“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” – Baseball Hall of Famer, Rogers Hornsby.
Baseball is here! Nearly. The best betting sport of them all by sheer virtue of the number of games. There will be no gaudy double-digit ROI in baseball betting, but if you can grind out 4% ROI over a thousand odd bets, you can do very nicely.
But it is indeed a grind. A couple of years back I had a lovely first half of the season and was up around £6k. However, over the second half I gave back about £5k of that. That’s three straight months of investing several hours every single day, only to wake up each morning to more losers.
It was not fun.
But that’s all in our future! Today, we are focusing on season win totals, which in themselves are great opportunities – after all a baseball season is 162 games for each team, and that helps smooth out a lot of the variance that can sink an otherwise bulletproof bet.
Let’s start with the Los Angeles Angels who are pegged for 84.5 wins by ‘Vegas’ (not really Vegas) after finishing 80-82 last year.
I like the Over here and several projection systems I trust make this number around 87.5. The key for me is the defense – one of the most underrated aspects of a baseball team because it’s so hard to quantify.
Pitchers and batters are easier to project because they put up individual stats that can be put together to form a team projection. Less so with defense, and it’s an area the Angels have upgraded massively in the offseason, chiefly with the signing of Zack Cozart to play 3rd base. Cozart ranks third in baseball in Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop since 2013, and moving him to the easier position of third base should only improve that number. And guess what? He’ll be playing alongside the leader in Defensive Runs Saved at shortstop over that period in Andrelton Simmons.
The Angels also added an All Stars second baseman in Ian Kinsler, which should lead to an elite infield defence. Pair that with an outfield defence that ranked third in another defensive metric- Ultimate Zone Rating – last year, and this team will turn a lot of balls into outs. In fact it could be the best in baseball.
The Angels also added coveted free agent Shoehi Ohtani, who was literally the best hitter AND pitcher in the Japanese leagues. His value “has no precedent”. But let’s try and guess. According to the ZiPS projection system, developed by ESPN’s Dan Szymborski, both Ohtani’s hitting and pitching projections figure to be about 20% better than league average. He is the secret weapon, and alongside Garett Richards, who figures to be the ace of the pitching staff after a couple of injured seasons, the Angels should contend for the playoffs.
I also like the under on the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are pegged at 84.5 wins after a playoff season last year, but should probably be closer to 80.
The big thing in Arizona is the addition of a humidor to the ball park, which essentially aims to reduce the amount of home runs. If you want more details on why click here, but the key point is that this creates an opportunity for bettors. Physicist Dr. Alan Nathan estimates the home run drop will be nearly 35% which would change Arizona from an extreme hitters park to an extreme pitcher spark.
The bad news is that the change could hurt the Diamondbacks more than their opponents.
Per ESPN analyst Derek Carty: “The Diamondbacks only have one flyball starting pitcher (Robbie Ray) and seven above average flyball hitters, so my projections sees the humidor actually hurting the Diamondbacks relative to their opponents.”
The D’backs also had a remarkably healthy pitching staff in 2017, which helped them to the 7th best pitching performance by some metrics since 1947. That kind of performance and luck will inevitably regress to the mean, and the Dbacks project to be little better than an average team in 2018.
Finally I’m selling on another playoff team in the Colorado Rockies, who went 87-75 last year, but should go under their total of 81.5. For starters, this team over performed their base skills – their third order win percentage – which strips out sequencing luck – had them as an 83 win team. Think about sequencing like this; if a team gets 2 singles in a row then 2 outs, then a home run, then another out they’ve scored 3 runs. However if you change that order so the team hits a home run, then two singles then three outs., they’ve only scored 1 run, despite the exact same raw production.
The Rockies were lucky there and are also overrated by virtue of their home/road spits. Season long numbers paint the Rockies as the third best offense in baseball. For those that don’t know, Colorado play their home games at altitude where the ball flies out of the ballpark. It means at home their OPS (a hitting metric) would have been best in the league. On the road – a more accurate measure of true talent since they play in a variety of ballparks – they would have ranked 29th in the league. In other words this offense is among the very worst in the league despite looking like a very good one on paper.
So can the pitching pick up the slack? Probably not. They project to be roughly the 18th best starting rotation in the league and have too many pitchers that allow contact rather than striking batters out. When you play half your games at altitude, you do not want the ball being put in play. This is a below average team on both sides of the ball, and the under looks a tasty bet.
Brad’s MLB Season Win Bets:
- Angels over 84.5 wins
- Diamondbacks under 84.5 wins
- Rockies under 81.5 wins