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Focus turns back to second half of MLB season

By Jeff Fogle  ( 

© USA Today Images

Sano…Cano…AL Ganado! RBI hits by Miguel Sano and Robinson Cano lead the American League to victory in the 2017 All-Star Game. That plus an “arbitrage” seminar for baseball bettors in search of dinero.

All-Star Game: American League wins FIFTH straight, and 17th of last 21 with 2-1 victory

After all the juiced balls were used up in Monday’s Home Run Derby, Major League Baseball apparently used leftovers from 1909 for Tuesday’s low-scoring yawner. The American League beat the National League 2-1 in 10 innings. (Downtrodden Chicago fans knew what was coming when a Cubs pitcher took the mound in the top of the 10th.) 

American League 2, National League 1

Top fifth: Miguel Sano RBI single makes it 1-0 for the AL

Bottom sixth: Yadier Molina HR ties the game at 1-1

Top 10th: Robinson Cano HR puts the AL on top for good 2-1

Big celebrations through the night in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic; birthplace of both Sano and Cano. For bettors, it’s…

  • American League wins at even money
  • The game stays way Under the total of 9
  • American League wins the first five innings 1-0 (in an Under)
  • Robinson Cano wins the MVP

The regular season resumes Friday.

MLB: Studying the American League using “road only” stats

Yesterday we tried to “clean the windshield” in the National League using “road only” statistics to evaluate pitching staffs and offenses. Today, the American League, using the same format.

AL Best Hitting Parks

  • Minnesota: increased scoring 20% (home runs 23%)
  • Oakland: increased scoring 9% 
  • Yankee Stadium: increased scoring 8% (home runs 38%)
  • Texas: increased scoring 6%
  • LA Angels: increased scoring 6%
  • Detroit: increased scoring 6%

Oakland is usually a pitchers’ park, and…in fact…was the second-best pitchers’ park in the AL last season, reducing scoring by 17%. So that’s probably a short-term fluke that’s likely to regress. The big news is obviously Minnesota, which has seen a lot of very high scoring games this season. Yankee Stadium has a bit of a jet stream to right field many days, which hitters have been taking advantage of. That’s had a larger impact on home run counts than it has on overall scoring. 

AL Best Pitching Parks

  • Houston: reduced scoring 24% 
  • Baltimore: reduced scoring 11% 
  • Boston: reduced scoring 5% 
  • Seattle: reduced scoring 5% 

We’ve talked all season about Minute Maid Park being a great pitcher’s park. Unfortunately, that meme hasn’t really caught on with baseball media. Spread the word! Houston played its games in baseball’s best pitchers’ park last year, and has again through the All-Star Break in 2017. 

Relatively neutral parks so far in 2017: Chicago White Sox, Toronto, Cleveland, Kansas City, Tampa Bay.

Nowhere near the volume of extremes we saw yesterday in the senior circuit. That will reduce the amount of cleaning we need to do.

AL Above Average Road Pitching

  • Cleveland: 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP
  • NY Yankees: 4.06 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
  • Boston: 4.11 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
  • Minnesota: 4.19 ERA, 1.31 WHIP
  • Houston: 4.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
  • LA Angels: 4.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP
  • Toronto: 4.31 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
  • Tampa Bay: 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
  • Kansas City: 4.59 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
  • AL Average: 4.61 ERA, 1.38 WHIP

As we saw yesterday, playoff contenders really cluster on the pitching end of the spectrum. Those first five teams would be your entrants if the postseason began today. It’s hard to believe the Yankees grade out so well. They really did sparkle on their way to 15 games over the .500 mark during their best stretch of the season. Recently, the staff has been much more mortal. 

AL Below Average Road Pitching

  • AL Average: 4.61 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
  • Texas: 4.72 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
  • Oakland: 4.92 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
  • Chicago White Sox: 4.95 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
  • Seattle: 5.30 ERA, 1.43 WHIP
  • Detroit: 5.37 ERA, 1.54 WHIP
  • Baltimore: 5.78 ERA, 1.58 WHIP

Generally speaking, a list of teams it’s hard to get excited about moving forward because their pitching is so vulnerable. How could Baltimore make a run with such a horrible staff?! Seattle sure wasn’t supposed to be this bad on the mound. You want to pick Texas as a darkhorse after seeing that? 

Moving now to offenses...

AL Above Average Road Offenses

  • Houston: 7.1 runs, .369 on-base pct., .516 slugging pct.
  • NY Yankees: 5.2 runs, .340 on-base pct., .420 slugging pct.
  • Boston: 5.0 runs, .330 on-base pct., .422 slugging pct.
  • Cleveland: 4.8 runs, .334 on-base pct., .438 slugging pct.
  • Tampa Bay: 4.5 runs, .318 on-base pct., .438 slugging pct.
  • AL Average: 4.6 runs, .318 on-base pct., .417 slugging pct.

We’ve talked all season about Houston’s offense. The Astros are scoring on the road at a historic level of greatness to this point. Calling it “off the charts” even understates the accomplishment because many “off the chart” occurrences in baseball aren’t this extreme. Houston is 37% better than second place! The Astros are 58% better than average...and it’s an average they’ve partly warped themselves by being in the sample. 

With Boston and Cleveland grading out so well here and in pitching, you can see why so many analytics approaches expect them to win their divisions. 

AL Below Average Road Offenses

  • AL Average: 4.6 runs, .318 on-base pct., .417 slugging pct.
  • Baltimore: 4.5 runs, .307 on-base pct., .418 slugging pct.
  • Seattle: 4.5 runs, .325 on-base pct., .413 slugging pct.
  • Texas: 4.5 runs, .292 on-base pct., .407 slugging pct.
  • Minnesota: 4.5 runs, .314 on-base pct., .395 slugging pct.
  • Toronto: 4.4 runs, .317 on-base pct., .408 slugging pct.
  • Chicago White Sox: 4.3 runs, .311 on-base pct., .423 slugging pct.
  • Kansas City: 4.2 runs, .292 on-base pct., .411 slugging pct.
  • Detroit: 4.1 runs, .309 on-base pct., .381 slugging pct.
  • LA Angels: 3.9 runs, .307 on-base pct., .371 slugging pct.
  • Oakland: 3.9 runs, .304 on-base pct., .391 slugging pct.

The Angels will be getting Mike Trout back soon, which at least will help them climb the ladder. Kansas City’s been hot lately, but doesn’t have an offense that’s going to scare people. The current Wildcard standings may seem a bit crowded. Today’s study is suggesting it may not stay interesting unless some of these mid-level mediocrities lift their games in both run scoring and run prevention. 

Summing up our “clean” look at the AL contenders…

  • Houston: Historically great offense with decent pitching
  • Cleveland: Great pitching and a top four offense
  • Boston: Top three in both categories
  • NY Yankees: Solid math, but did they peak too early?
  • Minnesota: Just kinda there, which is better than expected
  • LA Angels: A chance to matter if Trout hits the ground running

There’s always a chance that somebody just below those powers lifts their game enough to get into the mix. 

MLB: South Point American League Futures 

A quick look at odds to win the American League and the World Series for the contenders we talked about today. 

  • Cleveland: 2/1 to win AL, 4/1 to win the World Series
  • Houston: plus 220 to win AL, 3/1 to win the World Series
  • Boston: 5/2 to win AL, 4/1 to win the World Series
  • NY Yankees: 4/1 to win AL, 8/1 to win the World Series
  • Baltimore: 6/1 to win AL, 10/1 to win the World Series
  • Texas: 6/1 to win AL, 10/1 to win the World Series
  • Minnesota: 15/1 to win AL, 30/1 to win the World Series
  • Kansas City: 15/1 to win AL, 30/1 to win the World Series

Yes, Cleveland (47-40) is the favorite over Houston (60-29) to win the AL at the South Point! As we’ve discussed often, South Point prices are strongly influenced by past betting. The staff reports “a lot of risk” on the Indians that’s been in play since before the season began. 

For the analytics perspective, here’s a look at the percentage changes as calculated by fangraphs.

Championship Percentages at Fangraphs

  • Houston: 32.5% to win the AL, 18.6% to win the WS
  • Cleveland: 30.4 % to win the AL, 17.2% to win the WS
  • Boston: 21.0% to win the AL, 11.2% to win the WS
  • NY Yankees: 6% to win the AL, 2.6% to win the WS

Everyone else is at 2.2% or worse to win the AL, because so many teams currently have a shot at a Wildcard. Note that fangraphs has Cleveland fairly close to Houston despite the differences in won-lost record. It’s assumed the Indians will coast to a division title even after their disappointing start. Their pitching staff will likely rate an edge over the Astros in a heads-up playoff series. 

MLB: How sharps aim to lock in profits with “arbitrage” strategies using baseball moneylines

We continue our summer series on baseball handicapping today with a look at how professional wagerers try to lock in guaranteed profits with arbitrage strategies. If you’re not familiar with the term, it’s simply taking advantage of price differences to earn “risk-free” money.

(For you newcomers, these tutorials have been running on Wednesdays the past few weeks. Prior topics include laying -1.5 runs on the run line, taking plus 1.5 runs, and strategies for betting 5-inning “first half” lines. Please check the archives if you missed those discussions.)

Here’s a quick and easy example to help you visualize an arbitrage scenario. Imagine... 

  • Sports book #1 has one team favored at -115, the opponent at plus 105
  • Sports book #2 has the OTHER team favored at -115, the dog at plus 105

Obviously, that scenario can create free money easily. You bet $100 to win $105 on both underdogs. One of them eventually wins, and you pocket five dollars. Smarter, of course, to bet $1,000 on both to pocket $50. Or, depending on how deep your pockets are and what your sports book will take…max bets on both dogs to pocket whatever you can.

That dream scenario isn’t likely to happen on opening lines. But, it wasn’t out of the question in the early days of offshore betting to see something like -112 and plus 102 two different directions in the same game…which did give away free money to fast-acting deep pocketed sharps. What was (and is) much more common for sharps: using an understanding of likely market tendencies to create an arbitrage scenario with properly timed bets.

Imagine that a popular betting team opens as a short underdog, say plus 105. A sharp who KNOWS that the market is soon going to make that team a favorite can jump in right away at plus 105…wait for the move…then come back the other way after the favorite flips at plus money on the new dog. Same thing as our dream scenario, but the bets were placed at different times. 

The catch, obviously, is that the sharp bettor must properly anticipate the line move. If he’s wrong, he was to root hard for that first bet. 

Let’s run through that again, step by step…

  • Take a popular betting team as a short dog
  • Wait for the line move
  • Take the opponent as a short dog
  • Pick up free money after one of the short dogs wins (one team has to win the game!)

Now, you don’t have to limit yourself to short underdogs. That’s just the easiest way to visualize the process. You can also “time the market” to lock yourself into a “break-even or profit” scenario as well. If you’ve been watching the market closely in recent weeks, you’ve come across a few possibilities where a favorite opened around -130 or so…but soared up to -160 or more before first pitch.

If a bettor was virtually CERTAIN a big move was very likely to happen because of recent market tendencies, he could…

  • Bet the favorite at -130 early
  • Wait for the line to move
  • Bet the dog once it shot past plus 130 to plus 135, 140, or even 150

Now…the bettor can’t possibly lose any money. If the favorite wins, it’s a wash out (the bet on the favorite wins exactly $100, while the bet on the dog loses exactly $100). If the underdog wins, the bet on the favorite loses $130, but the late bet on the dog squeezes out some free cash. The “market player” created a no-lose situation. 

You may be thinking, “Hey, VSiN City, that’s a lot of work to make five or ten bucks!” True. Advantage players bet bigger than $100 per game and take free money wherever it’s offered. In fact, there’s a class of sharp that focuses its efforts on this strategy. They handicap "price tendencies” rather than teams. The advantages are:

  • They don’t have to know the strengths and weaknesses of 150-plus starting pitchers
  • They don’t have to learn the lineups for 30 teams
  • They don’t have to study park effects
  • They don’t have to study righty/lefty dynamics
  • They don’t have to worry about the impact of team travel
  • They don’t have to keep track of streaks

They can devote full focus to what’s happening with prices. It simply becomes…

  • Find teams that oddsmakers consistently under-price, or over-price on openers.
  • Anticipate when “sharp corrections” or “public passions” will move the line
  • Bet one side early at the other side after an arbitrage is locked in

It’s a different kind of grind. But the concept may be something you can put to use in your own portfolio if you have a knack for anticipating line moves. 

Frankly, EVERYBODY can improve their results by studying the market more than they currently do. We’ll continue to devote Wednesday’s to baseball betting tutorials through the summer. Thanks to all of you who have provided questions and feedback.

Wimbledon: Chalk rules most of women’s quarters, bigger prices ahead in men’s quarters

Only one upset Tuesday in the “round of eight” in the women’s Wimbledon brackets. But, it was a big one as Magdalena Rybarikova stunned two dollar favorite Coco Vandeweghe. Here are the results with composite market prices.

Tuesday’s Women’s Quarterfinals

  • Garbine Muguruza (-150) beat Svetlana Kuznetsova 6-3, 6-4
  • Magdalena Rybarikova (plus 160) upset Coco Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-3 
  • Johanna Konta (-120) beat Simona Halep (-110) 6-7. 7-6, 6-4
  • Venus Williams (-150) beat Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 7-5

Muguruza over Kuznetsova and Konta over Halep were called “upsets” in the media because superior seeds fell (#14 over #7 and #6 over #2), but the market properly pegged the survivors. 

The women are off until Thursday. The early line shows Muguruza around -220 over Rybarikova, Konta -120 over Williams. On tap today (composite prices)…

Wednesday’s Men’s Quarterfinals

  • Andy Murray (-600) vs. Sam Querrey (plus 400)
  • Marin Cilic (-450) vs. Gilles Muller (plus 300)
  • Roger Federer (-480) vs. Milos Raonic (plus 320)
  • Novak Djokovic (-400) vs. Tomas Berdych (plus 280)

See you Thursday for one more day of “report card” analysis in baseball during the All-Star Break. We’ll also provide preview briefs for this week’s Canadian Football League card. And, time and space permitting, a look at the best performances from teams who earned a bye in the NBA Las Vegas Summer League knockout rounds.

Thanks to all of you who have subscribed in recent days to earn that entry for a spot in the Westgate SuperContest (a $1,500 value). If you’re reading today on our website home page, subscribing for morning email delivery gets you that auto-entry for the drawing to be held on August 19. And you also get a link to the daily PDF file with all the South Point betting sheets!

If you haven’t had a chance yet to follow us on twitter, you can do so by clicking here. It’s a great way to keep up with programming updates and news about upcoming guests. If you have any comments or questions about our daily shows, or the VSiN City newsletter, please drop us a note

Muchas gracias for joining us today in VSiN City!

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