CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Thursda... (11/29)
<< Previous Column
Skewed Left: Year of t... (11/27)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Could We ... (12/04)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Overthinking It: How W... (11/29)

November 29, 2012

Skewed Left

Whom You Should Bet On if You're Going to Bet on Baseball (Which You Should Never, Ever Do)

by Zachary Levine

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

A list of people who should never bet on baseball in descending order of importance that they never bet on baseball:

1. Allan H. (Bud) Selig
2. Professional baseball players
3. People who work in college athletic departments (This is actually true, they can't bet on any level of a sport in which the NCAA has a championship, so they can bet boxing but not the World Series or even fantasy football)
4. People who don't have any money
5. Baseball writers who make terrible predictions every year
6. You

You should never bet on baseball. But if you are going to bet on baseball, a futures bet on baseball is about the worst bet in the world. The only problem is that right now, it’s the only baseball betting available, so if you need to get your fix, the numbers tell us a little bit about where to go and what neighborhoods of the futures betting board to avoid like poison.

For those lucky enough to be uninitiated, the futures bet falls outside the category of just one game, like “give me 20 on the Red Sox tonight.” It’s who will win the World Baseball Classic (the Dominican Republic is favored at 2-1, followed by Japan and the United States at 5-2). Or the biggest baseball bet going right now: who will win the 2013 World Series. The Tigers and Nationals are co-favorites right now at 17-2, and while odds fluctuate unlike in a pari-mutuel system like a horse race, once you bet in a futures pool, you’re locked in. So when the Blue Jays annexed the Marlins and went from 35-1 in the initial wagering to an 11-1 co-third choice as of Tuesday at Bovada.lv, your payoff if they win depends totally on when you jumped on that train.

As for the 2013 World Series winner, you have no idea, which is only part of what makes this a terrible play. It’s also one of the worst house edges you could possibly find. The house typically takes 4.5 percent of a standard team vs. team bet, meaning if you bet $100 on a game that’s deemed evenly matched, you won’t win $100. You have to bet $110 to win $100. A horse race, at least on the big-league tracks of New York, has a 16 percent takeout.

 

The MLB futures wager has a house edge of between 23 and 24 percent in the leading online case. Basically, there will be only one outcome, and the house doesn’t want to take a bath on any of them. A team like the Blue Jays, now at 11-1, would have a 1/12 chance to win the World Series (at least in the house’s view of the public’s view) under a completely fair system. Add up all of these numbers under a fair system and you get not a 100 percent chance but a 131 percent chance, and 1-(100/131) = .765, meaning only 76.5 percent of the money is returned.

In one way, the 2013 World Series futures market is immensely intriguing, with no team shorter than 8-1. You win, you’re going to get paid. Just three years ago, by contrast, the defending champion Yankees opened shorter than 3-1. This year the defending champs are 12-1, in a large pack of co-fifth choices.

However, the problem is that this would be a lot of fun if you were betting on who would win Major League Baseball’s President’s Trophy, which Brent S. Gambill in his Baseball Proguestus piece suggested adding for the team with the best record. But then your team has to win three near-toss-up playoff series.

So what would I do? Bet on who’s going to get in, and in this way, taking any AL East team under the current odds seems like the worst of the worst of this bet.

Instead of listing the odds as they are usually displayed, from top to Astros, here they are broken down by division, converted to a perceived chance of winning, which is (1/1+odds) divided by the ~1.31 house edge adjustment.

American League East

American League Central

American League West

Team

Odds

Chance

Team

Odds

Chance

Team

Odds

Chance

NYY

11-1

6.4%

DET

8.5-1

8.1%

LAA

12-1

5.9%

TOR

11-1

6.4%

CWS

30-1

2.5%

TEX

12-1

5.9%

TB

25-1

2.9%

CLE

75-1

1.0%

OAK

18-1

4.0%

BOS

30-1

2.5%

KC

100-1

0.8%

SEA

66-1

1.1%

BAL

33-1

2.3%

MIN

100-1

0.8%

HOU

200-1

0.4%

Division

 

20.4%

Division

 

13.0%

Division

 

17.3%

 

National League East

National League Central              

National League West

Team

Odds

Chance

Team

Odds

Chance

Team

Odds

Chance

WAS

8.5-1

8.1%

CIN

12-1

5.9%

LAD

12-1

5.9%

ATL

16-1

4.5%

STL

20-1

3.6%

SFO

12-1

5.9%

PHL

16-1

4.5%

MIL

28-1

2.6%

ARZ

40-1

1.9%

NYM

66-1

1.1%

PIT

45-1

1.7%

SD

75-1

1.0%

MIA

100-1

0.8%

CHC

75-1

1.0%

COL

100-1

0.8%

Division

 

19.0%

Division

 

14.8%

Division

 

15.4%

The odds show these to be the division’s perceived chances of winning according to the oddsmakers. Meaning if you like a certain division’s chances better than the following figures, that division might be where you lean, keeping in mind that the divisions’ odds of winning may be closer than you think to even 16.7 percent across the board.

AL East: 20.4%
NL East: 19.0%
AL West: 17.3%
NL West: 15.4%
NL Central: 14.8%
AL Central: 13.0%

I love the AL Central and detest the AL East, which may see trouble even finding a second team. Bet an AL East team and you have little margin for error in your schedule, lots of competition even to get there, and really not much of an advantage if they do.

This is why the Tigers were my pick last year, and while they didn’t win, I was still fairly proud of it. (Try telling that in a casino.) If your chances of winning the World Series are your chances of getting to the playoffs times chances of winning given a playoff appearance, I tend to treat the second number as very close to a constant, though wild cards have to be treated differently now.

Other things to keep in mind:

Not to pick even more on the Astros, but the AL West should get a big boost in its chances of getting two teams or maybe even three from the arrival of Houston, which is not operating with 2013 in mind. Similarly, if you bet on an NL Central team, you face a more difficult road to the wild card now.

Try to predict moves that may jolt the odds. I anticipate the Royals could shorten in price just based on reports of their hotstovery. I think the Dodgers, who have on speculation alone (or maybe Brandon League) gone from 18-1 to 12-1, may end up being the favorite, which means if you’re going to bet on them, now seems like the time that you should.

But really, you shouldn’t.

Zachary Levine is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Zachary's other articles. You can contact Zachary by clicking here

Related Content:  World Series,  Playoffs,  Betting,  Prediction

5 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Greg Ioannou

This way of looking at it sure makes Detroit jump out as the team to bet on, doesn't it? One strong team in a division where the other teams are all long-shots. But is the division really that predictable?

The Vegas odds are a reflection of gamblers' evaluations of the teams chances of winning, which isn't a very objective measure. Would be fun to then compare this to, say, Pecota's projected team WAR or some other relatively objective measure of each team's chance of winning.

Nov 29, 2012 06:35 AM
rating: 2
 
jrmayne

I bet on the futures every year in Vegas. This year, I bet on the White Sox to win the AL Central at 15-1 (OK, and the Mets at 50-1); ah, well.

I don't bet online because I think it's illegal. But the idea that the line is unbeatable strikes me as mistaken.

The comparison of odds on a multi-pick to a single game seems unfair to the linemakers. If you make one significant mistake as a linemaker on one of those teams, you might get killed and eaten. While that overall vigorish looks daunting, the vig on any single team isn't.

And I'm convinced the futures lines are beatable. (On the above lines, I like TB, Detroit, KC, Seattle, and Colorado.) The Venetian's book will have lines on the divisional races and a lightly lower vig. Shopping lines is a good idea. Plus, it's fun.

I mean, unless you missed betting in 2008 because a trial went long and you wanted to bet on the Rays to win the AL at 45-1. If you did that you might be bitter and mocked for years by your friends, who are all terrible people who should be eaten by landsharks. Theoretically.

Nov 29, 2012 07:17 AM
rating: 3
 
tbwhite
(361)

Futures betting would be a lot more fun if it were more liquid. People who bet on the Blue Jays at 35-1 have to be petty happy right now, except that they have no mechanism(at least that I'm aware of) to take the money and run. There must be some payoff(I'll just make up a number 3-1) that would reduce the sports books potential liability and yet be enticing enough for some people to cash their tickets out now. For example, I bet $100 on the Jays at 35-1, they are now 11-1, that's great but the chances of me collecting are still pretty small, so maybe I would be happy to cash my ticket now for a guaranteed $300 profit. Meanwhile the sports book has reduced their exposure by $3,500. Since they are are now saying the Jays have about a 9% chance of winning the expected value of a 35-1 ticket would be about 3-1. It seems like the sports book could reduce volatility in their overall payout, but more importantly it would probably lead to more wagering which would mean more profits.

Nov 29, 2012 09:06 AM
rating: 1
 
grandslam28

I like betting team over/under s the best. Think there is a lot of edge if you find the right teams & dont bet every team.

Nov 29, 2012 11:14 AM
rating: 2
 
Richard Bergstrom

Never thought I'd say this, but those Pirates odds for the World Series look nice. I don't think they're as far from the Brewers as the odds suggest. The Royals would be worth a flier too.

Nov 30, 2012 01:49 AM
rating: 0
 
You must be a Premium subscriber to post a comment.
Not a subscriber? Sign up today!
<< Previous Article
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Thursda... (11/29)
<< Previous Column
Skewed Left: Year of t... (11/27)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Skewed Left: Could We ... (12/04)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Overthinking It: How W... (11/29)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, April 24
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Carlos Rodon and the White Sox...
Eyewitness Accounts: April 24, 2015
Premium Article Rubbing Mud: Of Signals and Sausages
Raising Aces: Debut Ante: Raisel Iglesias
Painting the Black: No D In Desmond?
BP Bronx

MORE FROM NOVEMBER 29, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart: Boston Red ...
Premium Article Overthinking It: How Will Josh Hamilton Age?
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: Thursday, November 29
Premium Article In A Pickle: The Men Who Stare at Relievers
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Upton Goes to A-Town

MORE BY ZACHARY LEVINE
2012-12-06 - Skewed Left: How the Teams That Did Nothing ...
2012-12-05 - BP Unfiltered: Rockies Must Regain Home Edge...
2012-12-04 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Could We See a Blank Hall of Fa...
2012-11-29 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Whom You Should Bet On if You'r...
2012-11-27 - Skewed Left: Year of the Right-Handed Hitter
2012-08-21 - Baseball ProGUESTus: Baseball and Base 3
More...

MORE SKEWED LEFT
2012-12-12 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Giancarlo Stanton and Being Alo...
2012-12-06 - Skewed Left: How the Teams That Did Nothing ...
2012-12-04 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Could We See a Blank Hall of Fa...
2012-11-29 - Premium Article Skewed Left: Whom You Should Bet On if You'r...
2012-11-27 - Skewed Left: Year of the Right-Handed Hitter
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-11-12 - The Lineup Card: Nine Teams Whose 2015 Odds ...
2014-03-27 - Premium Article Skewed Left: PECOTA vs. Vegas
2013-03-28 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Future Cost of Present Impr...
2013-03-07 - Skewed Left: PECOTA vs. Vegas
2013-02-05 - Premium Article Skewed Left: The Best Ways to Bet at the Bal...
2012-12-04 - Premium Article Western Front: Thou Shalt Not Run on Johnny ...