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Post All Star Break Betting
by Scott Spreitzer - 07/14/2008
Way too many baseball bettors make the mistake of thinking the second half of the major league baseball season is going to look like the first half. Three months is plenty of time to for the public to create perceptions about the contending teams. They don't realize that the same amount of time is just as likely to create illusions.
Think back to last year for a moment. Do you remember who the division leaders where at the 2007 All-Star Break? Trying to remember the playoff teams will help you a little bit. That will only paint half the picture though.
Here's a look at the won-lost records of the 2007 division leaders at the All-Star Break last July:
NL East: NY Mets: 48-39
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers: 49-39
NL West: San Diego Padres: 49-40
AL East: Boston Red Sox: 53-34
AL Central: Detroit Tigers: 52-34
AL West: Los Angeles Angels: 53-35
You'll note the National League teams weren't exactly on fire. None of them had cracked the 50 win barrier. None of them was more than 10 games over .500. In the American League, all three leaders were at 52-53 wins, and all were 18 games over .500 or better.
The public really didn't pay much attention to that. I'd say the mindset at the time was something along the lines of:
*The Mets were the class of the National League, and were likely to have a big second half.
*Milwaukee was a pretender that was likely to fall back.
*San Diego was the best team in a very competitive division, so they'd have to keep winning if they wanted to stay on top.
*Boston was the best team in baseball, and might even kick things up a notch in the second half of the season.
*Detroit had all the pieces in place to make a championship run. They had a shot to beat out Boston for home field advantage.
*The Angels were the best in the West, and would need to keep winning if they had any shot at home field advantage in the playoffs.
Well, the public got Milwaukee right. Look at the won-lost records for these six division leaders after the All-Star break in 2007:
Boston: 43-32 (not as good as the first half)
LA Angels: 41-33 (same story)
New York Mets: 40-35 (didn't reach the playoffs)
San Diego: 40-36 (lost the tie-breaking playoff to Colorado)
Detroit: 36-40 (a disaster for a team with championship hopes)
Milwaukee: 34-40 (fell back to earth with a thud)
Those records just amaze me. We're talking about SIX teams who had posted good results over a three-month chunk of baseball. As a composite, they were 83 games over .500. Their combined record after that, IN A PENNANT RACE WHERE EVERY GAME MATTERED, was just 234-216.
ALL SIX GOT WORSE!
A record like 234-216 is a killer in baseball. If the games were pick-em, the sextet would have lost money for backers. You know the lines weren't pick-em. Division leaders are expensive to bet on. And, when they go through a slump, they get even more action because the public keeps expecting them to turn it around. Any gambler with the foresight to go against the division leaders in the second half of 2007 made a fortune.
Well, we're at the same point in 2008. Let's have some foresight!
I'm not ready to go out on a limb and suggest that all six of the current division leaders are going to play worse in July, August, and September than they did in the first half. I think you need to be aware of the possibility. Consider:
*This season has even MORE competitive balance because some lesser teams have improved. It's going to be even harder for teams to post great second half records in my view. That's particularly true in the American League.
*Steroids appear to be completely out of the game now. That's limited the differences between offenses because everyone's on equal footing. It looks like "the rich purchased the cheaters" during the steroid era, leading to an imbalance in the talent distribution. That's gone.
*The mere fact that more teams are in the pennant race this year will create a smaller number of easy wins. American League teams in particular will get very few soft spots in the schedule. If Cleveland and Seattle are done with their partial season collapses, there may not be ANY soft spots in the American League.
I think it's extremely likely that our current division leaders will be overpriced as a composite from this point forward. Oddsmakers will post very high numbers because of public action. Maybe one or two teams will be able to win at those lofty rates (or maybe none!). I don't see how all six division leaders as a composite will make money for backers.
I'll be monitoring this very closely in the coming days and weeks. I hope you will too. If the public is going to be driving the lines up on the WRONG teams, we need to be right there to step in on the right sides!