Betting on season-long win totals has long been a favorite of recreational bettors and wise guys. However, their strategies couldn’t be more different. While public bettors are biased toward big-name favorites and love betting on popular teams, sharps search for value and are never afraid to take unpopular positions. Pros are also more disciplined when it comes to win totals. They like to pick their spots and not go crazy wagering on too many teams. The key is having enough liquidity so you don’t burn through your entire bankroll before the season even starts, limiting your opportunities during the regular season.
While NFL win totals generate the most buzz and discussion, win totals are available across a plethora of sports, including baseball. With MLB set to return July 23, bettors still have time to get their wagers in before opening day.
This MLB season is unlike any other. With the season shortened due to the pandemic, all win totals are based on the 60-game schedule, not the typical 162. The Dodgers and Yankees have the highest win totals at 37.5, while the Orioles and Tigers are dead last at 20.5.
To search for sharp win totals, I’ve combined a handful of strategies. First, I look for juice liability across the market. If multiple books are juicing up the same side of a win total, it indicates that respected action has come in and the house has liability. Next, I look for discrepancies between the sportsbooks’ win totals and the win projections at FanGraphs, one of the most respected sites for advanced baseball analytics. Lastly, I take a contrarian approach and look to buy low and sell high. With the variance and unpredictability of a shortened season, I am generally leaning on good teams to go Under and bad teams to go Over. Once I’ve identified a win total with value, the final step is to shop for the best line and place the bet at the book offering the best number.
Here are five MLB win totals offering value. All odds come from BetMGM.
Yankees Under 37.5: This is your top sell-high win total bet. New York went 103-59 last year, its second straight 100-win season. Then the Yanks signed ace Gerrit Cole to a monster deal. The public is biased toward historically successful franchises anyway, but with Cole in the mix, this is an auto-play over for Average Joes. However, pros seem to think New York is a bit overvalued. The Under 37.5 is being juiced up to -125, signaling some sharp action on the Under. Plus, FanGraphs is projecting New York to go 34-26, creating a 3.5-game edge to the Under. Fading the Cole frenzy seems like a smart move, especially with the Bronx Bombers also losing key contributors like Didi Gregorius, Edwin Encarnacion and Luis Severino.
Angels Under 32.5: The Angels are somewhat of a trendy Over pick. They hired a new manager in Joe Maddon, signed one of the biggest free agents in third baseman Anthony Rendon and get two-way star Shohei Ohtani back from injury. The public loves betting on stars. And no player is a bigger star than Mike Trout, the favorite to win AL MVP at + 130. However, the Angels went 72-90 last season, and their 32.5 win total translates to 87.75 wins based on a 162-game schedule. That’s a big leap to overcome. The Under 32.5 is being juiced up to -120, signaling house liability on the Under. FanGraphs has Los Angeles going 30-30 for a 2.5-game Under edge. The Angels play in the tough AL West, and their rotation is paper thin. For these reasons, the Under seems quite appealing.
Tigers Over 20.5: Going contrarian is all about capitalizing on value and getting better numbers. Bet against the public because, more often than not, they lose. Place yourself on the side of the house because the house always wins. But it also means being brave enough to bet on bad teams. Look no further than Detroit. The Tigers were the worst team in MLB last season at 47-114. The public wants nothing to do with them and sees an automatic Under. However, sharps see a deflated line and classic buy-low opportunity. FanGraphs is projecting Detroit to go 24-36, which represents 3.5 games of actionable value to the Over 20.5 win total. Sharps are also banking on some bounce-back after a season in which absolutely nothing went right. It doesn’t hurt that Detroit’s roster improved this offseason by adding veterans C.J. Cron, Jonathan Schoop, Cameron Maybin, Austin Romine and Ivan Nova.
Brewers Over 30.5: The public is down on Milwaukee after losing key free-agent sluggers Mike Moustakas, Yasmani Grandal and Eric Thames. But the Brewers still have one of the game’s best players in Christian Yelich (+ 700 to win NL MVP), an up-and-coming star in Keston Hiura and a solid overall program under manager Craig Counsell. The Brew Crew went 89-73 last season and have averaged 90.33 wins over the last three seasons. Their 30.5 win total translates to 82.35 wins based on 162 games. FanGraphs projected the Brewers at 32-28, providing a 1.5-game Over edge. Milwaukee did a nice job bringing in reinforcements by adding Avisail Garcia, Justin Smoak, Omar Narvaez, Brock Holt and Eric Sogard.
Red Sox Under 31.5: No team has had a more tumultuous and disappointing offseason than Boston. The Red Sox lost manager Alex Cora to suspension and then traded Mookie Betts and David Price to the Dodgers. If that wasn’t bad enough, they will also be without ace Chris Sale, who will miss the entire season with Tommy John surgery. Boston did next to nothing in free agency. The only noteworthy moves were to bring in castoffs Kevin Pillar, Jose Peraza and Martin Perez. The lineup is still fierce with Xander Bogaerts, Rafael Devers and J.D. Martinez, but the rotation looks awful. Ace Eduardo Rodriguez tested positive for coronavirus, and then it’s Nathan Eovaldi, Perez, Ryan Weber and Brian Johnson. The Under 31.5 is juiced up to -125, signaling pro money and Under liability. FanGraphs projects Boston to go 31-29.