Analyze This: Betting on the Bad
By Bovada Sportsbook Staff | September 7, 2012
Can you bet against one or two teams and turn a profit? MLB bettors put the theory to the test.
It’s been an interesting season for MLB bettors. The American League had all the handle early, as big hitting squads like the New York Yankees and Texas Rangers were getting all the play (apparently bettors dig the long ball too). Then bettors shifted to simply cherry picking the league’s best team from the AL or NL. But as the season progressed, and no team truly separated itself as a consistent winner, it appears bettors have decided they’ll trust the bad ones to lose.
The Houston Astros (42-95) and Chicago Cubs (51-86) both sit at the bottom of the NL Central, and with the NL West leading San Francisco Giants facing both on one road trip they weren’t going to pass up a chance at putting together a win streak into September.
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The Astros came first on Aug. 28. Ninety-seven percent bet against them on the -130 runline and 96 percent on the -210 moneyline. Houston is so bad they are considering dusting off Roger Clemens, so a chance to bet against them when they’re facing Giants’ Matt Cain (13-5, 2.98 ERA) seemed like a steal.
Last season the Giants struggled to score (the Giants rank 15th in runs scored per game), which allowed the Astros to hang around despite a two-run, 7.1-inning performance from Cain. It took pinch hitters Joaquin Arias and Hector Sanchez to squeak out a 3-2 win in the ninth, leaving runline bettors behind.
Feeling the sting from a “sure thing,” players weren’t as enthusiastic in Game 2 and 3 of the series — neither game cracked our top five wagers. Unfortunately, San Fran found its bats and beat Houston 6-4 and 8-4 respectively.
Instead they waited until Aug. 31st for San Fran to visit the Cubs. Chicago is the second-worst team in baseball, and came into the contest losers in seven of its last 10. Even worse, Chris Volstad (2-10, 6.23) was on the mound for Chicago. Eighty-nine percent took San Fran on the -130 runline and another 90 gladly putdown on the moneyline. But again, the Giants bats fell asleep.
Voldstad shockingly gave up just two earned runs and five hits over 5.2 innings. Meanwhile Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner and reliever George Kontos gave up five runs in six innings of work. 6-4 Cubs was the final, a result that was probably as shocking to the Cubs as it was for the book and for bettors.
Despite the runline/moneyline loss there was no reluctance on Sept. 1. The favorable odds probably helped, we offered the Giants runline at +115, 94 percent weren’t going to pass that up even with slumping Tim Lincecum (8-14, 5.21 ERA) on the mound for the Giants. Eighty-six percent took the equally solid -143 moneyline.
Luckily, it was proven once again that a bad team can’t be good for two-straight games. San Fran jumped on Justin Germano (2-5, 5.52 ERA) quickly with four runs in the first, while Lincecum finally looked like the Cy Young winner from 2008 and 2009. 5-2 was the final, Ws all around for players.
Can you bet on the bad? The Astros and Cubs’ overall record says it could be a profitable strategy. But if you are going that route, then don’t jump ship as soon as a bottom feeder shows spark; both teams have proven they do occasionally win, but in between a string of bad losses.
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