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MLB is Deadening the Baseball for 2021. Will it Lead to More Unders?

February 8, 2021 11:54 PM

With the NFL season coming to an end, bettors are now transitioning full-time to basketball and hockey. Luckily for us, we have a loaded betting menu today filled with roughly 20 college basketball games, 7 NBA games and 8 NHL games. For an updated breakdown of Tuesday's betting action, be sure to tune in to the VSiN Market Insights Podcast with Josh Appelbaum. It will be posted at noon ET. I'll be joining The Lombardi Line at 1:45 p.m. ET to offer a market update. I'll also be co-hosting Betting Across America with Mike Pritchard from 3 p.m. ET to 5 p.m. ET.

In the meantime, let's discuss an MLB story in The Athletic that could have major implications for baseball bettors this season.

According to a recent memo, MLB is making a change to the Rawlings baseball it uses by "deadening" the ball for the upcoming 2021 season. As MLB explained, each ball has a coefficient of restitution (COR) that measures how bouncy the ball is when it's hit off the bat. In recent years, the COR had increased, which led to a bonanza of home runs. In 2019, an all-time record of 6,776 home runs were hit. We've also seen an uptick in strikeouts and decrease of batted balls in play. This has led many to complain that the game is getting boring and less fun to watch, with every pitch seemingly either a strikeout or home run and nothing in between. This offseason, Theo Epstein stepped down as President of the Cubs and joined MLB to consult "on-field matters." Epstein basically said analytics are ruining the game and changes need to be made to bring back more action.

This change to the baseball itself could be the first step in that process. By decreasing the COR and making the ball less bouncy off the bat, The Athletic projected a decrease of about 5% in total home runs starting this season.

So what does this mean for sports bettors? By decreasing the amount of home runs, it will surely provide a boost for betting unders. The question is, how much?

Keep in mind, the public loves betting overs. After all, it's much more fun to root for hits, homers and runs scored instead of cheering on strikeouts, double-plays and 2-1 games. However, the oddsmakers know this public tendency toward overs and will often shade the line toward the over, making you pay a higher juice. For this reason, unders have historically held more value.

Although we've been dealing with the "juiced ball" in recent years, we saw the under hit at a 50.3% clip in last year's pandemic shortened season. This speaks to the fact that, although home runs have increased, the oddsmakers have adjusted their totals upward. At the beginning of the 2010s, a "normal" total was roughly 8. But nowadays you see mostly 8.5s or 9s. It's rare to ever see a total 7.5 or less, which used to be commonplace. It will be interesting to see if unders get off to a hot start in 2021 due to the cold weather and possibly the fact that books will be slow to adjust to the decrease in home runs.

In other news that will affect baseball betting, the MLB brought back 7-inning doubleheaders and runners on second base to start extra innings, but no DH in the NL. For those keeping track, pitchers and catchers are set to report to spring training in roughly one week (Feb. 17).

Now let's shift gears to some notable line moves and system matches for today's NHL action.

7 p.m. ET: Detroit Red Wings (3-8-2) at Florida Panthers (6-1-2)

The Red Wings just upset the Panthers 4-1 on Sunday, cashing as big + 215 road underdogs. In this rematch, Florida opened as a -200 home favorite and the line has quickly shot up to -220. The Panthers have value as a home favorite (72-27, 73% this season) and a favorite off a loss (45-13, 78%). Florida is also a a big favorite -200 or more (17-4, 81%) and a favorite with a line move of 10-cents or more (32-10, 76%). Florida is + 3 in goal differential while Detroit is -18. The Panthers are 3-1-1 at home. The Wings are 1-5-1 on the road. The total is 5.5 with -120 juice to the over.

10 p.m. ET: San Jose Sharks (4-5-1) at Los Angeles Kings (3-6-2)

Both of these West Division rivals have struggled out of the gate and find themselves at the bottom of the standings. The Sharks have lost three of their last four while the Kings have lost four straight. This line opened with San Jose listed as a short -110 road favorite and we've seen the line creep up to -115. The Sharks have value as a favorite off a loss (45-13, 78% this season). San Jose also has a rest advantage, having last played on Saturday while the Kings played Sunday. Favorites in this "rested vs tired" spot have gone 9-3 (75%) this season.

10 p.m. ET: Anaheim Ducks (5-5-3) at Vegas Golden Knights (7-1-1)

Both of these West Division rivals have played well as of late, with the Ducks winning two of their last three and the Knights winning three of their last four. This line opened with Vegas listed as a hefty -230 favorite and we've seen the line jump up to -240. The Knights match several profitable betting systems this season. Home favorites are 72-27 (73%). Home favorites -150 or more are 33-7 (83%). Big favorites -200 or more are 17-4 (81%). The Knights are + 10 in goal differential while the Ducks are -9. Vegas is undefeated in regulation at home this year (6-0-1).

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