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Wagering on Projected Wins in Baseball

   by Scott Spreitzer - 03/29/2007

MLB 2007 is just a week away and I want to let you know about a technique I use for finding early season value.

I always make sure to run a comparison between last year's final standings and the current betting lines for team victories. As you already know, you can bet the Over/Under for a team victories in Las Vegas and offshore. For example, the current number on the Atlanta Braves is 82.5 wins. You can bet the Over/Under there just like you would on total runs or total points scored in baseball or football game.

I've found that the biggest differences will typically point to volatility that you can exploit. It's not always obvious which way it's going to go at first. The oddsmakers will be right about some teams, and wrong about others. The key is focusing on a small set of teams where you know there's likely to be some confusion amongst wagerers. Then, it's our job to read and react early in the season to take advantage.

Let me give you an example.

Last year the Chicago Cubs won 66 games. After making several dramatic offseason personnel changes, the victory Over/Under for this year currently sits between 82.5 and 83.5 depending on the shop. That's a huge jump! The oddsmakers are saying that the Cubs will be about 17 games better in the standings this year than last. Clearly this is a team to watch out of the gate.

*If the Cubs really are much better, they'll offer great value at the early season lines. The public tends to bet on perceptions from the prior season in the first few weeks. Though the public knows about the new faces in town, they still won't be ready to price the Cubs like a playoff contender.

*If the personnel moves were more style over substance, which happens all the time in baseball, the team won't be as good as the oddsmakers and the mainstream media are projecting. That means the team will still be a non-contender. You can go against them as favorites just like you did last year.

I've noticed in the past that teams like this have even more volatility than the public anticipates. If the Cubs really do click this year with the personnel moves, then 83 wins may be too low. They could very easily jump up to 90 victories. I'm not saying that's going to happen. But, how many people had Minnesota at 96 wins and Detroit at 95 wins in their preseason projections last year?

On the other hand, if things don't click, the team could turn into a bunch of selfish individuals that flounder for months on end. This happens in baseball, too. Most major league teams can be expected to finish in the 74-86 win range from season to season. A handful have potential well beyond that in either direction. You can make good money by scouting out the possible extremes. This exercise gives you some early nominees to consider.


Going up?

Chicago Cubs: 66 wins in 2006, current Over/Under 82.5 wins (+16.5)

Cleveland : 78 wins in 2006, current Over/Under 86.5 wins (+8.5)

Going Down?

Minnesota : 96 wins in 2006, current OverUnder 83.5 wins (-12.5)

Oakland : 93 wins in 2006, current Over/Under 84.5 wins (-8.5)

NY Mets: 97 wins in 2006, current Over/Under 89.5 wins (-7.5)

Detroit : 95 wins in 2006, current Over/Under 88.5 wins (-6.5)

Remember, I'm not saying that the oddsmakers are going to be right about all six of these teams. Clubs like the Mets and Tigers could very well maintain their championship pace from last season. Cleveland is often a popular pick to improve. It doesn't always happen. My point is that these six teams represent the greatest early potential for volatility. Keep a close eye on all six early. Obviously, April's day-to-day lines are influenced to a greater degree by the public than these full-season propositions are. If the Cubs and Indians are going to ignite, the value will come early in the season. If those four playoff teams from last year are destined to fall, the best time to take advantage will be early. And, if those things aren't going to happen, it's better to know early rather than late.

For those of you who are interested, I'll leave you with the most recent full season numbers in Vegas and offshore. These represent a consensus of what I've been seeing. It's great to know that we're just days away from the umpires yelling "Play Ball!"

NL EAST: NY Mets 89.5; Philadelphia 88.5; Atlanta 82.5; Florida 78.5; Washington 68.5.

NL CENTRAL: St. Louis 84.5; Chicago Cubs 82.5; Milwaukee 81.5; Houston 78.5; Cincinnati 77.5; Pittsburgh 70.5.

NL WEST: LA Dodgers 88.5; San Diego 83.5; San Francisco 80.5; Arizona 78.5; Colorado 74.5.

AL EAST: NY Yankees 97.5; Boston 91.5; Toronto 86.5; Baltimore 70.5; Tampa Bay 67.5.

AL CENTRAL: Chicago White Sox 89.5; Detroit 88.5; Cleveland 86.5; Minnesota 83.5; Kansas City 66.5.

AL WEST: LA Angels 89.5; Oakland 84.5; Texas 80.5; Seattle 79.5.

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