Wednesday, 5 May 2021

National League Rivalries

As the 2021 MLB season moves past its opening month, the most interesting division right now is the National League West where two of the top three favourites for the World Series are currently trailing the San Francisco Giants, currently available at 130 on Betfair. 

The reigning champion Los Angeles Dodgers are favourites for the World Series, with the Padres third favourites behind the New York Yankees who are currently fourth out of five in the American League East division. 

The Guardian has an article on the Dodgers - Padres rivalry which has become a thing over the past couple of seasons, and mentions the other big rivalries in baseball such as the Yankees - Boston Red Sox, St Louis Cardinals - Chicago Cubs, New York Mets - Philadelphia Phillies and the traditional NL West rivalry between the Dodgers and the Giants.

These rivalry matches are interesting from a betting perspective because, as well as each occurring around 19 times a season, of the extra interest they generate.

The eight clubs mentioned in the traditional rivalries all happen to be in the biggest eight clubs in baseball, at least by franchise value which is likely closely correlated to the fan base. In order they are ranked as shown left.

Only one of the rivalries (Yankees - Red Sox) is in the American League, with the others all National League, evenly spread across the Divisions with one apiece. 

Back to the National League West and with data starting from the 2004 season, i.e. 17 full years plus this one, backing the underdog is a profitable strategy. The market appears to be particularly pro-favourite at the start of a new series and in games where the 'dog is coming off a loss. 
For the Mets - Phillies matches, the ROI is 9.7% while for the Cubs - Cardinals games it is 6.4%. Neither is close to the 47.3% in the West, but it's well worth looking out for these games. The Dodgers play the Giants seven times later this month. 

As an aside, Clayton Kershaw, an old topic of this blog, had one of the worst nights of his career for the Dodgers yesterday giving up four runs in the first innings before being pulled from the game. As it was Game 1 of a double-header, this put the Dodgers in something of a bind, and they went on to lose both games.

Switching sports, and in the NBA last night the Phoenix Suns were about 12.5 point favourites versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. After regulation, the game was tied, but in overtime the Suns not only won, but covered the spread winning by 16 points. First time in 30 years a double digit favourite has covered in overtime. 

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