(Welcome to the latest edition of a new weekly feature for Fox Valley Magazine, Jeff’s Sports Bets. Local punter Jeff gives his methodology and picks each Friday for NBA and, now, MLB games If you’re unfamiliar with betting, check out the introductory article, where Jeff begins by defining terms and discussing his process. Enjoy!)
Last Friday’s NBA playoff results were exactly the reason why, with limited exception, I avoid betting on the playoffs. So, today we’re going to move on to my favorite betting sport, baseball, and the amazing power of correlated parlays.
But since part of the joy of betting is having to face the music, let’s review last week’s bets.
Hawks 107 vs. Cavaliers (H) 101
As we discussed, the Hawks caught fire at the end of the season and they sent the Cavaliers home by a bit more than the two-point spread. Please note the very low score which is very typical of the play-in tournament games. It’s a win.
Clippers (H) 101 vs. Pelicans 105
The Clippers lost at home in a playoff game to the likes of the Pelicans? Yes they did and we lost the bet.
Mavericks (H) 93 +4.5 vs. Jazz 99
I am equally shocked that the Mav’s gave away home field advantage here. They’ve gone on to win the next two games, but that doesn’t help this bet. And it’s particularly tough when you lose a wager by just one basket.
Grizzlies 130 -7 vs. Timberwolves 117
Memphis restored some semblance of playoff sanity by dispatching the Wolves by far more than the seven-point spread. It’s a win!
Raptors 111 vs. Sixers (H) 131
The Sixers scored 131 points? Yes they did and we lost the bet. Now it looks like Philly will sweep Toronto which is a complete coaching failure on Nick Nurse’s part. You have to prepare your team for Joel Embiid and blaming the refs for those failures ain’t gonna get you anywhere, either. It’s a loss.
Warriors (H) 123 vs. Nuggets 107
The Warriors, are also on the verge of a sweep, are exposing the Nuggets over reliance on NBA MVP candidate Nikola Jokic. And the Warriors are doing it by following the same strategy many teams applied to the early Michael Jordan era Bulls. Let Jokic score while you put the defensive clamps on the rest of the team. So, we won this one.
Celtics (H) 115 vs. Nets 114
You really have to give the fractious Nets credit for hanging tough with what was the NBA’s second-best team. But that one-point win doesn’t cover the four-point spread and we lost.
Bucks (H) 93vs. Bulls 86
Had you told me these two offensively minded teams would score just 179 points I would’ve signed the commitment papers. But that’s exactly what happened and it’s extremely difficult to cover a ten-point spread when you only score 93 points. We’re watching the Bucks completely fall apart to a team they’ve owned for the last two years. This loss is another reason I generally avoid playoff betting.
That’s three wins and five losses. Betting $25 at the typical -110 hold we lost $56.81 last week.
I’ve done much better in the playoffs going forward, but that’s because I’m betting on just one or two games a night. Again, you’re just seeing a snippet of my weekly betting and I haven’t done too well on Fridays. But applying the system to the NBA, NHL, and MLB for the month of April has returned $740.43 on $25 bets which is a lot more fun than losing that amount.
Major League Baseball
Let’s move on to Major League Baseball and correlated same-game parlays where we bet on the winner and whether the total score will be over or under a prescribed number.
“But Jeff! I thought you avoided parlays like the plague?”
I do avoid uncorrelated parlays like the plague! But because baseball is so pitcher dependent, the final score and total number of runs scored are inextricably intertwined. If the Guardians’ Shane Bieber is facing the Yankees’ Gerrit Cole, that’s a great start towards an “under.” Conversely if it’s the White Sox Dallas Keuchel versus the Royals Daniel Lynch, the “over” is the better way to go.
The problem with betting on baseball is it’s not a true “spread” sport. So, if you want to bet straight up on New York versus the Guardians tonight, the moneyline is -190. That means you’d have to bet $190 to make $100. The NFL may love their “on any given Sunday” slogan, but the sport where any team can truly win on any day is clearly baseball.
We could mitigate that steep Yankee price by betting on the “run line” which cedes exactly 1.5 runs to the perceived underdog. That would drop our -190 moneyline to +100 (an even bet) which is a reasonable way to go, but I prefer the power of the same-game correlated parley.
Conversely, you could bet on the underdog run line which ADDS 1.5 runs to Cleveland’s final score. But despite Cleveland just demolishing the White Sox, at a -120 line, I’m not convinced they could stay within one run of Jameson Taillon and the Bronx Bombers.
I can’t remember the last time I bet on the underdog run line.
Ah! But if we bet on the Yankees to win and the run total to come in under nine (the books set the total), the line moves up to +191 which means we’d nearly double our money ($47.84)
if both events pan out. If we’re a bit bolder and bet on the Yankees run line and the same under, the line goes to +281 and we’d nearly triple our investment by making $70.45 on a successful parlay bet.
The long-term math basis of this system is thus. The average return on a $25 correlated same-game parlay is $75. But in order to be successful we have to win both ends of that wager. All things considered equal, if we have a 50 percent chance of winning each “half” of the bet, that translates to a 25 percent shot at winning the whole shebang.
But losing three out of every four wagers would cost us $25 over that same span and our betting bankroll would swiftly go into the red.
So, our target for this style of betting is to apply our statistics to move those odds up to a 33 percent chance of being successful which means we’d win $25 for every three bets we make. And that’s certainly something any bettor can live with.
In the right hands, same-game parlays are so powerful that most sportsbooks have banned them. Draftkings is the most liberal in this regard, but even they just rolled back the potential profit on NHL same-game parlays and Fanduel won’t let you place them on NHL and NCAA basketball and football games.
Now that you’re armed with that basic explanation, let’s make one correlated same-game parlay baseball bet using the 8:40 p.m. Dodger – Padres game with Julio Urias squaring off against Nik Martinez. The books set the over/under for that game at eight runs, and the process always starts with the weather.
1. The weather
No sport is affected by meteorological conditions quite like Major League Baseball, so we have to pay attention to the wind and the temperature for three main reasons:
- If the wind is blowing out at 10 mph or more the total score is more likely to go over.
- If the wind is blowing in at 10 mph or more the total score is more likely to go under.
- If the gametime temperature is 55 degrees or less, the ball won’t fly as far and batters will have a difficult time getting loose. That leads to more unders.
My favorite baseball weather page can be found at Swish Analytics and here’s what they have to say about the Dodgers – Padres matchup:
The temperature won’t have any effect on the game, but double-digit wind blowing in from leftfield certainly will. So, we’re leaning towards the under right off the bat.
2. Recent team batting and bullpen performance
We’ve already established that sports teams are streaky and that’s particularly true of baseball. Thus, before we place any bet we want to head over to Fan Graphs, one of the best baseball stat sites on the web.
Our first step is to determine how well each team is doing at the plate, and I’ve found that the seven-day OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) is the best indicator. But before we get there, we have to set our parameters first:
With those set:
we can see that the Dodgers are eighth in OPS over the last week while the Padres are 13th. It’s not a huge edge, but it’s enough to have me leaning toward LA.
Why team bullpen stats? It’s, by far, the best indicator of whether a team can hold a lead, and teams with great bullpens tend to go under the total. We use a 14-day period for bullpen stats because, unlike batters, pitchers don’t play every day.
Here are those parameters:
Which generates these results:
Using ERA as our main indicator, we can see that the Dodgers’ relievers are doing quite well at 6th in the league with a collective 2.44 ERA. Once again, the Padres aren’t far behind at number 12 with a 2.98 ERA.
This is yet more evidence to bet on LA and we’re really starting to build a case for the under.
3. Recent pitcher performance
ESPN does a great job of posting every MLB pitchers “game log,” and the fastest way to get there is by Googling “Julio Urias ESPN game log.” Clicking on the appropriate result will bring us here:
Now we can see that Mr. Urias had a rough first start, but he more than righted that ship in his second outing.
As for Mr. Martinez:
He went in the opposite direction, and those four walks in his second start don’t bode well for his ERA future.
Now, the Dodgers are starting to look even little better, and though neither hurler has settled into a groove, they haven’t been bad enough to offset those stellar bullpens.
4. Overall pitcher performance
The next stop is Baseball Reference which is one the most incredible websites anyone’s ever developed. Every MLB and MiLB stat you could possibly imagine is available at this site.
From of watching the sport, I already know that Urias is one of baseballs most underrated pitchers with a Hall-of-Fame caliber 3.11 career ERA. I also know that Martinez has not nearly had the same success with a 4.76 lifetime ERA. Worse yet, he just returned from pitching four years in Japan which force him to rely heavily on scouting reports rather than experience.
If you weren’t aware of this information, you can find it all on their respective Baseball Reference pages.
But I’m concerned with just two stats. The first is how each pitcher has fared against the other team over the course of their career and the second is their road versus home performance. To get there please click on the “splits” option on the gray menu bar below Mr. Urias’ career summary, and then on the “career” option below that.
That takes us to this menu:
Click on the “opponents” option second from the bottom to the far right and we can see that
Urias has done quite well against the Padres over the course of his career. Applying the same strategy to Mr. Martinez we quickly discover he has never pitched against the Dodgers.
Let’s had back to our career splits menu at the top of the page (scroll or page up) and this time we’re going to click on the “Home or Away” option at the top of the far-right column. Once there we see that Julio Urias
is equally good at home or away. Meanwhile, Nick Martinez is actually a little worse at home:
You already know that wonderful website from our NBA betting and we’ll apply similar strategies here. Clicking on the tonight’s Dodgers – Padres game from the main menu we get that familiar screen:
Oddsshark is predicting the Dodgers will win, and with the books having set the over/under total at 8 runs, they’re saying the game will go “over.” I don’t place much stock in their early over/under predictions because they almost always go for the over.
But I do want to look at the team “trends” a little lower down the page:
Now, we can see that the Dodger have been racking up the wins, they’ve beaten San Diego in nine straight games, and their total’s are going under 66 percent of the time. If these stats weren’t so clear, I could reference Oddsshark’s “Last 10 Games” section at the lower left of the page to see specific game scores.
As for the Padres:
They’ve gone “under” at a whopping 80 percent rate with the odd exception of their last five games against the Dodgers. While that’s worrisome, it isn’t nearly enough to offset the mountain of evidence for the under on this game.
5. The standings
Our last stop is the ESPN standings where we’ll note that the Dodgers are 8-2 over their last ten games and they do better at home than on the road. The Padres are 6-4 over the same span, they have a similar home/road record, but they’ve also won their last four games.
So, let’s add it all up
- A double-digit wind will be blowing in from left field – under
- The Dodgers are hitting better and their bullpen is pitching better – Dodgers
- Both bullpens are doing very well – under
- The Dodger Urias did better in his last start – Dodgers
- Martinez is worse at home while Urias is good home or away – Dodgers
- Urias historically pitches well against the Padres – Dodgers
- Urias is one of the top MLB pitchers while Martinez just returned from Japan – Dodgers
- Both teams have are consistently going under – under
- The Dodgers have had the Padres number – Dodgers
- The Padres are playing at home – Padres
- The Padres have won four straight – Padres
Of course, our MLB analyses won’t always produce these kinds of lopsided results, and even though there are no guarantees, this bet is obvious.
We’re gonna go with the Dodgers to win and for the score to go under eight runs. Putting $25 on the Draftkings sportsbook produces +221 line which means we’ll win $55.29 if LA wins and the total runs come to seven or less.
If the teams scores exactly eight runs, we’ll win around $25.
But I’d take this one a step further. With the Dodgers prevailing by at least two runs over the course of their last eight wins, I’d bet the -1.5 run line instead of going for the simple win. That produces a +290 line and a $72.61 profit. It’s a little riskier, but the data backs it up.
If the under was less than eight runs, I’d have to think twice about this bet because the Dodgers are the kind of team that could eat a mediocre pitcher like Nick Martinez alive. But he’s pitched just well enough to convince me that this correlated same-game parlay is the best bet.
This seems like a lot of work to make one MLB bet, but it really isn’t. I keep a Google Chrome page up on my PC with each of these sites on a separate tab. That way I can roll through the data in less than five minutes per bet.
Fear not, Dear Reader, we won’t be delving into our analysis to this degree going forward. Much like it was with our NBA bets, I’ll simply and briefly explain the logic for each wager. Again, my goal is to arm you with these betting basics so you can develop the system that best fits your betting style.
It’s always a great day for baseball!