What Can a Baseball Team’s Performance the Previous Season Tell Us About Their Future Success?

What Can a Baseball Team’s Performance the Previous Season Tell Us About Their Future Success?

The Cubs were dynamite last season. They were dominant all season long and ended up breaking their World Series curse in one of the wildest baseball games anyone will ever see. They’re the unanimous favorite to have the most wins and repeat this season, but does that mean you should be frequently betting on them throughout the season?

This article contains several tables showing how the teams in the World Series did that season and the following season. It also shows how a gambler would do if they faded those teams the following season. Further down, I took a look at the best and worst teams from a gambling perspective and how one would do if they bet on or faded those teams the following year.

World Series Teams

YearWorld Series ChampRecordUnits World Series LoserRecord Units
2005Chicago White Sox99-63*+22.7Houston Astros89-73+7.4
2006St. Louis Cardinals83-78-17.3Detroit Tigers95-67+11.6
2007Boston Red Sox96-66+5.0Colorado Rockies90-73+24.8*
2008Philadelphia Phillies 91-71+3.0Tampa Bay Rays97-65+18.2
2009New York Yankees103-59+9.8Philadelphia Phillies93-69+7.4
2010San Francisco Giants92-70+10.3Texas Rangers90-72+0.9
2011St. Louis Cardinals90-72+4.2Texas Rangers96-66+8.5
2012San Francisco Giants94-68+15.1Detroit Tigers88-74-8.4
2013Boston Red Sox97-65+11.8St. Louis Cardinals97-65+9.2
2014San Francisco Giants88-74+2.2Kansas City Royals89-73+7.0
2015Kansas City Royals95-67+20.9New York Mets90-72+2.4
2016Chicago Cubs103-58+1.6Cleveland Indians94-67+2.7
Total1131-811 (58.2%)+89.3 (4.6% ROI)1108-836 (57.0%)+91.7 (4.7% ROI)

*Most profitable team that season

As you can see, all World Series teams are not made equally. It is clear that bookmakers did not expect the Royals to follow up their 2014 World Series appearance, as they were up over 20 units when they won in 2015. The 2006 Cardinals clearly underperformed in the regular season, but were still able to bring home the trophy.

Last season featured two of the least profitable teams in our database to make the World Series. Despite winning 103 games, betting $100 on the Cubs every game last season would have only netted about $160. This is because the books knew the Cubs were very good AND they knew that the public would be all over the Cubs essentially every night, and they were right.

The Cubs closed as underdogs just 12 times last season, winning 4 of those contests. On the other end of the spectrum, they went 20-5 when they closed at -250 or higher. In other words, they were twice as likely to be favored by -250 than to be an underdog. Also, they received less than 50% of bets just 11 times. Even though these public bettors were winning about 2/3 of the time, they weren’t really making a profit. Expect more of the same this season.

World Series Teams the Following Year

YearReigning WS ChampRecordUnits Reigning WS LoserRecord Units
2005Boston Red Sox95-67+3.9St. Louis Cardinals100-62+7.6
2006Chicago White Sox90-72-1.0Houston Astros82-80-9.8
2007St. Louis Cardinals78-84-2.7Detroit Tigers88-74+2.8
2008Boston Red Sox95-67+5.4Colorado Rockies74-88-16.6
2009 Philadelphia Phillies 93-69+7.4Tampa Bay Rays84-78-10.6
2010New York Yankees95-67-7.0Philadelphia Phillies97-65+11.3
2011San Francisco Giants86-76-2.4Texas Rangers96-66+8.5
2012 St. Louis Cardinals88-74-6.4Texas Rangers93-69-5.6
2013San Francisco Giants76-86-14.9Detroit Tigers93-69-9.4
2014Boston Red Sox71-91-21.1St. Louis Cardinals90-72+0.6
2015San Francisco Giants84-78+0.4Kansas City Royals95-67+20.9
2016Kansas City Royals81-81-1.9New York Mets87-75-2.8
Total1032-912 (53.1%)-40.3 (-2.1% ROI)1079-865 (55.5%)-3.1 (-0.1% ROI)

As we can see, World Series Champions have not fared well in their following year. There have only been a couple of teams that accumulated over five units in the following year, with the Phillies in ’09 being the high water mark at +7.4 units. I don’t expect the Cubs to collapse like Red Sox or Giants from a few years back, but it would not be surprising to see them have a season like the 2010 Yankees. Despite winning 95 games, they finished seven units in the red.

Although the Royals have been the only team to lose the World Series and come back to win the following season, as a whole, the losers have had more success during their next season. Perhaps since they got so close, they are just that much more thirsty to win it. Their winning percentage, units, and ROI are all noticeably better than the teams that beat them, which is a good sign for the Indians.

Since these teams haven’t been profitable, perhaps fading them might be. Let’s take a look.

Fading World Series Teams the Following Year

YearReigning WS ChampRecordUnits Reigning WS LoserRecord Units
2005Boston Red Sox67-95-11.5St. Louis Cardinals62-100-17.3
2006Chicago White Sox72-90-3.0Houston Astros80-82+5.7
2007St. Louis Cardinals84-78+0.4Detroit Tigers74-88-5.7
2008Boston Red Sox67-95-16.3Colorado Rockies88-74+10.8
2009 Philadelphia Phillies 69-93-5.4Tampa Bay Rays78-84+5.3
2010New York Yankees67-95-1.2Philadelphia Phillies65-97-11.9
2011San Francisco Giants76-86-1.2Texas Rangers66-96-18.7
2012 St. Louis Cardinals74-88-1.4Texas Rangers69-93-2.8
2013San Francisco Giants86-76+10.7Detroit Tigers69-93+3.0
2014Boston Red Sox91-71+18.4St. Louis Cardinals72-90-8.5
2015San Francisco Giants78-84-6.8Kansas City Royals67-95-25.2
2016Kansas City Royals81-81-11.8New York Mets75-87-1.0
Total912-1032 (46.9%)-29.1 (-1.5% ROI)865-1079 (44.5%)-66.3 (-3.4% ROI)

Still no long term profits, but the results are still pretty interesting. As we could’ve guessed from the previous table, fading the champs turns out to be better than fading the runner-up. However, it is tough to turn a profit when only winning about 47% or 45% of the time.

Instead of looking at World Series teams, what if we looked at the most and least profitable team each year from a gambling standpoint. Every year, there are teams that are undervalued by the books and end up winning at a much higher rate than expected. The same goes for the opposite. Below are the most and least profitable teams each year.

Most and Least Profitable Teams Each Year

YearMost Profitable TeamRecordUnitsLeast Profitable TeamRecord Units
2005Chicago White Sox99-63+22.7Los Angeles Dodgers71-91-20.8
2006Oakland Athletics93-69+19.0Tampa Bay Rays61-101-20.2
2007Colorado Rockies90-73+24.8San Francisco Giants70-92-18.3
2008Los Angeles Angels100-62+26.6San Diego Padres62-100-33.1
2009 Los Angeles Angels 97-65+24.3Cleveland Indians 65-97-27.6
2010San Diego Padres90-72+17.0Seattle Mariners61-101-34.7
2011Arizona Diamondbacks94-68+24.1Houston Astros56-106-33.0
2012 Baltimore Orioles93-69+37.0Houston Astros55-107-31.5
2013Pittsburgh Pirates94-68+23.7Chicago White Sox63-99-30.1
2014Baltimore Orioles96-66+31.9Arizona Diamondbacks64-98-28.5
2015Texas Rangers88-74+27.4Cincinnati Reds64-98-29.8
2016Texas Rangers95-67+27.7Minnesota Twins59-103-28.2
Total1129-816 (58.0%)+306.2 (15.7% ROI)751-1193 (38.6%)-335.8 (-17.3% ROI)

None of the popular teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, or Dodgers find themselves on the list of the most profitable teams. This is because books are going to shade those lines because they know public bettors will be on them.

There were a couple instances of a team repeating as the most profitable team of the year, including last year’s Rangers team. They were able to do that by going 36-11 in one run games, the best mark in the history in baseball. They only outscored their opponents by eight runs last season, which would point to them being around a .500 team rather than a 95-win team. I don’t expect them to three-peat this year.

The least profitable teams are, for the most part, absolute trainwrecks. Could they redeem themselves the next season?

Most and Least Profitable Teams Following Year

YearMost Profitable TeamRecordUnitsLeast Profitable TeamRecord Units
2006Chicago White Sox90-72-1Los Angeles Dodgers88-74+5.1
2007Oakland Athletics76-86-10.8Tampa Bay Rays65-97-15.0
2008Colorado Rockies74-88-16.6San Francisco Giants72-90-6.2
2009Los Angeles Angels97-65+24.6San Diego Padres75-87+3.8
2010Los Angeles Angels80-82-4.1Cleveland Indians69-93-2.6
2011San Diego Padres71-91-12.0Seattle Mariners67-95-21.4
2012Arizona Diamondbacks81-81-8.6Houston Astros55-107-31.5
2013Baltimore Orioles85-77+2.7Houston Astros51-111-24.7
2014Pittsburgh Pirates88-74+1.0Chicago White Sox73-89-1.6
2015Baltimore Orioles81-81-4.0Arizona Diamondbacks79-83-0.1
2016Texas Rangers95-67+27.7Cincinnati Reds 68-94-8.6
Total918-864 (51.5%)-1.1 (-0.1% ROI)762-1020 (42.8%)-102.8 (-5.8% ROI)

No…they couldn’t. One might think that since they are so bad, they might catch the books off guard and do surprisingly well the next year. However, only one team bounced back to have a winning record and good chunk of them still couldn’t reach 70 wins the following season.

There aren’t any expectations for the Twinkies this upcoming season — good ones at least. They probably aren’t going to be the 2011-2013 Astros, but they’re not going to be in any pennant races soon, either. 

Now, what if we fade these teams?

Fading Most and Least Profitable Teams Following Year

YearMost Profitable TeamRecordUnitsLeast Profitable TeamRecord Units
2006Chicago White Sox72-90-3.0Los Angeles Dodgers74-88-10.5
2007Oakland Athletics86-76+10.4Tampa Bay Rays97-65+9.4
2008Colorado Rockies88-74+10.8San Francisco Giants90-72-0.6
2009Los Angeles Angels65-97-22.0San Diego Padres87-75-8.2
2010Los Angeles Angels82-80+2.8Cleveland Indians93-69+1.0
2011San Diego Padres91-71+6.5Seattle Mariners95-67+11.9
2012Arizona Diamondbacks81-81+6.0Houston Astros107-55+11.5
2013Baltimore Orioles77-85-5.3Houston Astros111-51+11.7
2014Pittsburgh Pirates74-88-13.6Chicago White Sox89-73-2.4
2015Baltimore Orioles81-81-1.6Arizona Diamondbacks83-79-8.0
2016Texas Rangers67-95-30.8Cincinnati Reds94-68-4.1
Total864-918 (48.5%)-39.8 (-2.2% ROI)1020-762 (57.2%)+11.7 (0.7% ROI)

Ah, look. A positive sum! Nothing to bet the house on, but fading the worst teams has yielded a small profit over the past decade. This is largely in part to the aforementioned Astros abominations, but nevertheless a profit. The thing is, that small ROI is coming from a really high winning percentage for baseball. It is tough to win that often even if you are always taking the best teams or fading the worst ones.

Fading the best teams would look a lot better if it weren’t for last year’s Rangers team and the 2009 Angels squad, but still not a great strategy.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that there are any magic shortcuts to win money based on a team’s performance the previous season. I was hoping one of these tables would spit out a reliable and relatively profitable trend that we could keep our eye on going into the season, but evidently, sportsbooks are smart. Who knew?

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Mark Gallant

I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.

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