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The Straight Scoop on Straight-Up Stats
by Al McMordie - 01/05/2004
This past week, I received a phone call from a client who questioned my selection on the Green Bay Packers +5.5 over Philadelphia because they were (according to the client) "2-51 when they lose the game straight-up". I told him that straight up stats were meaningless, and a dangerous foundation on which to base any kind of handicapping. So, to illustrate my comment, I did the following research of the Packers during the Brett Favre era.
First of all, I determined that, since 1992, Green Bay is 8-65 ATS when they lose the game straight up (they were 2-51 ATS since November 20, 1994 going into this weekend's pointspread victory against Philly).
Since 1992, Green Bay has been an underdog of 6 or more points 17 times. In this price range, they are 8-9 against the spread. But to show you why straight up stats should not be emphasized, Green Bay is 2-9 ATS when they lose the game straight up (and of course 6-0 ATS when they win the game SU). But all that really matters is that they are 8-9 ATS when getting 6 or more points.
Now, let's take a look at how the Packers have fared when they lost the game straight-up, and the pointspread was not greater than +2.5. That is, Green Bay was a favorite (and lost), or they were an underdog of +2.5 or less. In this pointspread range, the Packers are 0-45 ATS when they lost the game SU, but they were favored in 38 of those losses (so it's impossible to cover those games), and were an underdog of 2.5 or less in 7 games. And, let's face it: if you lose the game straight up as an underdog of 2.5 or less, you're NOT going to cover.
OK, that leaves us with the pointspread range of +3 to +5.5 (which Green Bay fell into this past weekend). Since 1992, in this range, the Packers are 6-11 ATS when they lose the game SU, with 1 push (at +3).
So, in the Brett Favre era, Green Bay is 14-20-1 ATS when they get 3 or more points, and lose the game SU. But you can't ASSUME any team will lose. This is professional sports, not the USA vs. Iraq. What about all the times the Packers have pulled an upset. What about the 16 games that they've won outright as an underdog of +3 or more? When you say, "this team is 2-51 ATS when they lose the game SU", then those wins don't count. So, in the case of Green Bay, you would throw out those 16 wins they had as an underdog, and you would also get, in essence, 45 "free" wins for the games that the Packers lost outright as a favorite, or a dog of +2.5. When you add 45 + 16, that's 61 games to pad an "ATS" statistic based on winning the game SU (that we know you can't assume). So, now that we have an idea of how much padding is involved in the Green Bay statistic that they are 8-65 ATS since 1992 when they lose the game straight up, we can appreciate how meaningless it is.
In handicapping, focus instead on ATS statistics, such as Green Bay is 30-20 ATS since 1992 when getting +3 or more points.