MLB Betting Against the Public 2009 Midseason Review

  • MLB Mid-Season Report Card, July 2009

With the Major League All-Star Break upon us, the team at SportsInsights took the opportunity to review the current season and see how SportsInsights Sports Investing tools have been faring.  Over the past five-plus years, baseball has been one of the more consistent sports in terms of “contrarian sports investing.”  How has baseball “performed” this year? Any interesting “standouts” in the baseball season so far?  We’ll take a look at all of these items in this article. The information on this site is for entertainment and educational purposes only. Use of this information in violation of any federal, state, or local laws is prohibited.

SportsInsights MLB Square Plays

Since SportsInsights has been publishing MLB Square Plays in 2004, Square Plays have been profitable in 4 out of the 5 seasons.  Since inception, MLB Square Plays have won at a rate of just under 43% while picking moneyline underdogs. SportsInsights has averaged about +12 units per season on a relatively simple approach of “betting against the public” and the “square” bettors.  In 2009, MLB Squares have connected at a rate of 47% and we are already up +24.5 units! Our Members have access to this valuable information as well as more sophisticated analyses we discuss below.

MLB Steam Moves

In addition to its proprietary “betting percentages,” SportsInsights looks at other indicators within the sports betting marketplace to help its Members get an edge.  We look at how the line moves — and how much public interest there is on a game (for  example, how “heavily-bet” a game is) to get a better handle on “who knows what.”  We study how these indicators work together and seek out “value” in the sports betting world.

Historically, some handicappers try to follow “Steam Moves.”  If a sports betting line — either point spread or moneyline odds — moves strongly and across many of the major sports books, it often means that the “big money” syndicates like a certain side and have “moved the market.”  SportsInsights collects live betting odds and studies the performance of these “Steam Moves.”  Using super-fast computer and internet connections, the team at SportsInsights has taken this a step further and studies which books actually move their lines first — and the performance for betting “for” and “against” these line moves.  To help your  performance, you should shop around get the best price and line that you can.  Some books will adjust their lines more slowly, so you should definitely price your sports bet.  During the first half of the season, MLB Steam Moves have won at a rate of 54% for +38.6 units.  

Smart Money Analysis

One of our more popular tools is our Smart Money analysis.  Steam Moves and line moves are a key part of “market action” that we study.  This tells us how what the sportsbooks are doing to adjust their overall position and manage their risk.  It tells us where the “big money” is going — and gives us a snapshot of the sports marketplace.  This is valuable market information.  However, if we combine this information and also discover that the “betting public” is actually betting in the other direction (other side), we have isolated “Smart Money.”

That is, if the line has moved strongly in the direction opposite than you would expect based on SportsInsights’ “betting percentages” — we know that the “Smart Money” is overwhelming the smaller bets of the general public.  In this case, we “bet against the Public” and eagerly follow the “Smart Money.”  Our research has shown that these instances can give our members a quantifiably larger edge.  SportsInsights studies “Smart Money” moves by sportsbook and analyzes which sportsbooks perform the best.  Using this tool — which has been fairly selective this season, our Members have won MLB Smart Money selections at a rate of 55% for +12 units.

Best Bets and Other Results

SportsInsights has set up a “Best Bets” tool that automatically selects the best plays from our lineup of sports marketplace analytical tools.  This is a very useful tool for our Members who want the bottom line and want to see.  During the first half of the 2009 MLB Season, SportsInsights Best Bet tool has won 54% of its selections for +42.4 units.  

A Simple Betting Percentage System

Based on our other results shown above, you can see that “contrarian methods” have fared well in baseball so far this season.  We took a quick look at a simple approach using SportsInsights “betting percentages.”  If you bet on any team that had less than 20% of the bets — and the moneyline odds are within the range of +/- 200 (meaning no huge underdogs with  moneyline odds greater than +200), you would be up +14 units, winning around 56% of your picks this season.   

ATS (Against the Spread) Standouts

SportsInsights also has other tools available to its Members.  One computation — that Members find useful — is to track how every team is doing “against the spread” (ATS) as the season progresses.  This allows us to see which teams are under-performing — and which have been a pleasant surprise to its followers.  The first half of the baseball season has seen a few standouts, many disappointments, as well as many things “as expected.”

First, let’s look at the standouts:

  • The LA Dodgers remained one of baseball’s hottest teams throughout the first half, even with Manny suspended for much of the season.  The Dodgers have surprised many with a winning percentage close to .650 for most of the first half of the season.  Surprise means value — and the Dodgers are +13 units ATS this season so far.
  • The Texas Rangers and LA Angels are battling it out for first place in the AL West and are both playing solid ball. They are among the better teams in terms of run differential and both are about +8 units ATS.

And here are some serious laggards:

You would think that there would be some value on the “bad” teams out there.  However, in moneyline sports — even if you get huge odds, you STILL have to win enough games to make those long odds pay off.  Teams like Washington (winning percentage of .299 (!!) and -31 units ATS), KC (.420, -17 units), Cleveland (.393, -16 units) and Arizona (.427, -17 units)  have underperformed even their lowly expectations. The Chicago Cubs have also underperformed, losing -13 units ATS.  Before the season started, their starting pitching had them pegged to be one of the World Series contenders.  They have limped into the All-Star Break at .500 and a disappointing record ATS.

And “as expected”, but noteworthy: The Boston Red Sox and NY Yankees keep their rivalry going.  The Red Sox are three games ahead of the Yankees, with the Sox playing slightly better than .600 ball, while the Yankees are just below .600.  Even though these teams are playing great baseball, they are a net + 1 unit ATS.  The sports marketplace “expects” these teams to play good ball, so there is not much value to be had.  The Yankees have played great ball after a slow start, while the Red Sox have played consistent .600 winning ball most of the season.  Even so, these .600 teams are net “flat” ATS.

The moral of the story is that in any investment, you need to seek out “value” to get an edge.  

We do not guarantee that the trends and biases we’ve found will continue to exist. It is impossible to predict the future. Any serious academic research in the field of “market efficiencies” recognizes that inefficiencies may disappear over time. Once inefficiencies are discovered, it is only a matter of time before the market corrects itself. We do not guarantee our data is error-free. However, we’ve tried our best to make sure every score and percentage is correct.