People are always talking about how pitching wins championships, but perhaps more importantly, chicks dig the long ball. The home run is arguably the most exciting moment in baseball and most of the league’s most popular players are powerful sluggers. But can bettors profit from these top sluggers?
Every year sportsbooks release a number of prop bets, and one of the most popular is often based on who will hit the most regular season home runs. Last season Orioles first baseman Chris Davis made the jump from a middle of the pack power bat to one of the league’s preeminent sluggers by smashing a league-leading 53 home runs. His breakthrough season was not only a pleasant surprise to the baseball world, but also a lucrative endeavor who bet on Davis (+4000 pre-season odds) to win the home run crown.
The table below compares the current home run futures at Sportsbook.com with pre-season ZiPS projections from FanGraphs. If you’re not familiar with ZiPS, it is the prediction model of Dan Szymborski from the Baseball Think Factory.
Using weighted averages from the past four years and taking into account player progression (or regression in some cases), ZiPS uses “a player’s past statistics, age, home ballpark, and other variables to estimate how well a player will perform in the upcoming season. Since projections cannot account for luck and random variation, they are never 100% accurate. Instead, these systems are best viewed as an estimate of a player’s current, underlying true talent level.”
Mark Trumbo, who is off to a red-hot start with five homers in his first 13 games, is currently the co-favorite alongside Toronto’s Jose Bautista (4 HR in 11 games this season). ZiPS projections indicate that Chris Davis, who has yet to go yard this season, will lead baseball in home runs again this season with 41 round trippers.
It’s also interesting to note that Josh Hamilton, who will be sidelined 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery on his left thumb, has the same odds to win the home run crown as Brewers OF Ryan Braun who has already launched three home runs this season and hit 41 long balls just two years ago.
If you’re looking for an interesting value bet, make sure to take a look at Yankees OF Alfonso Soriano. Considered a long shot at 100/1, Soriano is projected to hit 32 home runs this season after hitting 34 in 2013.
This prop bet can fluctuate greatly throughout the season and will often times see major changes when a player goes on a hot streak, so make sure to check back over the course of the season for the latest updates.
Who do you think will be the 2014 Home Run champion? Which sluggers are being undervalued by oddsmakers? Make sure to leave your pick in the comment section below.