MLB and NBA Update (4/26/11)

By Paul Bessire

Update: Tuesday, April 26 at 12:53 PM ET
In today's/this week's blog, we'll cover MLB and NBA performance as well as discuss the new and updated items that will go out with tomorrow's MLB picks... And no, I don't wait until we have a great baseball day to post a blog entry - I try to check-in with updates early every week, but have been traveling each of the last two Mondays - but it does improve the tone of this blog coming off a day that was a Chris Narveson third inning collapse away from being undefeated.

The rest of the week? Not as great. Actually, the pattern held in that picks were significantly better on the O/U than on the money-lines. Unfortunately, money-line picks overall were pretty brutal - especially earlier last week and outside of picking the Yankees. Whereas defensive miscues and extra-inning games benefited us last night, just about every extra-inning, walk-off and or defensively plagued game broke against us Thursday-Sunday. That, and we thought that the Angels and Indians would be able to put up runs against the Red Sox and Twins respectively.

I'm not deterred (a little frustrated of course, but not deterred). We talked last week about the long-term approach to ML plays, that, not only do they need to be viewed over time, but that they should get better and catch up to the performance of the totals over time as well. We also went 4-2 and +$91 for a $50 player on "normal" or better ML plays. The net run differential for our picks in those six games was +15. The lone losses, both Thursday, were walk-off wins that involved the home teams coming back from ninth-inning deficits to win (including Matt Kemp handing us a crushing money-line and run-line loss with a two-run, extra-innings, walk-off homerun to defeat the Braves 5-3).

As we get further into the season and learn more about who these teams and players are this year, the better we should do. There is a often a natural lull in other sports around the same relative point in the season where everyone is trying to figure out how close preseason expectations were to what these teams truly are. It's art and science at that point. The more experience we have this season and in future seasons, the more that will become science and the better we should do. We obviously always hope this is reflected in the confidence and that what we do a better job of accounting for this than the public/books, but I think it is safe to say that early season variance has played a significant role in our ML performance to-date.

It's impossible to live and die with every game or every day. Hone in on a plan. Stick to it with only minor tweaks. And follow along to see what is working and how the numbers shape up over time. There are many positive things that I see in the numbers - particularly with totals and with "normal+" ML plays - that should remain the norm. Those who went with a strategy of focusing on O/U plays and tempering ML plays, should have done okay (especially if they only played normal+ ML plays). Last week alone, normal+ picks went 8-2 and +$328 for a $50 player (listed pitchers not used in Friday's Cincinnati-St. Louis game so I have removed this and will remove these types of games based on previous recommendations in the blog and from our subscribers). I know that I have consistently stated that it makes sense to play more than just the normal+ plays and I believe that is still a reflection as to the predictive power of our technology as it relates to confidence.

And one last note about weather and lines with baseball. This particularly impacts Wrigley Field. We are as up-to-date on weather forecasts as we can be when we publish the picks. However, it is impossible to react to every variation in forecast (or lineup change for that matter) that may impact line movement. If a line changes dramatically (like +/-1.5+ runs in a short period of time leading up to the game) in a direction that strengthens our pick, please check the weather forecast. This likely means that the wind has shifted in a stadium that is greatly impacted by wind. If that is true, it may make sense to stay away because we cannot always address this in real-time. Another suggestion would be to send in a customer support contact asking us about the line movement. This may alert us if we have missed it so we can update the site and/or you personally. And if we don't respond before game-time (which may happen if it is very soon before the game starts), this is a good sign that we have not factored in the forecast change (or whatever has forced the line to move that much that quickly), which likely means to stay away. I am happy with our response times to questions and alerts and the balance we have found between constantly updating picks and updating when absolutely necessary, but we can't do everything. Sometimes when a significant line change makes one of our picks too good to be true, it just may be. It's always smart to check and be safe.

MLB Performance:
Here are the MLB numbers to-date (all assumed to be based on $50 player and -110 for O/U with no other plays on that day - profit means more than the percentages):

  • Money-line Plays: 53% -$34
  • O/U Plays: 57% +$702
  • Normal+ Plays: 61% +$460
  • All Playable Plays: +$668

MLB Site Updates:
We have several updates rolling out with tomorrow's MLB picks that will make picking, publishing and tracking over/under and run-lines much easier. For the Customizable Predictalator, we will add the ability to include Over, Under, Home and Away odds into the O/U and Run-line picks. In the Game Picks articles, we will be basing our picks, color-coding and sorting off of that same odds information (as opposed to assuming -110), including likely adding a run-line table to this page. In the near future after that, we will also be adding an info box to each game that will display Rotation Number, Time and Starting Pitchers used. We hope these additions aid in both the ease of use and relevancy/accuracy of the information provided on the site. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or other suggestions.

I don't have an official run-line performance update at this point, but I know that, with the down-turn in the money-line performance last week, run-lines (sometimes a way to shelter this hit) also performed poorly. I still believe there can be value in run-lines and look forward to sharing more insight as we make these more accessible (and "official") on the site.

NBA Playoff Performance:

  • ATS Plays: 11-11
  • O/U Plays: 10-13
  • Normal+ Plays: 3-2
  • Top ATS Plays of the Day: 8-3

While we are not necessarily coming off of a bad day in the NBA Playoffs, Gary Neal, Ishmael Smith and Raymond Felton kept us from a huge day with their late scoring (or lack there of in Felton's case). Neal's last-second, otherwise inconsequential alley-oop to Danny Green with the Spurs (Neal and Green play for the San Antonio Spurs) down twenty points turned an UNDER into and OVER after Ish Smith (he plays for the Memphis Grizzlies) hit a runner with about five seconds left in the game. (Felton missed a couple of free-throws that put the game in jeopardy for the Nuggets, let alone a cover - we got the push). I'm not suggesting foul play by any means. I'm always just always fascinated with what possesses some players to go for it in garbage time and not others. My expectation is that, if the Grizzlies were up ten, most of the starters would have still been on the court for both teams and they would have backed off in the final seconds. Instead, the last guys off the bench want to put numbers into a playoff boxscore and, all of the sudden, a lot of money changes hands. Not sour grapes. Not foul play. Just an observation.

Depending on where and when our subscribers got their lines, the numbers above could actually be significantly better. Chicago -4.5 in Game Three of its series with Indiana was -3.5 just about everywhere on gameday (and the Bulls won by four). Denver was -2.5 in some places last night and won by three. New Orleans at +6 at almost every book for Game Four (we published at +5.5) became playable. And, in one of the oddest line movements of the first round, the Knicks moved to -4 (from -2) in some places before Game Three, which turned Boston +4 (a 56.6% play at +2) into a great play - the best of the first round so far. A few over/under plays have been similar. To my knowledge none of those situations has worked the other way - inflating our numbers (meaning the performance above is essentially "worst-case scenario" and that things have gotten much better since a very difficult opening day of the playoffs).

It's still early. The facts that we have hit our top three overall picks and that our Top ATS Plays of the Day (something we have consistently tracked for other sports - so I didn't just make it up now) are doing well are promising. Overall, we are right around .500, which was essentially the case at the same time last year (actually just below .500) before performance improved considerably over the final two rounds.

My favorite current situation in the first round is that either Memphis +350 - our second-best overall series value of the first round outside of Portland +175 - or Spurs in 7 +450 - our best by-game play of the first round and our projected likeliest outcome of that series - is going to win. Playing both of those guarantees a profit. If just about any other two series go to seven games, playing all favorites to win in seven and all underdogs to win their series would have been a profitable approach.

Customer Support Q&A
Question: It seems for the last three days that my NBA package against the spread only has weak plays or no plays at all... hoping this is not normal and more 2x and 3x normal play pop up?

Answer: Interestingly, we have only ever seen 3X plays in football and college basketball. They have not appeared in the NBA or in MLB. I'm not saying that we'll never see one in NBA or MLB, but those markets are both more efficient and less consistent. This may sound backwards, but it's actually easier for us to exploit a market when more attention is being paid to it. Our greatest success and our highest confidence comes in high-profile betting games (March Madness, NFL playoffs, NFL and college football regular season, etc.). The more "squares"/ignorant public that weighs in, the further off the lines typically are.

Question: Would it be possible to create an interactive blog on your site where subscribers could talk with each other in real time? Might be nice to pose questions, share success stories, betting strategies, bankroll input, interesting side/prop bets, good and bad online sports books etc...and just general information about various topics with anyone who has some interesting insights. Could prove to be very productive for all of us! This way we wouldn't have to bug you all the time...

Answer: First of all, while I appreciate the sentiment, you are not bugging me. We like to know what you are thinking so we gain insight into how to improve the site.

We love the idea of community and hope that Facebook and Twitter may be ways to help people in that direction. I also don't mind connecting subscribers to swap stories and theories. That being said, we may not ever have a place on our site for that. While we love Forums and have been a part of companies that have benefited from them, policing them is not something we are interested in doing and our experience has been that - due to the vocal minority found online - more harm than good can often come of them.

Thanks again for the thought. I am glad there is an appetite for this. We'll continue to give thought as to how to better provide that channel for feedback and community.

Question: From a money management perspective, if you are making a moneyline wager on a team to win outright and also making an ATS (or run line, in the case of baseball) wager on that same team, should that be treated as two unrelated bets, each receiving the same bet amount consideration? Or, since they are somewhat related (different outcomes, same event), is there different treatment for them (like treat them as a single bet, dividing the suggested bet amount for one bet between them instead of betting each as its own bet)?

Answer: My general take is that value is value. I don't like forced hedging, but natural hedging is okay. You do get yourself into some situations where you only have a 10-20% chance of winning all picks, yet the overall value is there in each pick.

That's to be expected anyway... Think if you play three picks that are 57% likely. You only have about an 18% chance of hitting all three if they are independent. You may be cutting your chance of success with all three picks by 2-3%, but that is evened out by the natural hedge in likelihood that you win at least one pick.

Where issues can arise is with other exotic plays like alternate run-lines and +/-2.5. Playing O/U, ML and RL on the same game is three different ways of looking at things, meaning the picks are not usually strongly correlated. Playing other run-line plays on that game is not something that I am recommending because it can cost value - especially when books juice exotic plays more because they are not sure how to evaluate them - and because those picks are very closely related to the other RL picks. A loss in one could easily mean a loss in all and that can be very damaging to your bankroll (though if you are evaluating "other plays today" appropriately, you should be ok).

NFL Draft Contest:
And lastly, speaking of Facebook, don't forget about our NFL Draft contest happening on our Facebook page right now. Predict the top ten players drafted in Thursday's first round. The winner(s) wins a $50 credit to the site - plus it's a great way to connect with other fans of this site - who obviously also have an interest in the NFL. Entries will be taken up until 8:00 PM ET on Thursday night.

As usual, if you have any of your own suggestions about how to improve the site, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. We respond to every support contact as quickly as we can (usually within a few hours) and are very amenable to suggestions. I firmly believe that open communication with our customers and user feedback is the best way for us to grow and provide the types of products that will maximize the experience for all. Thank you in advance for your suggestions, comments and questions.