MLB and NBA Update (5/2/11)

By Paul Bessire

Update: Monday, May 2 at 5:41 PM ET
In today's/this week's blog, we'll cover MLB and NBA performance for the last week and some initial observations on run-lines. This will (hopefully) be a little shorter than the normal blogs. New customer support questions and topics have been light, performance has not drastically changed and I have several more theoretical topics that I would like to discuss in future weeks as baseball reaches something resembling "auto-pilot" stage and we can tackle more general/universal sports investing and wagering topics. Unless something major comes up in the next week, consider this a transition from reaction and replies to questions to theory over the next few months. That being said, I will still try to check in at least once a week with updates on performance like this. Please note that we have recently added a Blog Post Alert option to receive an email when new blog posts are added. I may not always blog on the same day or time, so this will help those who want to keep track of performance and my takes on relevant wagering topics. As I mentioned last week though, it is impossible to stay sane living or dying with each pitch of each baseball game, so do not expect too much detailed analysis/complaining about the unlikely unless something very strange happens.

The last week in baseball (and basketball for that matter) provided similar results to the previous couple of weeks. Totals were strong and money-lines were up-and-down (ultimately down just a little bit). Yesterday's top money-line value (New York Mets +165) aside, we have continued to struggle with walk-off and extra-inning games. This has a great deal to do with luck and should even out in the long-run.

However, there may be something to it, since we are generally on away teams in those circumstances. It's not a huge sample size, but 16 of our 22 normal+ money-line plays - including two tonight - have been on road teams. I'm definitely not saying that I think this is wrong. We have diligently researched true homefield advantage, ballpark factors and natural advantages of batting last. The closer the expected outcome, the more advantage goes to the home team when the game is played once as opposed to 50,000 times and that has dampened performance to-date (only a month of the season - and the losses definitely seem more frequent and painful in those situations than actually have been so far). We will continue to dig and monitor to see if any modifications are necessary (my best guess is that no further changes will be necessary and that we'll see those outcomes and our picks even out).

The broader reason why I bring this up is to note that, in these situations, the last week, we have often been saved by the run-lines. For instance, on Saturday, eight games were won by one run or less and six games were won in the ninth inning or later. The playable money-line picks were 2-5 and -$83 (normal $50 bettor) in the games that fit into one or both of those categories. Playable run-line picks in those games were 6-2 and +$112 (normal $50 bettor). It's not an intentional hedge (I don't believe in hedging intentionally without arbitrage; value is value), but, especially because we are far more often picking money-line underdogs on the run-line because our numbers suggest they are typically under-priced, run-line plays provide a great way to safe-guard against unlucky money-line days.

And in actuality, as many of you have already noted, there is more value on the run-lines in general (there are usually less playable plays because the juice is typically greater, but the top plays have been stronger on the RL than ML). Bettors don't like to lay big odds on teams to win or lose by one run when they don't expect the team to win at all. Baseball wagering is all about value. Most bettors take that to mean low-risk, high-reward: making smaller plays on the best +XXX picks, reaping benefits of wins and discounting losses as likely anyway. While that is certainly part of it, particularly on run-lines, evaluating (and exploiting) under-valued favorites (-XXX plays) is just as important.

Tying together the last few paragraphs, away money-line underdogs have an inherent advantage on the run-line. At +1.5, if the home team is expected to win, it is expected to be ahead going into the ninth inning. If it is, the road team gets an extra at-bat. If the game is tied or the road team is winning after the top of the ninth, the home team can only cover -1.5 with a homerun. Needless to say, the Predictalator has picked up on this. More than 60% of the games for which we have recommended playing more than half a normal play on the run-line have been road money-line underdogs. Those plays have won more than 70% of the time. Even laying odds in the -150 to -220 range, 70% accuracy should be very profitable.

Now that we are publishing run-lines, I will be tracking them. This has proved very interesting so far. One would expect the top money-line plays to be our top run-line plays, yet this is not always the case. Also, not only are many of our money-line picks unplayable on the run-line (and vice versa), we often get situations where we are recommending playing the opposite side of the game on the run-line than on the money-line. This is acceptable. I think they need to be viewed and played independently (some will prefer to play one and not the other or only play either in certain circumstances - which is fine). As I just stated (parenthetically - see what I did there), value is value.

And one last note about weather and lines with baseball (that I tacked on to last week's blog after it was published): 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.

Anyway, I have rambled enough about picks for today. We'll have a couple more baseball pick modifications coming - all for aesthetics and information, not to the engine. Expect starting pitchers soon. And please do not hesitate to contact us with feedback to help us improve your experience with the site.

MLB Performance:
Here are the MLB numbers to-date (all assumed to be based on $50 player; now taking into account the odds for O/U and adding in run-lines):

  • Money-line Plays: 53% -$102
  • O/U Plays: 58% +$927
  • Normal+ Plays: 60% +$329
  • Run-line Plays: 54% +$35 (**Just five days of games - see notes above**)
  • All Playable Plays: +$858


NBA Playoff Performance:

  • ATS Plays: 17-16
  • O/U Plays: 12-17
  • Normal+ Plays: 4-3
  • Top ATS Plays of the Day: 10-6


As is normally the case, value dissipates as series continue. We saw very little value in any picks from the remaining first round series after last week's blog. However, we had stronger opinions (57.2% and 55.6%) on both sides in yesterday's second round opening games and won both pretty easily.

Also, now that one round is complete, we can look back on in-game series and answer a common question without giving too much away. My response to a customer support question regarding the fact that our pick lessened from one game to the next despite the fact that we won the first pick easily, no one got hurt and the next game was being played in the same venue... "The best explanation for this is the same reason that the line has moved in that direction - there is proof that, especially in this round of the playoffs or beyond, if an underdog won the first game on the road, the home favorite often exceeds original expectations in the second. I don't like to get caught up too much into 'why,' because it confounds me as an analyst and a fan to think that both teams can play significantly different in the next game, but it happens. Not only does it happen, often the greater the degree of the win/loss in the first game, the greater the difference in play by both teams for the second game. Going into last playoff season, I never thought to look into in-series game-to-game line fluctuation and it cost us. This season, we have better accounted for this in the numbers by adding in historical research from this phenomenon (similar to how you have seen and noted the differences in pace from game-to-game). In this case, it's not changing the pick, but it is changing our confidence in it.

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.