Betting tips on early season MLB totals

Betting tips on early season MLB totals

Betting tips on early season MLB totals
By Teddy Covers
Sportsmemo.com

We’re two weeks into the marathon baseball season, but there hasn’t been a lot that stands out thusfar in the standings.  The Milwaukee Brewers are riding a nine-game winning streak into the new week, a surprise team with the best current record in baseball.  And the defending World Series champs, the Boston Red Sox, have slumped out of the gate, sitting in last place in the AL East.

Frankly, we should expect these sorts of anomalies in early season play – in fact we should expect more of them than we’ve seen thusfar.  But there’s not much we can expect to accomplish from riding hot teams out of the gate and fading underachievers.  Based on two weeks’ worth of results, I wouldn’t recommend betting on the Brewers or against the Red Sox on a daily basis moving forward.  A hot or cold start is not necessarily a ‘leading indicator’ for a hot or cold season.

But MLB totals are a very different story.  I’ve written several previous articles about why I look to bet MLB totals – particularly Overs – all summer long.  To summarize three key points from those previous articles, the betting markets don’t notice streaks of Overs or Unders at anywhere near the level that the markets notice wins and losses, making streaks easier to ride without laying a hefty price.

Secondly, Overs beget Overs and Unders beget Unders.  Hot lineups, struggling starters and worn down bullpens carry from one game to the next.  So do strong starters, rested and effective bullpens and slumping lineups.  One game legitimately affects the next game.  Bettors looking to capitalize on MLB streaks most assuredly have totals as a significant piece of their betting repertoires.

Thirdly, totals have very little wiggle room on the margins.  You don’t see MLB games totaled above 11 except in the most extreme circumstances, nor does the market offer anything lower than the occasional 6 even in expected pitcher duels with nearly ideal conditions for a low scoring game.  Sides can be priced from pick ‘em to -400 or higher, but totals are forced into a much more limited range.

When it comes to early season MLB totals trends, unlike the sides, there’s plenty that stands out.  Here’s a brief list:

Top Over Teams:
San Francisco 11-2
Minnesota Twins 10-2
LA Angels 10-2
Arizona Diamondbacks 11-4
Chicago White Sox 9-4
Colorado Rockies 9-3

Top Under Teams:
Boston Red Sox 10-3
San Diego Padres 9-3
Milwaukee Brewers 8-4

The case of the Giants really stands out.  Normally, teams don’t fly Over the total every night when they have an elite bullpen.  For example, the Brewers have the best bullpen ERA in baseball thusfar, and they’ve been MLB’s top side money earner and a consistent Under squad.  Meanwhile, the White Sox have the worst bullpen ERA in the league thusfar, and they rank among the strongest Over teams.

And normally teams don’t fly Over the total every night when their top two bats are ice cold.  The Giants have been Over machines here in April despite the fact that key middle-of-the-order bats Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence have only 17 hits combined in their 101 at-bats, while driving in only eight runs between them.

So, the Giants bullpen has been great and their lineup isn’t yet clicking on all cylinders.  Yet they’ve been cashing Over bet after Over bet, an emerging trend that unlike the Brewers and Red Sox sides that I wrote about earlier, is most assuredly worth riding for the next week, month – however long it takes until the markets catch up with the “new” Giants.

San Francisco came into the season with a baseline total at AT&T Park in the range of 7 or 7.5.  In 81 home games last year, the Giants didn’t have a single game totaled higher than 8 and 78 of those games were totaled at 7.5 or lower.  Given an average starting pitching matchup at AT&T Park, the total would be 7 or 7.5 without much variance.

But this year’s Giants team is a completely different squad from any recent version.   First of all, they can hit!  Angel Pagan, Michael Morse, Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford are all off to solid starts, despite the early struggles from Panda Bear and Pence.

A squad that ranked among the bottom ten in baseball in runs scored, total bases and home runs last year currently ranks among the top six in all three categories this year.  And frankly, there’s no reason to think their current level of offensive production is primed for any sort of immediate drop-off.  The Giants are hitting and I expect them to continue to hit.

But with that improved offensive production, the Giants new-look lineup is not as good defensively as recent versions. That’s clearly evidenced by their park adjusted defensive efficiency numbers ranking among the bottom third in baseball.

With that defensive decline, San Fran has seen their starting pitching underachieve thusfar, and there’s no reason to think that it’s going to improve by leaps and bounds in the weeks to come.  Both Ryan Vogelsong and Tim Lincecum have been lit up early and neither guy has a profile that indicates the situation is likely to improve anytime soon.

Matt Cain has thrown for 200+ innings in six of the last seven seasons, and his strikeouts are down; an indication that last year’s modest decline could be a harbinger of things to come.  Tim Hudson and Madison Bumgarner have put up solid early season numbers, but even that duo is 5-1 to the Over through their first six starts thanks to the low totals in the markets and the Giants lineup hot bats.

Plain and simple – the Giants baseline total is priced wrong these days.  This squad has a very different feel than last year’s team – a much more potent lineup, with a weaker defense and a drop-off in their starting pitching.  Until we see that market routinely price San Francisco’s totals at home at 8 or higher, there’s no reason to expect the single strongest early season MLB betting trend to suddenly reverse itself!

Most of the eight other total trending teams on the list above are in similar spots.  The markets still value data from last year’s result, particularly when it comes to totals – those baseline numbers remain fairly static from one year to the next.  Those ‘slow-to-adjust’ numbers offer savvy bettors legitimate value riding some of these early season total trends moving forward!

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