Monday, 12 August 2019

Blind Squirrels

I briefly mentioned the Houston Astros in last night's post, and the fact that their price of -450 (1.22) was the shortest for a road team going back to at least the 2004 season.

The Astros are currently favourites to win the World Series at a best price of 3.79, and were playing the Baltimore Orioles whose haplessness was also mentioned in a recent post and who are currently the second worst team in baseball. Cue one of the biggest  upsets in MLB history, with Yahoo!Sports reporting it like this:

The Houston Astros are a very good baseball team. The Baltimore Orioles are ... not a very good baseball team.
Still, over the course of a 162-game season, every blind squirrel finds an acorn. And even the Orioles (39-78) can beat the Astros (77-41). Sunday’s comeback win by the Orioles marked one of the biggest upsets in MLB history
According to ESPN, the Orioles were listed as +420 underdogs by some sportsbooks. Some of it might have had to do with Houston’s 23-3 rout on Saturday and the fact that ace Justin Verlander was starting for the Astros.
Per The Action Network, it was the biggest moneyline upset since the Washington Nationals upset the Minnesota Twins in 2007 at +395 odds.
The article concludes by saying that the result...
...takes nothing away from the fact that the Orioles and Astros are on opposite ends of the MLB totem pole, but it goes to show that in sports — but especially baseball — anything can happen.
As has been previously mentioned in this blog, baseball is a sport where it is unusual for a winning team to win more than two-thirds of their matches, and similarly for a losing team to lose more than one-third of games, although the Orioles did manage this last season. 

Coincidentally, the last team to go outside of the above boundaries was the Houston Astros in 2013, winning just 31.5% of their games in their first season in the American League (AL) after moving from the National League (NL). 

Trivia Fact: The Astros are the only team to have played in the World Series as a member of the AL (2017) and the NL (2005) 

Thus it is rare for a team (0.87%) to be priced at -300 (1.33) or shorter, and extremely rare (0.05%) to be priced -400 (1.25) or shorter. 

As the table below shows, the frequency has increased in recent seasons, and I have broken down the numbers still further for the ultra-shorties, together with the number of matches with such prices:

ROIs from small sample sizes are pretty much meaningless, but if you are seriously interested in when these hot favourites typically offer value, look at teams playing at Home in a Divisional game versus opponents they have just beaten in the series.

In the 2016-19 four season period, the 36 selections are +15.3% (Money Line) and +17.2% (Run Line).
Interesting that the same Baltimore Orioles have brought about the most recent three of the four upsets. Note also that there are probably going to be several more selections this month and next, as the regular season reaches its climax.

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