody knows if it will last or if it will just end up being one of those years, but whatever it is, either the “sharp” bettor is going down hard or the so-called “square” is enjoying great success. What are we talking about, the baseball road kill epidemic.

A look at the May 27 standings has road teams winning just a notch over 43 percent of the time, a very low figure. As of today, only five teams in the big leagues have a winning record.

Florida 12-8
L.A. Angels 16-11
Chicago W.S. 15-13
Philadelphia 15-13
St. Louis 13-12
That’s it, only a handful of teams have shown the capacity to win on the road, with just four others managing a small profit for bettors. In all, road teams have lost -80.8 units and if you add up the all the teams with losing road marks, they are -116.1 units.

Typically, smart bettors prefer underdogs, because of the value of the money line, making actual wins and losses less important. Long time handicapper Tony Stoffo has often been published about winning large sums of money betting baseball, despite a losing record. Seeing a high percentage of road teams are underdogs, to date this has been a costly way to wager on baseball.

Baseball road chase systems have taken a beating also, as the frequency of road teams being swept has been inordinately high. In all, 43 times visitors have been swept in a series with a minimum of three games, 23 in the American League and 20 in the National League. How important are these number to baseball bettors?

In the last three seasons, here is the winning percentage of home teams during the regular season.

2007 – 54.2 percent
2006 – 54.6 percent
2005 - 53.7 percent

If you extrapolate the current winning percent of 56.9 against the three-year average of 54.2 percent, this would be 75 more wins for the home teams over the course of an 81-game home schedule, a minimum +75 units of profit, a huge figure.

What has happened to have road teams perform so poorly? Major League baseball has seen a NFL-like change in the records of teams that made the playoffs from last season. The World Series champion Red Sox, are a downtrodden 11-17, dropping 7.7 units. San Diego has been dreadful all season, more so on the road at 8-19, -11.0 units. Colorado, who’s late season rush took them to the World Series, 8-17, -7.7 units on the road. Plus, Cleveland at 8-13 and the Cubs at 10-13, have combined to lose -10.2 units.

In addition, Detroit was supposed to be strong contender in the American League and they are 9-16 on the road, while the New York Mets, who won 47 games in the traveling grays in 2007, have started 11-16.

This is followed up with several hard to explain home/road dichotomies by major league teams.
Boston with their poor road record, is a baseball best 21-5 at Fenway Park. Atlanta may be 6-16 on the road, but is impressive 21-7 at Turner Field. Last season’s playoff combatants Arizona and the Cubs are below .500 on the road, nonetheless, love the home cookin’ with 19-8 and 20-8 records in respective home ballparks. Baltimore is 10-18 on the road, yet is .500 for the season, thanks to 15-7 mark at home. Even Tampa Bay has joined in, with incredible 20-8 (+11.5 units) record at Tropicana Field, including 14-4 versus AL East opponents, leading to being in first place in their division.

Don’t think for a second oddsmakers haven’t noticed. Your typical money line home favorite of the past, fit into -120 to -125 home favorite spot. With what has occurred thus far, -130 to -135 is a more fair number, before considering pitching matchups.

The bottom line to home teams winning this season is not unlike what happened to the New England Patriots in football last year. If you want to back baseball’s home teams, you are going to pay the price. This does add value to playing road teams, however if the bettor can not isolate which road teams will win, a loss is still a loss.

No question, this bares watching and following intently for serious baseball bettors.

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