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How to turn run estimates into a money line

By Jeff Fogle  (VSiN.com) 

June 4, 2020 12:57 PM

Whether it’s the KBO, MLB, or any other baseball handicapping challenge, most recreational bettors don’t have any idea how to turn run projections into a money line. 

Sure, they know that a toss-up should be pick-em. But, what about a game projected to have a final score of 5-4? Is that just a bit over pick-em, like -115 or -120 because it’s supposed to be a close game? Or, much higher? What if one elite team mathematically projects to score six runs, but a weak opponent just 3.5. Is that a -200 favorite? A -400 favorite? How would you know?

Though there’s not an obvious direct link from a projected final score to a money line, BOTH have direct links to win-lost percentages. And, THAT’S how you bridge the gap. 

You know from last week’s article that each money line has a break-even win percentage. VSiN’s chart showed that a -150 favorite must win 60% to break even, a -200 favorite must win 67%, and so on. You can turn run projections into expected winning percentages using the tried and true “Pythagorean” formula first present by baseball researcher Bill James decades ago. 

That formula: Runs squared…divided by the sum of runs squared plus opposition runs squared. 

Let’s take that 5-4 example. It’s easy to do the math there. Five squared is 25. Four squared is 16. So the projected winning percentage would come from dividing 25 (runs squared) by 41 (runs squared of 25 plus opposition runs squared of 16). With your handy calculator, or the math option on your browser, you’ll see that 25/41 is .610. A team projected to win a game 5-4 should win that game about 61% of the time. 

We just mentioned that break even for -150 is 60%...so the moneyline in our example will be higher than -150. I’ll save you the effort and let you know that -157 is the equivalent money line if you want to be exact. 

Why so high? Isn’t 5-4 a close game? Yes…but it’s not really a close projection in a professional league loaded with talent. Proper estimates would yield a lot of 4.6 to 4.4 or 4.7 to 4.1 type games. An edge of one run is actually quite high in a context of parity. That’s why a projected 5-4 score would yield a money line of -157. 

Let’s do a couple more, with higher projections more likely to show up in the KBO.

*A projected final score of 5.5 to 4 would yield a winning percentage of .654 (30.25 divided by 46.25). That’s just under -190 on last week’s chart. Pinning the math down further would show -189 as the right match. 

*A projected final score of 6.5 to 3.5 (mismatch in a high scoring environment) would yield a winning percentage of .775 (42.25 divided by 54.50). That’s above the ceiling on last week’s chart. It would equate to -345 on the money line. We haven’t seen any lines that high yet in the KBO, but may in due time given the growing distance from the powers and the have-nots. 

As long as you’re not intimidated by using a calculator, turning run projections into money lines is actually pretty easy. The catch? Making accurate run projections is hard! You can’t just go with a gut instinct and hope that works. “I think this favorite is going to crush the dog 7-2…that means they’ll win 92.4% of the time and the money line won’t matter!” Wrong.

You must make accurate assessments for each offense against the opposing starting pitcher and the bullpen backing him up. Then, turn THOSE accurate assessments into the corresponding money line. 

HANWHA HAS LOST 11 STRAIGHT

Betting markets have had trouble making projections recently that accurately reflect how badly the Hanwha Eagles are playing. Regular readers know the offense struggled all season. Health has been an issue. When pitching started to fade, blowout city. 

Hanwha was swept Tuesday-thru-Thursday at home against the Kiwoom Heroes by a composite score of 28-8 (15-3, 6-2, 7-3). That after getting swept on the road by the struggling SK Wyverns (composite 23-16), and at home by the LG Twins (21-4).

Hanwha’s free fall may last awhile longer. The league leading NC Dinos are in Daejeon for a weekend series. 

Other midweek results…the Kia Tigers swept the Lotte Giants (who have become a rags-to-riches-to-rags story) by scores of 7-2, 11-2, and 7-3…the Doosan Bears took two of three at the KT Wiz…the NC Dinos took two of three vs. SK, but the loss came at a whopping -270 price…the Samsung Lions won two of three as road underdogs at the LG Twins. 

Current Standings

Playoff Contenders: NC 20-6, LG 17-9, Doosan 16-10, Kiwoom 15-12, Kia 15-12

Also-Rans: Samsung 12-15, KT 11-15, Lotte 11-15, SK 8-18, Hanwha 7-20

Remember that five teams qualify for the stepladder format of the KBO playoffs. The top seed gets a bye all the way to the championship series.  

HOME-FIELD ADVANTAGE SOFTENS

Following up on our discussion of home-field advantage earlier this week, road teams went 9-6 in the five series just completed. That brings the full season mark to 69 wins for hosts, 60 for visitors (throwing out three neutral-site games played by Doosan and LG). That’s a winning percentage of .535 for hosts…which is just a shade over -115 for a no-vig money line equivalent. 

Though visitors won more games, hosts scored more runs thanks to 10-0 and 11-0 shutouts by NC and LG Thursday over SK and Samsung. Hosts lead the run category 701-687 entering the weekend. For now…even with empty stadiums…some measure of home-field advantage is showing up in the numbers. 

INTERESTING WEEKEND AHEAD

Hopefully there will be fewer market mismatches on the card this weekend. Though NC is visiting Hanwha in a best/worst scenario, the other four series line up competitively. Losing teams square off with KT at Lotte and Samsung at SK. Contenders clash with LG at Kiwoom and Kia at Doosan. 

ESPN’s card (all starting times Eastern)…

Friday: NC at Hanwha…5:30 a.m. (ESPN), 2 p.m. replay (ESPN2)

Saturday: LG at Kiwoom…4 a.m. (ESPN)

Sunday: LG at Kiwoom…1 a.m. (ESPN)

Remember that all live telecasts are now on ESPN. Weekday replays air on ESPN2. 

MERRY-GO-ROUNDS MAKE THE MONEY GO ‘ROUND

Though big blasts and bat flips dominate highlight recaps, the essentials of getting runners on base are just as important in the KBO as they are in MLB. Here are on-base percentages entering the weekend according to the great stat site eng.koreabaseball.com

KBO On-base Percentages

NC Dinos .376

Doosan Bears .366

KT Wiz .363

LG Twins .360

Kiwoom Heroes .358

Kia Tigers .357

Samsung Lions .325

SK Wyverns .323

Lotte Giants .322

Hanwha Eagles .301

Make sure you’re handicapping offenses in addition to just starting pitchers and bullpens in the KBO. Those OBP rankings are very similar to the full season standings, even though they only reflect an offensive category. Teams can’t win if they can’t score runs…and they can’t score runs if they're not getting guys on base. 

See you again Monday for VSiN’s next KBO report.

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