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Dog vs. Chalk vs. Runline in MLB Playoffs

   by Matt Fargo - 10/01/2007

With the baseball regular season completed, it‘s time to go back and look at the results. My baseball releases went 187-197 on the year for a winning percentage of 48.7 percent. A dreadful season you say? Quite the contrary. Despite a winning percentage below 50 percent, the profits were large as we netted 44.44 Units during the season. This is not a result of winning massive units on a few plays as each release is always between one and three units. It is a result of playing underdogs and runlines.

Let’s take a look at a quick and easy theory when it comes to underdog playing. Even though underdogs were played on my cards about 95 percent of the time, it doesn’t mean that just the big dogs were played as that can be a risky endeavor as well. A 2-1 favorite on the bases is a team that is either superior than the other team or the starting pitcher completely outclasses his opponent. Even though the price might be good, the value just isn’t there in the majority of the cases.

The underdogs to take interest are the ones that are priced between +120 and +150. This doesn’t mean that we can’t go outside this range as we did numerous times but this is a core range that offers great value. Why you ask? First off, a team that is favored between -130 and -160 is better in the public eye and that alone offers tremendous value. The favorites here are not clearly superior. In baseball, there are so many variables that a team that is +150 is not that much more inferior and as we like to say, “Anything can happenâ€쳌.

Starting pitching plays the biggest role in these lines and with the rare exceptions, those starters are not going to give you quality starts every time out. Obviously, you want to catch them on that off night but on the same theory, the opponents’ starting pitcher can just as easily go out and throw a gem. Finding them is the key. Taking into consideration lefty vs. righty splits, offensive tendencies, bullpens and streaks can make you come out with some excellent values and in turn, excellent wins.

Does this change during the playoffs? Absolutely. However, that does not mean I’m going to be laying -160 every night. I’m still looking at the dogs first but if there is not good value and the likelihood of a win is simply not good, the favorite might be the way to go. However, that favorite needs be looked at giving 1.5 runs since that is where the real value lies if the situation calls for it. Let’s take a look at last year’s playoffs and see how this can all come about.

The favorites did not have a good postseason as they went 14-18 -$1,079. Notice how they went just four games under .500 but still lost close to 11 units. Taking those favorites and betting the runline would have resulted in a 12-20 -$548 mark. There were two more losses yet the net result was close to half of the deficit. The important thing to look at is that in those 14 wins by the favorite, 12 of those were by two runs or more so getting inched out of the money with just a one-run victory rarely came into play.

The underdogs were the big winner last postseason as they brought home $926. Now this obviously changes every year and while the favorite to underdog results vary the main point is achieved every year and that is that the runline has more value and one-run games are not as common as one would think in the playoffs. In 2005, of the 30 playoff games, only 10 were one-run finals. If you aren’t playing all dogs, don’t be afraid to lay that 1.5 runline as it will increase your value and give you much better results in the end.

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