Friday 31 March 2023

Some Advantage

The 2023 MLB season opened yesterday but as I've already communicated to Sacred Manuscript subscribers, with all the rule changes coming in this season, I'm adopting a wait-and-see approach for now.

ESPN had a good article on this exact topic and is reproduced below. The link will take you to the original story but the key takeaway is the very last sentence "There will be some advantage for bettors if they can figure it all out quicker than the market."

Meanwhile after two losing seasons, the Opening Day System did return to profitability with three winners out of four, although the one loser was a Divisional game, but a small profit for anyone playing along.
Major League Baseball's new rules didn't impact scoring significantly in spring training, and oddsmakers began the season without adjusting their numbers on runs scored, while taking a wait-and-see approach to the pitch clock and elimination of the infield shift.

MLB games have averaged 9.1 runs scored over the past five seasons. Last year's 8.57 runs per game was the lowest since 2015. Spring training games, with the new rules implemented, averaged 10.1 runs, down slightly from last year.

Pitchers have 15 seconds to throw a pitch with the bases empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base. Hitters must be in the batter's box with eight seconds on the pitch clock. Hitters are allowed one timeout per at-bat to reset the pitch clock. Pitchers are restricted to stepping off the rubber only twice per plate appearance, including for pickoff attempts. The rule resets if a runner advances during the same plate appearance. And larger bases are being used to increase the success rate on steals.

"We don't really see a direct correlation from the pitch clock to more scoring," said Randy Blum, who oversees baseball odds for the SuperBook in Las Vegas. "We were not planning on adjusting our totals off that."

Halvor England, BetMGM's lead baseball trader, expects the elimination of the traditional shift to increase scoring marginally, but also believes pitchers will have more control over the hitter during an at-bat because of the pitch clock.

"I think it's going to be a little more offsetting than people realize, almost a wash," Halvor said. "I don't anticipate there to be less scoring overall, but on a game-to-game basis, it's going to be very marginal."

The bigger bases being used this season, however, are a difference-maker in bookmakers' and bettors' eyes. Steals were up notably in success rate and volume -- nearly double from last spring training -- this year. Bettors expect the trend to continue.

The SuperBook offered a season-long prop on the over/under on most stolen bases by an individual player. Blum said the book opened the total at 50.5, a number that reflected about four to five more stolen bases than if the rule had not been in place. Still, sharp bettors took the over, causing the SuperBook to move the number to 52.5.

"That's one thing [larger bases] that we did adjust our numbers on based on the rule changes, and it seems to be something that the bettors are taking note of also," Blum said. "That was not necessarily a prop that in the past would get a lot of attention either way."

Joe Fortuna, a veteran professional bettor and baseball fan, said he did edge his numbers up on runs scored because of the rule changes and was looking to bet overs early in the season for multiple reasons, including potential pitchers' fatigue while working with the pitch clock.

"These guys, in April, might be a little bit out of shape, so I don't know if running 100 mph pitches up there every 15 seconds will make them tire out faster," Fortuna said. "The different rules all seemed to lean toward hitting to us."

Fortuna also examined which hitters faced the most infield shifts last season and pointed out left-handed batters like San Diego's Juan Soto, Texas' Corey Seager and Kansas City's Vinnie Pasquantino as ones who could benefit from its elimination.

"The shift is huge to me," Fortuna said. "We actually bet on Pasquantino to win MVP today at 250-1. He batted .295 last year and faced 93.8% three-man shifts. That was the highest."

For now, only one day into the season, bettors and bookmakers will be watching closely to see if there are any trends related to the new rule changes, but early on, it'll be a guessing game.

"There will be some advantage for bettors if they can figure it all out quicker than the market," Halvor said.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

Aztecs, Owls, Hurricanes and Huskies

I ended the last post with a few lines about the end of season College Basketball tournament colloquially known as 'March Madness' and following the weekend's Sweet Sixteen (Round of 16 for most of us) and Elite Eight (Quarter-Finals for most of us), the excitement level in my house has risen dramatically with my wife's hometown Aztecs reaching the Final Four (Semi-Final for most of us) for the first time in their history, and as favourites (~1.8) to win their Saturday game against the Florida Atlantic Owls, they have a decent chance of making Monday's Championship Game (Final for most of us). 

I take full credit for their success after betting against them in both rounds! Florida Atlantic were 500-1 to win the National Championship at the start of the tournament, and are a number nine seed. The seeding system is a little odd because they have four of each seed number, four number ones, twos etc., so being a nine means ranked approximately 33rd to 36th, and as the tournament's "Cinderella" team, most of the USA will no doubt be supporting the underdogs. The reason for the four seeds is that the tournament is divided into four 'regions' of 16 teams each, with each region having its own 1-16 seeds.

With several upsets already, the highest seeded team left is UConn (University of Connecticut Huskies), a number four seed, with the San Diego Aztecs and Miami Hurricanes both five seeds. UConn are the only team to have reached this stage of the competition before having played five times previously winning four of them, and winning all four subsequent Finals, which is quite impressive. With an average winning margin so far of 22.5 points, it's hardly a surprise that they are favourites to win the championship at around 1.87. 

We only have data for nine competitions starting in 2013 but in Final Four (Semi-Final) matches, a total of 132.5 has historically been pivotal. Back the Overs when the total is above this number, and Unders when it's below it, and you'd have a 14-1 record with one Push. The totals are currently set at around 132 (Aztecs v Owls) and 149.5 for the later Hurricanes v Huskies game. 

Since I want to stay married, I take more than a passing interest in the Aztecs games, although the Arkansas Razorbacks will always be my college team, and this season the Aztecs' strength has been their defence. For example, in the Quarter-Final game they played Creighton who had previously averaged 77 points a game this season, and held them to 56 points. 

Friday 24 March 2023

Retirement, Death, Anniversaries and NCAAB

It's been almost one month since my last update, and a lot has happened. The meeting in Phoenix I mentioned last month was delayed, I aged another year as did this blog, but most tragically of all one of my team at work passed away at the young age of 56. 

He'd booked a few days off work for a 'minor back surgery' and recovery, but he never made it out out of the anaesthetic. He went into liver failure, had some internal bleeding, extremely low blood pressure and passed away almost a week later. What made it even more tragic was that just two weeks prior to the surgery, his first grandchild had been born. 

All very sad, and one of those events that makes you reassess your life. When I heard from one of my Directors that he was having 'minor back surgery', I actually said to him that there was no such thing, thinking that he may have complications with his back, but never imagined the events that unfolded. 

With everything that was going on, I missed the February wrap-up and with the current month almost over, I'll combine the February and March summaries in a few days time. The blog turned 15 years old a couple of days ago, and I turned a little older than that. 

My trip to South Africa seems to have marked the end of an era and seems a long time ago now. I returned with a pretty firm retirement date of March 2021 in mind, but after a first quarter loss of 10.2% (a record) and a poor start to Q2, that date is looking unlikely. We'll see. One of the consequences of COVID-19 may well be an appreciation of what is really important in life, and while accumulating money is certainly important, it's only important to a point. It can't buy time.

As bad as March was, perspective is maintained by seeing that I am simply back to where I was last June, and last June I was pretty happy. In other words, things could always be a lot worse.

That 'firm retirement date' is still anything but. I had my annual review and while the percentage pay raise is fairly meaningless with my working days running out, the bonus, stock options and RSUs were of interest. As I've mentioned before, I'm in the rather enviable position of working from home most of the time, with 'working' consisting of a handful of Teams meetings with my afternoon calendar usually free by noon or early afternoon. The upside of walking away is minimal, but if / when they realise I don't do a lot and send me on my way with a severance package, I'll be quite happy. Speaking of walking, and the target of 2,023 miles in 2023 may need to be raised as I am already at 586 miles, putting those free afternoons to good use. 

First a little catching up to do, as while I reviewed the NFL's Small Road 'Dog System back in January, I don't believe I ever published the results of the similar College Football version.

Better late than never, and 'officially' we made a profit of 5.03 units (ROI 6.7% with a 41-34 record) but individual results will vary quite a lot in this sport with the matches available varying by sportsbook. The 'official' results are those that can be verified using the Killer Sports data. 

Over the past 18 seasons, the ROI is 9.2% in the recommended range with just two losing seasons, although two more would have been losers after accounting for the vig.
At the College level right now, all the focus is on 'March Madness', the end of season single elimination basketball tournament which is hugely popular. In recent years, Unders and the 'Dog have been the value bets with winning percentages of 55.3% and 53.6% respectively since 2016 although two years were lost due to the pandemic.

This season has seen that trend continue on the Totals with Unders hitting at a lovely 67%, but not so much joy for the 'Dogs with a 26-27-1 record. The tournament wraps up next weekend with the final on Monday 3rd April. Unfortunately my Arkansas Razorbacks were eliminated last night.