We are a full two months and change into the MLB season and the sample size is certainly now large enough to take a look at the results and draw some conclusions. A simple, 10,000 feet view of teams with the most and least value begins with one simple principle – HOW have teams performed relative to preseason expectations. Teams that have outpaced expectations will yield a profit; Houston, Arizona, Colorado, Milwaukee. Teams that have underperformed tend to be costly; Chicago, San Francisco, Cleveland.
But as any good Wall Street disclaimer will eagerly (and fiduciarily) remind us; past performance is no guarantee of future results. And numbers at a first glance might not tell the entire story…
With that in mind, here is a look at the early season returns for some of the best teams in baseball.
BEST VEGAS BETS SO FAR IN 2017:
#1. Houston Astros – Total Return +2015
What can you say about the 2017 Houston Astros?? We knew they could be good and should be no worse than competitive. We didn’t know they’d be 41-16 with a +101 run differential heading into June and with a whopping 13.5 game lead in the American League West. They have been EASILY the best team in baseball and are actually on a pace ahead of last year’s 103 win Cubs. Their pitching has been spectacular, their young lineup has been dominant and they have reeled off ten straight wins. They have an-MLB best +1493 on the road this season and are the best on the runline at +1988.
What their 35-22 runline tells us is that they are winning a lot of games by more than one run (as they are generally the favorite) and that there is still nice Vegas value in their numbers. The caveat with Houston HAS to be an inevitable regression to the mean. They are on a pace to put up win totals that have only been matched a few times in the modern history of baseball, and as the lines adjust, there is a good chance we have missed (or enjoyed, perhaps) the most profitable window of the Houston Astros wagering season.
It also means they will likely be entering the same territory the Cubs entered last year where simply betting them to win might no longer have value, and that muscling up on the runline might be the only way to get them in reasonable spots under -140 to -150 on many nights. And if Kuechel is on the mound? Get ready to see some lines that look like typos. There could be a -400 in the early summer future…
#2. Colorado Rockies – TOTAL RETURN +1518
The Rockies have flirted with competitiveness seemingly every Spring, only to fade back to the pack mightily as their pitching faltered and their annual rash of injuries too hold. This year’s team feels a little different. The pitching staff is solid and the core is younger and healthier. As great a player as Tulo was, watching him go down and the Rockies slump afterwards was pretty brutal to endure every season.
Another interesting fact with Colorado, is that they are NOT relying on Coors to get their results this year. They are just +179 at home and a whopping fat +1339 on the road, making them the best road return in the National League and second only to the Astros overall. They are just 15-13 straight up at home and 21-10 on the road thus far in 2017.
They have been a nice runline wager as well, returning a +803 for bettors. Interestingly, their soliMilwd pitching has been a bigger factor than their stereotypical offense. Keep an eye on some bloated over/under totals, as the Rockies are 26-30 this season on the over/under results.
This is a team that has stalled in recent years in a major way. However, I am not willing to write it off as a simple guaranteed fade this season. It is a different team, constructed way differently and without the massive injury histories that have plagued them for a half decade. They are just 5-5 over their last ten games, but remain the best wager in the National League.
#3. Milwaukee Brewers – TOTAL RETURN +924
The Brewers are an interesting case. They have the second-best money return in the National League, they lead the NL Central one week into June, and yet no one is really considering them as a real playoff threat. Part of that is the relatively poor records of the division overall. Part of it is, well, the Brewers. They have a good lineup, but Eric Thames has cooled off quickly to mere mortal status, Ryan Braun has battled injuries, and their pitching is just OK. Add in the “it’s gonna happen soon” expectations of a Cubs resurgence and the Cardinals perennial viability and everyone is waiting for the Brewers return to the bottom of the standings.
So far, that wait has proven profitable for bettors. One word of caution: despite the second-best return overall in the National League, they have been a LOSING wager at home (-86) and an amazing one on the road (+1010). It’s a weird split, but at the two month-plus mark, one worth observing.
A lot of their profitability has been based on low expectations entering the season. Unlike the Astros and Rockies who have built the bankroll on wins, the Brewers have built it on stacking a lot of plus money winners. They have the worst record straight-up of any positive-money wagering team in 2017, so keep an eye on laying money on longer odds with Milwaukee.
A better bet with the Brew Crew might be cashing in on some OVER plays. They have one of the highest OVER percentages in the NL at 32-23 going OVER.
#4. Arizona Diamondbacks – TOTAL RETURN +895
The D’Backs are another weird wager. Love the Snakes at home, chase them on the road like you found a real snake in your living room. They are a poor -314 on the road, and a Major League Baseball best +1209 at home. That is the widest gulf between home and road in all of baseball, and a stat worth paying attention too.
They have also greatly outperformed expectations this season, but like the Rockies, I am not sure I am ready to automatically fade them quite yet. They had some promise in 2016 before injuries wrecked the season. If they stay healthy and Greinke can be the ace they paid dearly for two seasons ago, the ‘Backs can contend in this upside-down National League West. The Padres are dreadful and the Giants injury woes have flipped this division on its ear.
Arizona is still a great bet. As long as they stay in the desert…
#5. New York Yankees – TOTAL RETURN +782
The Yankees have been one of the best, and one of the most balanced, wagers in baseball so far this season. Aaron Judge’s thunderous bat garners most of the attention, but the Yankees appear to have retooled quietly on the fly and are a solid ballclub in all three key aspects; hitting, pitching, defense.
This young team has been a plus money wager both home and away and have been easily the second-best runline wager in baseball at a gigantic +1860 (trailing only the Astros who are off to a historic start). This means that even as the lines start to catch up with the fact the Yankees are an excellent baseball team, there is still a lot of value in the runline. Their +70 run differential is second only to Houston and indicates they can win plenty of games by more than the allotted one run needed to cover a (usually) plus-money wager.
Again, past performance is no guarantee of future results, but those five teams have been the best VALUES to this point of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. There could be some real value in some downtrodden teams who begin to recover from sluggish starts and injuries, so it will be interesting to revisit how these numbers look around the All Star Break, but for now, those five teams have been the best stocks to ride to fat profits.
Here’s a few other fun facts to digest as you look for a profitable month of June.
FUN WAGERING FACTS:
The Mets, known for their pitching, have been disastrous in that department this season. It is a big reason why they lead MLB by a wide margin with a 34-13 OVER mark. That is over 72% return.
Miami and Atlanta are also yielding OVER’s in the low 60% range
Cleveland leads the league in UNDER’s at 20-32.
Overall, the OVER has been the play in baseball, only SIX teams have more than three more UNDER’s results than OVER’s and 2/3 of the league has gone OVER more often
Cleveland is the 26th best wager overall, but ranks seventh at home, and is plus-money at +38
Extrapolating further, that means ROAD TEAMS have been the far better value in 2017
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