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One year later, I couldn’t bring myself to take PECOTA back to Las Vegas with me. It wasn’t that we did badly last year. We did OK. We nailed a couple of the big unders, betting on the White Sox and Phillies not reaching their above-.500 Over/Under figures in what would turn out to be terrible seasons. We lost on some others, as PECOTA was too high on the beat-up Yankees, too low on the Orioles (like the rest of us) and missed the Braves party completely. We also collected on the Dodgers winning the NL West, which they did easily after a slow start.

So we’re still solvent; it’s just that I can’t take PECOTA back to Las Vegas with me. I can’t really explain why, but it was something in between the Riviera and the Rhino, and while the details are sort of fuzzy, when we got the request to revive PECOTA’s best gambling bets, I thought it was best to do it from the comforts of home through the magic of offshore wagering.

I thought we might have missed our chance because of the lowercase “o” opening day overseas, but Bovada, one of the leading online wagering sites, simply updated the Dodgers and Diamondbacks numbers and let the games go on. And speaking of the Dodgers, they’re one of the teams that PECOTA is the most extreme on—and in the positive direction, despite having the highest number on the Bovada board.

Already off to a 2-0 start, they get PECOTA’s vote as the strongest bet on the over, given the output of our simulation system.

As for the strong under play, it’s once again going to be Atlanta. Fool me once, shame on the Nationals for underachieving in 2013. But with an over-under of 87.5 even after the injuries have taken their toll and a .500 PECOTA projection, it’s the easiest Under play on the board.

You have to take slightly skewed odds on these (-125) in the direction we’re betting them vs. (-105) the other way, but these are the ones with the best chance of hitting.

Team

O/U

PECOTA

Diff.

Dodgers

93

99

6

Cubs

69.5

73

3.5

Houston

62.5

66

3.5

San Diego

78.5

82

3.5

Tampa Bay

88.5

91

2.5

Angels

86.5

88

1.5

Minnesota

70.5

72

1.5

Mets

73.5

75

1.5

Toronto

80.5

82

1.5

Boston

87.5

88

0.5

Colorado

76.5

77

0.5

Milwaukee

79.5

80

0.5

Philadelphia

76.5

77

0.5

San Francisco

86.5

87

0.5

White Sox

75.5

75

-0.5

Miami

69.5

69

-0.5

Seattle

81.5

81

-0.5

Washington

89.5

89

-0.5

Arizona

80

78

-2

Baltimore

80.5

78

-2.5

Cincinnati

83.5

81

-2.5

Cleveland

80.5

78

-2.5

Oakland

87.5

85

-2.5

St. Louis

90.5

88

-2.5

Detroit

89.5

86

-3.5

Yankees

86.5

83

-3.5

Texas

86.5

83

-3.5

Kansas City

82.5

78

-4.5

Pittsburgh

83.5

79

-4.5

Atlanta

87.5

81

-6.5

The Yankees under never seems like a bad choice given that their number is almost always inflated and that they’re coming off a sub-.500 Pythagorean record, and KC and Pittsburgh look like classic cases of the public opinion matching last year and the projections showing a little bit of the Plexiglas principle of first-time improvers bouncing backward.

Want to get a little more adventurous on the lines? There are always the division bets. One of my first articles at BP was on why you should never get involved in baseball futures wagering due to the extreme house edges, but as you’ll see, there are some plays that PECOTA’s projections find worthwhile even after acknowledging the house edge.

For these, we turn to the Playoff Odds Report, an output of 50,000 season simulations. And despite the compelling narratives that Sam Miller ascribed to those simulated seasons in which the Astros make the playoffs, they will not be one of the choices.

These charts are fairly simple. The odds are in the traditional system, where a +250 means you have to wager $100 to win $250 (collect $350) and a -170 means you have to wager $170 to win $100 (collect 270). Then the house edge is taken out to get a fair percentage—the percentage of the time the team would be expected to win if these odds were a reflection of reality (and not perception, which in some ways they are). But you are gambling against a house edge, so the third number is how high your confidence (in this case PECOTA’s percentage) needs to be to make the bet a positive play. These will add up to more than 100 percent, because the house edge means far fewer than half the teams will be good bets.

American League East

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

Boston

+220

26.7%

31.3%

30.7%

Tampa Bay

+220

26.7%

31.3%

39.2%

Yankees

+240

25.2%

29.4%

14.5%

Baltimore

+700

10.7%

12.5%

5.4%

Toronto

+700

10.7%

12.5%

10.1%

American League Central

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

Detroit

-225

60.6%

69.2%

59.2%

Kansas City

+450

15.9%

18.2%

13.0%

Cleveland

+550

13.5%

15.4%

14.9%

White Sox

+1200

6.7%

7.7%

8.9%

Minnesota

+2500

3.4%

3.8%

4.0%

American League West

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

Texas

+175

31.6%

36.4%

22.4%

Oakland

+200

29.0%

33.3%

31.2%

Angels

+225

26.8%

30.8%

33.2%

Seattle

+700

10.9%

12.5%

12.8%

Houston

+5000

1.7%

2.0%

0.4%

National League East

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

Washington

-140

50.2%

58.3%

54.5%

Atlanta

+150

34.4%

40.0%

28.0%

Philadelphia

+1000

7.8%

9.1%

9.3%

Mets

+1600

5.1%

5.9%

6.0%

Miami

+3300

2.5%

2.9%

2.2%

National League Central

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

St. Louis

-150

52.0%

60.0%

45.0%

Cincinnati

+350

19.3%

22.2%

22.7%

Pittsburgh

+375

18.3%

21.1%

11.3%

Milwaukee

+1000

7.9%

9.1%

17.2%

Cubs

+3300

2.6%

2.9%

3.8%

National League West

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

Dodgers

-200

57.3%

66.7%

73.9%

San Francisco

+350

19.1%

22.2%

14.7%

Arizona

+700

10.7%

12.5%

4.5%

San Diego

+1000

7.8%

9.1%

4.7%

Colorado

+1600

5.1%

5.9%

2.1%

Notice how the house edge kills a lot of the choices? There are still some good ones. Plenty of value exists in the tight American League East, and the Rays are our choice there. PECOTA is also high on the Angels despite recent failures and uncertainty in the back of their rotation, and their standing as a third choice to the banged-up Rangers suits them well. And the Dodgers are strong even at 1-2 odds.

If you’re looking for a longshot, the White Sox at 12-1 and the Brewers at 10-1 are PECOTA’s picks for dangerous teams at the bottom of their divisions, and the Cubs are a little strong at 33-1 if you want to live really dangerously.

Last year, we stayed away completely from World Series odds because the game is stacked even more against you, but at your own risk, here’s the whole chart as of Wednesday afternoon based on the 50,000 simulations.

Team

Odds

Fair %

Needed %

PECOTA

Dodgers

13-2

10.1%

13.3%

17.9%

St. Louis

15-2

8.9%

11.8%

5.5%

Detroit

9-1

7.6%

10.0%

10.7%

Washington

10-1

6.9%

9.1%

7.3%

Boston

12-1

5.8%

7.7%

6.5%

Tampa Bay

12-1

5.8%

7.7%

8.5%

Yankees

14-1

5.1%

6.7%

2.5%

Atlanta

16-1

4.5%

5.9%

3.3%

San Francisco

16-1

4.5%

5.9%

3.2%

Texas

16-1

4.5%

5.9%

4.1%

Angels

20-1

3.6%

4.8%

6.9%

Oakland

20-1

3.6%

4.8%

6.4%

Cincinnati

25-1

2.9%

3.8%

2.4%

Toronto

25-1

2.9%

3.8%

1.6%

Pittsburgh

28-1

2.6%

3.4%

0.9%

Baltimore

33-1

2.2%

2.9%

0.8%

Kansas City

33-1

2.2%

2.9%

1.5%

Philadelphia

33-1

2.2%

2.9%

0.7%

Seattle

33-1

2.2%

2.9%

2.2%

Cleveland

40-1

1.8%

2.4%

1.7%

Arizona

50-1

1.5%

2.0%

0.9%

San Diego

50-1

1.5%

2.0%

0.9%

White Sox

66-1

1.1%

1.5%

0.9%

Milwaukee

66-1

1.1%

1.5%

1.6%

Cubs

75-1

1.0%

1.3%

0.2%

Colorado

75-1

1.0%

1.3%

0.4%

Mets

75-1

1.0%

1.3%

0.4%

Miami

100-1

0.8%

1.0%

0.1%

Minnesota

100-1

0.8%

1.0%

0.3%

Houston

250-1

0.3%

0.4%

0.0%

Good luck, and remember, don’t bet on baseball.

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dcj207
3/27
PECOTA seems perennially sour on the O's. At the risk of flying right in the face of your "don't bet on baseball" admonition, I'll offer the bet: I'll take the OVER on Vegas' 80.5 line (presume you have faith in PECOTA and would take the UNDER). I'll put One American Dollar on it if you want it to be symbolic, or alternately, any amount up to a hundred to the charity of the winner's choice. BP obviously has my contact info if you were interested and wanted to follow up outside the message board. In Buck I Trust.
delatopia
3/27
I was in Vegas last week for March Madness and looked at the season MLB over-unders at Paris' sports-book. There was an interesting odds shift with the Nats, whose total was 89 but whose odds on the over went from -125 to -150 in a week (the latter being wager $150, win $100, collect $250). I thought that was a bit of an overadjustment at first, but the odds shift means the Nats went from a 55.6% break-even percentage at -125 to 60% at -150. Take two solid starters out of the rotation of your main rival with Beachy and Medlen going under the knife and that seems like a reasonable shift. The heaviest favorite on the board that I can recall was the Phillies to finish under 77 wins, but you had to lay -165 to do so. That's a 62.2 break-even percentage. The Orioles were also a sizable favorite (maybe -140) to go over 80, post-Cruz and Jimenez. Incidentally, pushes lose (meaning essentially that for the Nats' 89, you had to bet over 89.5 or under 88.5, though you could bet the push, which seems like a really atupid bet at about 5 to 1) and teams have to play all 162 games -- one rainout not made up by a bad team and your bet is off.
delatopia
3/27
"Incidentally, pushes lose (meaning essentially that for the Nats' 89, you had to bet over 89.5 or under 88.5, though you could bet the push, which seems like a really atupid bet at about 5 to 1) and teams have to play all 162 games -- one rainout not made up by a bad team and your bet is off." Of course, by that last clause I mean that a team you bet on has to play all 162 games, not that the entire board is wiped out if every team doesn't play every game.
jrmayne
3/27
What book is that at? I've never seen a requirement that teams play all 162. I saw some really sweet lines at one book that had the pushes at 3-1 but +105 for the over/unders (pushes losing). There were some tempting lines there. Anyway, I bet: Indians to make the playoffs at +350 Indians to win the WS at 45-1 Mets to win the division at 28-1 Mariners to win the division at 12-1 Blue Jays to win the division at 13-1 Trumbo to hit most homers at 25-1 Rizzo to hit most homers at 100-1 Bet I would have made if it were easier to collect smaller wins or if I had enough disposable income to make a very large bet: NYM + 13 1/2 wins over NYY at +105. The Astros opened up at the Atlantis with an over/under of 57 1/2, IIRC. Also, bet on baseball. There is still profit to be made, despite the fact that the books and the big money have gotten smarter.
delatopia
3/27
Paris, as mentioned in the first sentence. It was mentioned in the type at the bottom of the page.
faztradamus
3/28
What casino/book were you able to make those bets. I've only ever seen lines for Win WS or Win Pennant when I decide to go lose money.
jrmayne
3/29
AJ: There are a bunch of different books: 1. Caesar's Entertainment books. They are at lots of hotels. 2. Venetian/Palazzo (run by Cantor). Terrific books, non-awful vigs. They were where I got my Indians in playoffs bet. 3. MGM Resorts. 4. LVH (formerly Las Vegas Hilton, now Las Vegas Hotel.) Off-strip, but accessible by monorail. Tons of betting options. 5. Riviera (run by William Hill.) Substantial vigs, but tons of prop bets available. I think I'm missing one. Look for the betting sheets; lots of bets available that are not available on the big board. (Finally, I have the Caesar's sheet here; teams must play 160 games for over/under action there, not 162. But, the over-unders are +120 each, with a push at +300. That's a very light vig, *and* the +300 bet strikes me as fabulously overoptimistic; very tempting option.) --JRM
jrmayne
3/29
Oh, and if you want to bet, shop the books. You'd think the lines would run even or evenish - and that equalizing force does exist - but the Mets and Mariners lines were much better at the spots I bet them. Other tip: As the article notes, it's all about the odds. Have an idea of what odds you will take on your preferred bets walking in; this prevents anchoring issues. ("Hey, look, the Astros are 20-1 at Book A, but 40-1 at Book B! I should bet on them at Book B!")
adamst
3/31
Wynn/Encore has their own book as well and had some good lines. The +300 to push is a horrible sucker bet. Hitting an exact number of wins is about 6% or 15:1. Those bets should pay +1000 -- they'd get some action and still be profitable for the casino. The printed lines aren't worth much unless you can get the book to run the current odds from their system. Put a good bet and +105 and enough people jump on it that it's -120 in a couple days.
eas9898
3/27
Great article! Thanks.
misterjohnny
3/27
Would party with PECOTA at the Rhino. Would it consider Glitter Gulch replacement level?