Friday, 22 September 2017

Upper-Deckers, Unders Bettors

The start of a new season, whatever the sport, is always something of a reset, with changes often made in regard to not only players and coaches, but sometimes also to rules, equipment and venues.

This season, as many of you will doubtless be aware, there have been a record number of home runs in MLB. The previous high for the regular season was 5,693 set in 2000. Already this season there have been at least 5,753 and there are still 10 days to go.

Some reasons for the increase are explored in this New York Times article but no one knows the reason for sure, or if they do, they're keeping it to themselves.

Regardless, one might be excused for thinking that such an increase in recent years might mean there's some money to be made backing Overs. 

In general, no. For years, the value has been on the Under side of the Totals bet, or at least you'd have lost your money at a much slower rate than you would have done on Overs if blindly backing them. 

The database I use goes back to 2004, and the numbers to date since then are:

Blindly backing Overs has not been profitable in any season, but there is hope with Unders, where the "white stick" approach would have made you money in six of the 14 seasons. Unders was the better bet in 11 of the 14 seasons.

Knowing which bets to ignore is always a good thing, and a little effort looking at Unders shows that the profits are to be found when the Total line is set on the low side. This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to regular readers, as the profitability of backing Overs when the Total was set high has been previously discussed

Until the 2016 season, backing Under the 7.0 Total was generally profitable, although the trend really started in 2010, but presumably in response to the the jump in Home Runs last season, the profitable Total moved to 7.5, and this season up again to 8.0. 
In stark contrast to 2014 and 2915, only 16 games this year to date have seen the Total set below 7.0 runs, and no fewer than 11 of these games were with our old friend Clayton Kershaw pitching. 

Eight of those games went Over - it's almost as if the sportsbooks think we're stupid enough to back Unders with Kershaw pitching at any price...

He does have a 100% record of Under when the Total is greater than 8 runs. 

The table above shows the total Home Runs in every season since MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998, and Over / Under results back to 2004, as far back as the database I reference has records.   

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