2009 Year in Review and Team of the Year Award

We are pleased to bring you SportsInsights.com’s (SIs) unique Year in Review — where we look at an interesting blend of this past year’s top stories — combined with value — in the sports betting world.  We’ll take a look at who’s currently hot — and who’s not.  We’ll also pay tribute to this year’s champions in the major US team sports — as well as “against the spread” leaders.  Finally, we’ll study the results and see what lessons we, as “value sports investors”, can learn.  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.

Who’s Hot?

As we wrap up another action-packed year of sports, we thought we would take a look at “Who’s hot, and who’s not?”  

  • The city of Pittsburgh is hot — with its teams grabbing titles in both the Super Bowl (NFL) and the Stanley Cup Finals (NHL) during 2009.  Congratulations!
  • The Indianapolis Colts had a 14-game winning streak and an undefeated record of 14-0 before losing a relatively meaningless game to the NY Jets.
  • The San Diego Chargers are also hot, with a 10-game winning streak.
  • In the NBA, the Celtics and Lakers are currently the best teams in the league, with both playing .821 ball at 23-5.  Amazingly enough, both teams are sub-par ATS, with the Celtics going 13-15 and the Lakers 12-16 ATS.  It is very difficult for great teams to beat expectations — and beat the spread.  
  • SportsInsights publishes a regular series of articles on “Betting Against the Public” in various sports.  In several of the articles, we highlighted the fact that Visiting Teams have been undervalued.  This trend continues in several sports: in both the NFL and College Football this season, Visiting Dogs have hit almost 55%, combined!  
  • SportsInsights’ Best Bets feature has been consistently hot since we created this feature.  Currently, the “Best Bets” feature is positive in every sport, achieving a solid winning percentage of almost 55%, on average.

Who’s Not?

  • The New Jersey Nets, at 2-28 (.067 winning percentage) are on pace to surpass (if that’s the right word!) the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers, for the worst record ever in the NBA.  That 76ers team went 9-73 for a .110 winning percentage.  The Nets are playing such bad b-ball that even their record ATS is a measly 9-21.
  • We’re not really sure if Tiger Woods is hot — or not.  On the golf course, Tiger was hot as usual.  After an injury-shortened season in 2008, Tiger Woods won 6 of 17 tournaments he entered in 2009, and had 10 “top 10” finishes.  However, his “marital woes” overshadowed a very good golf year and, sadly, was one of this year’s biggest news stories — sports or otherwise.
  • The St. Louis Rams have the worst record in the NFL at 1-14, but they are a decent 7-8 ATS.

Recap of 2009 and Sports Betting Tidbits

Below is a table for the major US sports that shows the Champions, teams with the best Regular Season record, and best-performing team ATS.  Even though these are often the best teams in the sport, many teams are subpar ATS (highlighted in green).  Some standout teams that surprised sportsbook linesmen did well ATS, which we highlighted in yellow.  Some other highlights:

  • In College Football, #1 Alabama will play #2 Texas for the National Championship on January 7, 2010.  Both of these powerhouse teams are undefeated at 13-0, for a combined 26 wins and no losses.  Interestingly, these teams have a more mediocre 13-12-1 record against the spread (ATS).  This goes to show us that the point spread and money line are great equalizers.
  • If you scan the chart below, you will note that during 2009 — more often than not — the team with the Best Regular Season Record did NOT go on to win the Championship for that sport.  This tidbit of information might prove to be useful as sports investors approach playoff betting opportunities.
  • The New York Yankees are the “exception to the rule” in the previous bullet.  After a relatively slow start (15-17 on May 12), the Yankees stormed into the playoffs — playing more than .700 ball the second half of the season — before winning the World Series.  The Yankees played such good baseball that even with consistently expensive money line odds, the Yankees won +12 units ATS.
  • As opposed to the Yankees, many good teams struggle ATS.  One big example includes the NC Tarheels, who were the 2009 NCAA Men’s Basketball Champions, but just 17-19 ATS.  In addition, the 2009 Stanley Cup Champion and President’s Cup (best record during the regular season) winners were a combined -11 units ATS.
  • 2009 saw the rise of LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers.  Cleveland’s excellent play (66-16 in 2008-09) surprised many, with the Cavaliers achieving a nice 50-32 record ATS.   

Table: 2009 Champions and Best Performance Against the Spread (ATS)

Sport Champion Best Regular Season Record ATS Champion
NCAA Football 2009-2010 
(current season)
To Be Determined on 1/7/10

Alabama #1 (13-0, 8-5 ATS) vs.
Texas #2 (13-0, 5-7-1 ATS)
Alabama (13-0, 8-5 ATS)
Texas (13-0, 5-7-1 ATS)
Boise St (13-0, 8-5 ATS) 
TCU (12-0, 8-4 ATS)
Cincinnati (12-0, 6-6 ATS)
Connecticut 10-2 ATS(Actual Record 7-5)
NCAA Football 2008-2009 (last year)
Florida Gators 12-1
(11-2 ATS)
Boise State 12-0 (7-3-1 ATS)Utah 12-0 (7-3-1 ATS)
Florida 11-2 ATS
(Actual Record 12-1)
NFL 2009-2010 (current season) To Be Determined 2/7/10

Indianapolis (Current AFC #1 Seed)
New Orleans (Current NFC #1 Seed)  
Indianapolis 14-0 (10-3-1 ATS)
Indianapolis 10-3-1 ATS
(Actual Record 14-0) 
NFL 2008-2009 (last year) Pittsburgh Steelers 12-49-7 ATS Tennessee Titans 13-312-4 ATS
Baltimore Ravens, 13-4 ATS
(Actual Record 12-5) 
NCAA Basketball NC Tarheels 34-4(17-19 ATS)  Memphis U (33-4)23-13 ATS Memphis U, 23-13 ATS(Actual Record 33-4)
NHL Pittsburgh Penguins 45-28-9-1 unit with Money Line San Jose Sharks (53-18-11)-11 units with Money Line Boston Bruins +34 units with Money Line(Actual Record 53-19-10)
NBA Los Angeles Lakers (65-17, .793)(43-39 ATS) Cleveland Cavaliers (66-16, .805)(50-32 ATS) Cleveland (52-33 ATS)(Actual Record 70-15)
MLB New York Yankees (103-59, .636)+12 units with Money Line (regular season) New York Yankees (103-59, .636)+12 units with Money Line (regular season) LA Angels +22 units with Money Line(Actual Record 97-65)


How do Good Teams do ATS?  Bad Teams?

After studying the 2009 results, we decided to take a look at how both (a) “good teams” and (b) “bad teams” performed ATS.  We compiled ATS records for all of the first place — and all of the last place — teams in the NBA and the NFL during the current season and last year.  We also combined results for all of the other teams.  Note that this yields some interesting information but it is not totally predictive because teams that continue to do well or to do poorly — will ultimately move up or down in the standings.   

Table: ATS Records and Place in Standings

Data as of 12/28/09 2008-09 NBA 2009-10 NBA 2008-09 NFL 2009-10 NFL
First Place +50 (games over .500) -1 (games over .500) +18 (games over .500) +16 (games over .500)
Last Place -2 -22 -16 -14
All Others -48 + 23 -2 -2


  • What, if any, conclusions can we make from this table?  Because the standings and results are seen “after-the-fact” — we don’t want to make many conclusions and predictions based on “looking through the rear mirror.”  However, we DO note that the very worst teams seem to under-perform ATS in our research as well as in the chart above.
  • Oftentimes, teams that do the best ATS are average-to-good teams.  This result agrees, to some degree, with SportsInsights’ research that shows that “Betting Against the Public” performs slightly better in games that are expected to be “closer” — or games that are expected to be “more competitive.”
  • As sports bettors know, teams that do well ATS are “undervalued.”  That is, teams that do well ATS perform “better than expected” — whether they are good teams or bad teams.
  • Sports bettors should seek to ride the coattails of undervalued teams.  Although this may sound obvious, it is much harder to do than you think.  For example, the “sports marketplace” is very efficient and adjusts relatively quickly.  Note that last year’s NBA top stories, the Cleveland Cavaliers and LA Lakers are a few games below .500 ATS this year!  This shows how the “sports betting marketplace” is so difficult to navigate.  Like sports, sports investing is very competitive!

2009 Team of the Year & SportsInsights.com’s Philosophy on Sports Investing

This year, the staff at SportsInsights.com decided to select a “Team of the Year.”  Our Team of the Year award is selected based on excellence and achievement — as well as value for sports investors.  The Finalists for SIs’ 2009 Team of the Year Award are the Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA) and the New York Yankees (MLB).  

  • 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James was the #1 pick in the 2003 draft for the Cleveland Cavaliers.  Since that time, the Cavaliers have made steady progress and improved from one of the league’s worst teams (reason they got the #1 pick!) to one the league’s best.  There were several “starts and stops” along the way and nobody expected the year they had in 2008-2009 — including the sportsbooks.  Cleveland finished with a 66-16 record in the NBA, the best record in the NBA, earning them home court advantage throughout the playoffs.  They had a 39-2 record at home, one win short of the all-time home record.  Cleveland’s success also elevated the status of LeBron James to one of today’s truly great stars — a star who has brought his team to the heights of the other elite teams in the league.
  • 2009 New York Yankees: After an off-season that was marred by rumors and stories from ex-manager Joe Torre’s book, the Yankees stumbled out of the gate when A-Rod came down with a hip injury near the start of the season.  When A-Rod returned in mid-May, the Yankees turned on the after-burners and played so well that they were able to overcome expensive odds to win their backers +12 units during the regular season.  Their hot play continued in the playoffs where they went 11-4 (+5 units with the money line) to win yet another Yankee World Series.  The 2009 Yankees made their impatient fans forget the past nine years; baseball’s most expensive team last won the World Series in 2000.

And this year’s award goes to… The New York Yankees.  The Cleveland Cavaliers had a slightly more compelling story with the rise of LeBron James — but the Yankees won this year’s award mainly because they took home their sport’s championship.  Not only did the Yankees win the World Series, but they also earned their backers +17 units during the regular season and the playoffs.  The team at SportsInsights.com salutes the New York Yankees and congratulates its fans.  We look forward to another year of finding value and profit in the sports marketplace.

We hope that our 2009 Year in Review shed some light on “value” in the sports betting marketplace.  Sports betting is a very competitive environment and the sports marketplace adjusts the pricing and lines fairly quickly.  SportsInsights.com approaches sports betting in a business-like manner and views it more as “sports investing.”  SportsInsights provides its Members with the 

industry’s fastest live odds, collects data on the sports marketplaceand develops systematic and computerized methods to capture “value” in the sports marketplace.  SIs’ “contrarian sports investing” techniques include: Betting Against the Public, Square Plays, Smart Money, Steam Plays and Best Bets.  


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.