How Has Increased Scoring Affected MLB Totals?
The 2017 MLB season has been defined by the impressive individual performances by widely unheralded players. Whether it’s Scooter Gennett mashing four home runs in one game, veteran journeyman Eric Thames challenging for the home run crown or rookie Aaron Judge hitting historically long dingers, it’s clear that we’re watching an unprecedented display of power.
Right now the league is on pace to break the all-time single-season home run record, and there are several possibilities for this recent surge. One of the most popular theories is that Major League Baseball has been using a “juiced ball” in order to increase scoring and thereby improve ratings. This theory is partially validated by the increased exit speeds on balls in play. Whatever the cause, we’ve seen a massive spike in home runs over the past few seasons.
As home runs and scoring has increased, we’ve seen a similar trend with MLB totals. In 2014, there were 8.1 total runs scored per game and the average total was 7.8. During that season, the over went just 1142-1202 (48.7%) which led to tremendous profits for sportsbooks. Public bettors love rooting for high-scoring games and live by the mantra “life’s too short to bet unders.” Since 2005, the majority of bettors at our contributing sportsbooks have taken the over in more than 75% of all games.
From 2005 to 2014, MLB overs went 11,471-11,957 (49.0%) which meant a lot of losing for casual bettors. As scoring has increased, those same public bettors have benefited greatly. Since the start of the 2015 season, MLB overs have gone 2,903-2,776 (51.1%) including a 527-468 (53.0%) mark this season — easily the best over season in our database.
The table below, which utilizes closing totals from Pinnacle, displays the average runs per game, total and over record for every season in our historical database.
|Year||Runs Per Game||Average Total||Over Record||Over %|
Many readers may be wondering how there could ever be value betting the under when the average runs per game have been higher than the average total in each of the past 12 seasons, but there’s a finite number of runs by which the game can go under, while there is no limit to how many runs can be scored in a game.
This season as scoring continues to increase and overs continue to hit, oddsmakers have been forced to gradually increase their totals. Although the average total was just 8.30 in April, the average total has been nearly a full run higher in June.
Average MLB total this season (by month)
— David Solar (@TheDavidSolar) June 20, 2017
It’s also worth noting that public support for the over continues to grow. In April, the majority of bettors took the over in 77.9% of games. That figure increased to 89.5% in May and 88.4% in June. Clearly public bettors are looking to hammer these overs, and that could create value for contrarian bettors looking to capitalize on inflated lines.
Bettors should also realize that overs receiving overwhelming public support have not fared well this season. When receiving at least two-thirds of public support, the over has gone 235-236 (49.9%). In all other games, the over has gone 292-232 (55.7%).
Public money plays a larger role in baseball than it does in most other sports based on the sheer number of games. When sharp bettors aren’t involved, sportsbooks will adjust their numbers if there’s a significant exposure on one side. There’s far less money wagered on the total than there is on the moneyline, but you can still extract value in games with extremely one-sided public betting. As totals continue to climb, bettors should try to identify value by going against the grain and take the under in games where bettors are pounding the over.
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