I had a conversation last week with a FoxSheets subscriber who claimed to have consistent success in betting baseball by following just a short list of fundamental concepts and strategies. While some of them were FoxSheets info-related in terms of systems and power ratings, etc, one of them was much more straight forward and it involved simply looking for value-laden underdogs in divisional games. Of course this piqued my curiosity, and to scratch that itch, I went back and did a study analyzing the performance of divisional dogs over the last decade. Odds
One of the most fundamental beliefs in anyone who puts more weight in divisional games is that there is a familiarity that decreases the theoretical talent margin between two teams. They face each other so many times each season that they are well-versed in the strengths and weaknesses of each player and thus the opponent as a whole. Realistically, the oddsmaker doesn’t take this into account as much, since they are typically building their lines from a more universal set of power ratings that doesn’t recognize situational factors such as divisional play. Obviously the underlying thought is that this disconnect should lend value to anyone who believes in the power of the rivalry. Scores
So, having theoretically been convinced that there was some merit to this divisional underdog theory, I set out to find out the actual results. I took all of the divisional games played in Major League Baseball between 2000 and this past Sunday (July 11th) and tabulated the wins, losses, and betting units won had a bettor backed every divisional dog in that time frame. The results are below.
Divisional Road Underdogs in MLB by Season (2000-2010)
Season: W-L (PCT), UNITS 2000: 224-293 (43.3%), +24.4 Units 2001: 284-376 (43.0%), +8.2 Units 2002: 251-417 (37.6%), -57 Units 2003: 265-404 (39.6%), -2.5 Units 2004: 283-403 (41.3%), +4.9 Units 2005: 318-400 (44.3%), +43.9 Units 2006: 301-411 (42.3%), +2.1 Units 2007: 306-377 (44.8%), +53.4 Units 2008: 308-406 (43.1%), +22.1 Units 2009: 270-421 (39.1%), -39.6 Units 2010: 134-187 (41.7%), +1.4 Units TOTAL: 2944-4095 (41.8%), +61.3 Units
Average Road Underdog Line: -158
Average Return on Investment = 0.9%
As you can see, the divisional road underdog has been generally successful, producing 61.3 units of profit over the last decade-plus, with a R.O.I. of about 0.9%. Now, that isn’t enough to really wow a systems handicapper, but it does suggest that the strategy of backing road divisional dogs will at least keep the average joe in the fight against the oddsmakers. One important thing to note from the season-by-season results is that in only three of the 11 seasons has the road divisional dog netted a loss. So it can be said that the results of 2002 & 2009 in particular skew the numbers of what would be an otherwise more solid theory. Las Vegas Odds
Divisional Home Underdogs in MLB by Season (2000-2010)
Season: W-L (PCT), UNITS 2000: 127-112 (53.1%), +49.5 Units 2001: 157-215 (42.2%), -22.4 Units 2002: 156-210 (42.6%), -4.2 Units 2003: 171-199 (46.2%), +25.6 Units 2004: 150-187 (44.5%), +11 Units 2005: 133-185 (41.8%), -14.9 Units 2006: 162-187 (46.4%), +15.3 Units 2007: 152-184 (45.2%), +0.8 Units 2008: 147-160 (47.9%), +12.2 Units 2009: 143-184 (43.7%), -14.4 Units 2010: 74-77 (49.0%), +13.3 Units TOTAL: 1572-1900 (45.3%), +71.8 Units
Average Home Underdog Line: +129
Average Return on Investment = 2.1%
The divisional home underdog has proven over doubly effective than those on the road in terms of R.O.I., producing about 2.1% over the last 11 seasons, with a net profit of 71.8 units. Again, only four seasons netted a loss during that time span, with 2002 & 2009 again being part of the group. It is interesting to see that divisional home dogs up through the all-star break in 2010 have won 49% of their games, the highest winning percentage since 2000, with a R.O.I. of 8.8%.
Divisional Road Underdogs in MLB by Line Range (2000-2010)
HOME LINE: W-L (PCT), UNITS -300 or higher: 24-66 (26.7%), +5.7 Units -250 to -299: 58-148 (28.2%), -9.6 Units -220 to -249: 143-252 (36.2%), +47.8 Units -190 to -219: 236-410 (36.5%), +25.7 Units -170 to -189: 305-501 (37.8%), +4.4 Units -150 to -169: 529-801 (39.8%), -25.7 Units -130 to -149: 786-973 (44.7%), +29.2 Units -116 to -129: 435-477 (47.7%), +12.5 Units -106 to -115: 428-467 (47.8%), -28.7 Units TOTAL: 2944-4095 (41.8%), +61.3 Units
As you can see, there are some distinct breaks in success rates by divisional road dogs when you consider the line range in which they are playing too. There is a so-called “sweet spot” when the home team is favored in the -190 to -249 range. In these games since 2000, the road divisional dog has only won about 36.4% of its games, but has produced 73.5 units of profit. That equates to a R.O.I. of 7.1%. Now that type of return is something that mutual fund managers would kill for nowadays. If only us bettors had dropped our 401K money into this option rather than on Wall Street!
Divisional Home Underdogs in MLB by Line Range (2000-2010)
HOME LINE: W-L (PCT), UNITS +105 to -104: 440-456 (49.1%), -5.2 Units +106 to +120: 456-480 (48.7%), +40.8 Units +121 to +154: 475-585 (44.8%), +54.7 Units +155 to +199: 167-289 (36.6%), -6.2 Units +200 or higher: 34-90 (27.4%), -12.3 Units TOTAL: 1572-1900 (45.3%), +71.8 Units
The break in line range performance by home divisional dogs is very transparent. Those playing in the +106 to +154 range have been a solid investment over the last decade-plus, going 931-1065 for +95.5 units of profit. Compare that to the home divisional dogs in every other range that have netted -23.7 units of loss. Considering that 1,996 games have produced 4.8% R.O.I. over the 11-year span, bettors have a strategy in front of them that has produced both handsomely and consistently. At an average of 190 games per season, bettors can expect to have an opportunity to take advantage about once a night during the baseball season.
The results of the divisional dogs study are encouraging as it doesn’t take a whole lot of digging to come up with plays that should produce profits over the long haul, assuming of course that proper money management techniques are held to. Of course, this study was conducted using dime lines as the basis, and bettors paying higher vig than that is just cheating themselves. I would have no problem recommending the divisional dog strategy as a basis for beginning your baseball handicapping each day. When you spice in bullpen analysis, systems, and other key strength indicators, you should have all you need to build a nice bankroll each summer.
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