Are Oddsmakers Keeping Up With Baseball’s Home Run Surge?
If you’ve been betting on MLB totals this season, you have probably noticed that the over has hit quite often. In fact, if you blindly bet on every over for every game this season, you would’ve won over 36 units so far. The 53% rate that the over has hit on has resulted in a 3.7% ROI — far greater than the next best ROI of 0.3% for the over in any given season.
Dating back to 2005, the over has hit at a 49.5% clip, resulting in a -3.0% ROI. This suggests that the current pace is almost certainly unsustainable, but who will cause unders to start hitting at a higher rate? The players or the books?
So far this season, MLB teams are scoring 4.66 runs per game compared to 4.48 last year. Double the difference and you get 0.36 runs per game — a pretty substantial number that should certainly result in increased totals for some games.
This uptick in runs is a direct result of the home run surge sweeping the league. Many of the home run leaders were virtually unknown names to casual fans before the season. At the moment, the 2.52 home runs per game are even more than the 2.34 per game at the height of the steroid era in the 2000 season.
There are two likely explanations for this. One could be because many players are swinging up on the baseball rather than chopping down on it. Many of you readers who played baseball growing up were likely taught to swing down to create backspin, but this year, players are proving that swinging up to put the ball in the air is a much more productive approach.
The other is the notion that the baseballs are “juiced”. The league probably realized that many elements of the steroid era were good for ratings and if you don’t want players juicing, why not juice the baseball? The spike in homers is probably a combination of those two factors, but no matter what your opinion is, there’s no denying that dingers are being hit at a remarkable rate.
If unders were hitting this often, the books would be thrilled. However, since public bettors almost always take the over, I’m sure oddsmakers are getting fed up. The table below shows just how much the public takes the over and that often times, they do so in a very lopsided fashion.
|2017 Over % of Bets||Over Record||% of total games||2016 Over % of Bets||Over Record*||% of total games*|
* Through June 18th
As it turns out, both seasons have a pretty similar breakdown. In about 15% of games, the public is on the under. In 2016, 70+% of bettors were on the over more often than they have been this year, but as you’ll notice, overs were off to a strong start last year as well. From June 19th onwards, overs went 655-690 (-5.3% ROI). Will something similar happen this season?
The table below shows a breakdown of each total number for this season and last season through the same date. Let’s see if books are trying to stop the overs from hitting or if they expect unders to start hitting on their own.
|2017 Totals||2017 Over Record||2017 % of Total Games||2016 Totals*||2016 Over Record*||2016 % of total games*|
|6.5 or less||12-5||1.6%||6.5 or less||18-22||3.9%|
|11 or higher||15-15-3||3.2%||11 or higher||12-9-1||2.2%|
* Through June 18th
It’s easy to see that books have increased their totals compared to the first two months and change of last year. Less than 20% of games this season have closed on a total less than eight, which is less than half than the number from 2016. Conversely, totals of nine or more this season have been quite commonplace. Almost 40% of games have closed at nine or higher which is nearly double the amount at the same point last year.
It appears that an attempt has been made to combat this trend, but to no avail…yet. Books may need to up the ante and increase their totals even more. They can’t do this to an extreme because sharp bettors, and eventually the public, would catch on. You’ll likely see books continue to pump out totals approaching double digits and see fewer and fewer totals under eight.
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(MLB statistics provided by Baseball-Reference)