Baseball Betting Strategies for Profit
Baseball is simply the best team sport around. While it is the most difficult game to handicap, it's also a game that has the greatest potential for profit.
Now that legal sports betting is on the horizon, with the US Supreme Court expected to overturn the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) soon, you will be able to place sports bets at brick and mortar casinos, at dedicated sports betting venues, or at online sites such as Lucky Club Casino. Baseball is the most difficult game to handicap but, because teams play so many games each season, it is also the game that has the greatest potential for sizable profit.
Just as in financial circles, baseball offers bettors technical and fundamental analysis. We’ll talk just a little about technical analysis. In financial markets, technical analysis records past performances of a given stock, a given index, or the economy as a whole. Technical analysts rely far more heavily on these statistics rather than on more fundamental parameters such as management, tax rates, and so on.
In baseball, the technical analysis relies on the spread, the over-under in a game between specific opponents, computations such as those that arrive at “quality bets”. This method of analysis has sound uses, of course. For example, many professional bettors almost never bet on the most popular teams because bookmakers overprice them. The concept of price belongs in the area of technical analysis.
We will focus here on fundamental analysis. The most dominant aspect of the fundamental analysis is that it’s a lot harder to win a baseball game than a single game in any other sport. Of course, every win equals someone else’s loss. Here we mean that a top baseball team facing a bottom team has a much more difficult chore to win a game than the same combination in football, basketball, soccer, and hockey.
It is rare for even the best team in baseball to win 60% of its games. It is rare for the worst team to win fewer than 40% of its games. In basketball, every year there are a few teams that win around 30% of their games and in football there are a couple of teams that win only about 20% of their games.
So, you have to look at other fundamental factors to decide which team might win any given game.
The best teams always win more games at home than they lose. So, if you just bet on the home team if it’s a .500 team or better, you’ll win more bets than you’ll lose. However, an average or less than average team going against an excellent road team may present a situation similar to the situation at the end of the movie War Games where the computer learned that the only way to “win” is to not play the game!
A simple comparison of starting pitchers will give you a good idea which team will win the game. If the starting pitchers have roughly the same statistics, you need to look at other factors to make a choice if there even is one available.
When we handicap a horse race we look at the jockey, the pole position, and the horses’ past results. Similarly, if a pitcher is on the upswing with slowly but steadily improving statistics, he probably would be a better choice to lead his team to a win than a pitcher who is in a downward trajectory in his statistical record. They might both have roughly the same overall stats but their trends are diametrically opposite.
If the relief pitchers of one team have been overworked because of high scores against them or because of a few long extra-inning games, and if you think the starting pitcher might go only 5 or 6 innings, that may be the best fundamental statistic leading to a good bet.
Last season, the Chicago Cubs relievers were so overworked in the first half of the season that it was obvious to many professional bettors that the Cubs would not get back to the World Series. The team did much better in the second half than in the first but the bullpen was completely gassed by October.
If a team crosses two time zones and has to play a team on a homestand, you have an excellent start to betting for the home team even if the visiting team is statistically better. The players’ union has relieved some of the stress of long-distance travel by having day games on getaway days but the fundamental remains: home teams do well against teams that fly a long distance to get there.
Weather affects everything. It can also affect a team’s performance if they experienced turbulence in their flight. But the actual weather during a game is a major fundamental factor that many bettors overlook. Players from Latin America have a very hard time playing in very cold conditions. The longer these players are in the Majors the more adjusted they become but even though playing in the cold is hard for everyone it is especially hard for players from warm weather countries.
Baseball is a game of streaks. Most streaks are relatively short but if you bet on a team to do today what they did yesterday, you’ll have a good chance to win more than you lose.
Players also have streaks. A hitting streak is less significant than a career year. A player having a career year is worth several wins for his team. A perfect example is the Jake Arietta of 2015. No one saw how dominant he would become. His awesome dominance lasted for half of 2015 and a third of 2016 and then suddenly ended. After two dominant wins, any bettor who bet on Arietta from then until his streak ended would have won a lot of money.
Career years are statistical anomalies in which a player is far better than he was before or is after. We cannot know today how good a player will be next year but we can see that his performance this year is far better than it has been in any previous year.
Combining the Two Methods
Just as in financial analysis, both technical and fundamental analysis have a place. In our hyper-statistical age, we sometimes give technical analysis more credit than it deserves. Fundamentals of baseball are still as valuable today as they have ever been.