MLB Divisional Underdogs in Games with High Totals

On Tuesday afternoon, we released our annual MLB Betting Against the Public Report which details the sweet spot for contrarian betting. This strategy capitalizes on public perception and exploits artificially inflated lines by targeting teams that are being widely ignored by the majority of moneyline bettors. However, fading the public is just one betting strategy that can be implemented throughout the baseball season, and there are many other factors which should be taken into consideration.

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Our past research has found that underdogs perform exceptionally well in games with high totals, as the increased scoring leads to more unpredictability and variance. That levels the playing field and disproportionately benefits the team getting plus money.

The table below, which uses closing lines from Pinnacle, displays how well underdogs have performed based on the closing total.

Closing Total Record Win Rate Units Won ROI
All 12,620-16,903 42.7% -440.94 -1.5%
6.5+ 12,526-16,759 42.8% -423.13 -1.4%
7+ 12,086-16,188 42.7% -415.10 -1.5%
7.5+ 10,931-14,599 42.8% -320.38 -1.3%
8+ 9,030-11,991 43.0% -216.19 -1.0%
8.5+ 7,398-9,645 43.4% +17.98 +0.1%
9+ 5,013-6,637 43.0% -72.60 -0.6%
9.5+ 2,841-3,751 43.1% -13.83 -0.2%
10+ 1,366-1,779 43.4% +13.33 +0.4%
10.5+ 749-928 44.7% +50.48 +3.0%
11+ 268-342 43.9% +1.66 +0.3%
11.5+ 112-128 46.7% +12.18 +5.1%
12+ 47-61 43.5% -2.13 -2.0%
12.5+ 29-31 48.3% +5.47 +9.1%

Since the start of the 2005 season, underdogs have gone 7,398-9,645 (43.4%) with +17.98 units won and a 0.1% return on investment (ROI) when the closing total is 8.5 or higher. Conversely, underdogs have gone just 5,222-7,287 (41.8%) with -457.93 units lost and a -3.7% ROI when the closing total is 8 or less. That doesn’t mean bettors should be blindly taking every underdog when the closing total is at least 8.5, but it does indicate the ‘dogs offer added value in these high-scoring games.

It’s also worth noting that underdogs have historically provided tremendous value in divisional rivalries, as the familiarity between teams also levels the playing field and benefits the team getting plus money. Over the past twelve seasons, underdogs have gone 5,735-7,472 (43.4%) with +41.72 units won and a 0.3% ROI against divisional opponents. Against all other opponents, underdogs have gone just 6,885-9,431 (42.2%) with -482.66 units lost and a -3.0% ROI.

This strategy is not meant to be a standalone system; merely one factor to consider when handicapping games. However, when you combine these two strategies and examine divisional underdogs in games with high totals, the results improve substantially.

Closing Total Record Win Rate Units Won ROI
All 5,735-7,472 43.4% +41.72 +0.3%
6.5+ 5,694-7,402 43.5% +58.28 +0.4%
7+ 5,505-7,149 43.5% +70.61 +0.6%
7.5+ 4,986-6,468 43.5% +81.24 +0.7%
8+ 4,117-5,292 43.8% +100.69 +1.1%
8.5+ 3,360-4,224 44.3% +172.92 +2.3%
9+ 2,244-2,846 44.1% +97.17 +1.9%
9.5+ 1,243-1,524 44.9% +118.19 +4.3%
10+ 576-721 44.4% +36.87 +2.8%
10.5+ 311-362 46.2% +47.10 +7.0%
11+ 103-136 43.1% -5.75 -2.4%
11.5+ 49-53 48.0% +9.07 +8.9%
12+ 25-24 51.0% +7.18 +14.7%
12.5+ 15-14 51.7% +4.66 +16.1%

Once again, you can see that divisional underdogs have been significantly more profitable in games with high totals. Since 2005, underdogs have gone 2,375-3,247 (42.2%) with -130.23 units lost with a -2.3% ROI when the closing total is 8 or less. When the closing total is at least 8.5, divisional underdogs have gone 3,360-4,224 (44.3%) with +172.95 units won and a +2.3% ROI.

Some sports fans find the 2,430-game MLB regular season to be long and taxing, however, more games means more opportunities for bettors to take advantage of their edge and maximize units won. Getting plus-money on underdogs also means that bettors can win less than 50% of their wagers and still churn out profits. We don’t recommend taking every divisional underdog when there’s a high total, but it’s a valuable factor which needs to be considered when placing a wager. Other important considerations include:

The only plays we endorse are Best Bets, and those are available exclusively to Sportsbook Insider Pro subscribers. Since their inception in 2007, our MLB Best Bets have gone 3,411-3-617 with +158.8 units won. Sign up for a 4-day Pro trial for these winning picks in addition to real-time odds, public betting trends, money percentages, steam moves, reverse line movement alerts, contrarian plays, breaking injury alerts, lineup notifications, and much more.

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David Solar

David Solar is the Content Manager at Sports Insights. He specializes in sports betting analytics and creating data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

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