MLB odds: Low scores? Bullpens? Underdogs? What we learned from the first week of baseball betting

·3-min read

We’re dealing with a small sample size analyzing the first week of the Major League Baseball season for trends. But the entire 60-game season is a small sample.

If you’re betting on baseball — it sure beats table tennis and darts, doesn’t it? — then there’s not a lot of time to wait. We’ve gone from a six-month baseball season to about two.

So it doesn’t seem too early to be searching for some clues on the betting front early this season.

Unders are hitting at a huge rate

We can’t blame cold April weather for the lack of offense.

Blindly betting unders has been quite profitable. Through Tuesday’s games, the under hit 37 times to 26 overs and four pushes (results are from Action Network). That’s a 58.7 clip for the under if you take out the pushes. If you can find a trend that hits like that on a regular basis, you will clean up (overs and unders went 7-7 on Wednesday).

There were five teams that were 1-4 on over/unders going into Wednesday’s play (Mets, Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres) and two teams that went under in all four games (Indians, Rangers). Teams scored 4.83 runs per game last season, and that was down to 4.54 through Tuesday. Bats will presumably heat up, but there might be a window to take advantage of the low scores before they do.

And it’s not like you can say the predominance of unders is due to great starting pitching, because most starters aren’t even allowed to go five innings yet.

Don’t forget to handicap bullpens

Only 39 starters thru Tuesday had gone more than five innings, and that’s out of 138 games started. Only two pitchers had gone more than seven innings.

Part of that is pitchers needing to ramp up, of course. But many wondered if managers would treat a 60-game season more like playoffs. We could see fewer bullpen appearances as rosters shrink from 30 to 26 in the next few weeks, but the notion of not having a starter go three times through a lineup isn’t new. The Milwaukee Brewers, Tampa Bay Rays and others were using “openers” before this short season.

Handicapping bullpens is always a big key. It might be more important than ever this season. Teams like the New York Yankees, San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s with good, deep bullpens might present value on certain days. The listed starting pitcher might not pitch much anyway.

Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco is removed from the game by manager Terry Francona, a common sight as starting pitchers are pulled early this season. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland pitcher Carlos Carrasco is removed from the game by manager Terry Francona, a common sight as starting pitchers are pulled early this season. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

This season could be wild

Embracing unpredictability is a trope about 2020 sports that seems to fit.

Home teams were just 40-43 through Wednesday’s games (Toronto was the designated home team for three games at Washington but count that as three road wins), which is of course a small sample but it makes sense that home-field advantage will be diminished without fans. Let’s keep this in mind for NFL season too.

The season started with favorites dominating last Friday, but the weekend saw a lot of unexpected results. Underdogs then had a huge weekend, with some big dogs winning like Orioles (+180), Giants (+300), Royals (+225), Tigers (+225) and Nationals (+185) winning on Saturday and Marlins (+195), Tigers (+170), Orioles (+165), Mariners (+235) and Giants (+260) getting wins on Sunday. That’s a good weekend for underdog bettors.

The Colorado Rockies are the poster child for underdogs this season. The Rockies’ win on Wednesday afternoon as a +125 underdog made them 4-1 for the season and all four wins came as an underdog.

Underdogs win in baseball and a few days isn’t enough to draw any real assumptions. But we’re going to see some strange results due to the short schedule. So far, you’re fine if you planned on the weirdness.

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