Makinen: Better MLB bullpen betting system takes off

May 8, 2023 06:25 PM

One of the most important things a sports bettor can do over time is to evolve. You learn different strategies as the games change and dig deeper to find new ways to use the data available. Over the course of the last 5+ years while with VSiN, I’ve employed a generic system of tracking the results of teams that have bullpen ratings on my scale. It’s done consistently well, producing profits each season in that span. However, I’ve always felt it was something I could improve on by narrowing the scope of what should actually be wagered. With that in mind, as I handicapped baseball in the early weeks of this season, I felt an increasing discomfort with backing some teams I felt were overpriced despite their bullpen superiority. At the same time, I felt awkwardly overconfident at times when the team I felt had a better bullpen was an underdog. This gave me the urge to dig in and study situations like these closer. I’m glad I did, because after sharing these thoughts in my bullpen update article last Monday, the underdog angle took off like a rocket this past week, and the overpricing angle continued to thrive as well.

Overall, the general bullpen system was not good last week, going 44-45 for -9.43 units. These were the results by day:

Monday 5/1: 4-4, --0.46 units

Tuesday 5/2: 7-7, -3.55 units

Wednesday 5/3: 6-8, -6.59 units

Thursday 5/4: 6-3, +1.48 units

Friday 5/5: 8-7, +2.59 units

Saturday 5/6: 6-9, -4.59 units

Sunday 5/7: 7-7, +1.69 units

Adding these numbers to the early results I shared last week, the overall season record of this methodology is now 291-211 for +7.68 units, an R.O.I. of 1.5%. The profit and R.O.I. numbers have taken a big hit over the last couple of weeks overall, but I know this is always possible when playing every game in such a simple system. While I’m still confident that come October this methodology will still have produced profits for the season, I know that riding more generic systems can be full of waves. This is the specific reason I have started drilling down using some more detailed looks at these bullpen edges.

If you read last week’s bullpen update, you’ll remember that I released four different bullpen advantage angles that have proven more definitive than the overall system and allow more discerning bettors to focus on a more specific set of games each night. Keep in mind that they all are based upon the all-important philosophy that betting teams with better bullpens makes foundational sense. These are those systems and the updated records for the season based on what happened last week. I will continue to update these throughout the season:

Better bullpen but overpriced angle

In games this season through Sunday 5/7 in which the team with my better-rated bullpen was listed as a favorite of -190 or more, that team is now 68-36 but for -12.96 units after going 9-6 for -3.63 units last week. When you consider that the overall profit for the season has been +7.68 units, it shows how much these big favorites are dragging the overall system down. I’ll remind you that I’ve never been a fan of laying 2-1 or more on one of 162 baseball games for any team.


Overpriced better bullpen without a big starting pitcher edge angle

- In combining starting pitcher differences in looking at these games with -190 favorites or higher, there's been an even better opportunity to avoid games. Specifically, when the starting pitcher difference between the better bullpen team is less than 20, these big favorites have gone just 11-24 for -41.72 units! This angle was 1-2 last week for -3.1 units as two different mediocre starting pitchers of -205 in games lost. There has to be a massive starting pitcher strength difference between the teams to even consider paying these prices. The R.O.I. on this has been -119.2%, and if you would have taken these games out of the entire MLB Bullpen system, the profits would be up to almost 50 units!

Better bullpen underdog teams are gems

Money line underdog teams with better bullpen ratings enjoyed a HUGE week, going 20-10 for +17.37 units. For this season, these gems are now 69-58 for +31.23 units, an R.O.I. of 24.6%!

Better bullpen teams thwart losing streaks

- Finally, I discovered last week that backing better bullpen teams on losing streaks has also proven fruitful. After updating the results from this past week of games, when on two-game losing streaks, the teams with better bullpen ratings in a matchup have gone 51-29 for +12.08 units. Better bullpen teams on 3+ game losing streaks have gone 27-6 for +20.99 units!

Make sure to consider these angles as we move forward, as they are foundational and allow bettors who are not as comfortable playing so many games to profit well. Bettors should never want to pay too high of prices for any single baseball game in a regular season, and solid underdogs are always of great value. Also, the law of averages suggests that teams with good bullpens won’t be stuck in lengthy losing skids.

Now, let’s take an updated look at some of the key bullpen stats that have been accumulated so far this season, as well as my current Bullpen Power Ratings as we head into this week’s games. Note, ratings were as of games through Sunday, May 7th and I update them on a daily basis. You’ll see I’ve added a Last 7 Games WHIP stat to track as well to give bettors an idea of which bullpens are hot & not lately.

Key Bullpen Stats (through games of May 7th)

Top 5 Bullpen ERA’s

  1. New York Yankees: 2.64
  2. Seattle: 2.95
  3. Tampa Bay: 3.10
  4. Baltimore: 3.20
  5. Cleveland: 3.22

Worst 5 Bullpen ERA’s

  1. Oakland: 6.70
  2. Chicago White Sox: 6.15
  3. San Francisco: 5.89
  4. Kansas City: 5.30
  5. Philadelphia: 5.20

Top 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Atlanta: 1.12
  2. Chicago Cubs: 1.13
  3. New York Yankees: 1.14
  4. Tampa Bay: 1.14
  5. New York Mets: 1.16

Worst 5 Bullpen WHIPs

  1. Oakland: 1.73
  2. Chicago White Sox: 1.64
  3. San Francisco: 1.52
  4. Philadelphia: 1.51
  5. Kansas City: 1.48

Top 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Chicago White Sox: 10.86
  2. Kansas City: 10.84
  3. St Louis: 10.71
  4. Houston: 10.59
  5. Baltimore: 10.53

Worst 5 Bullpen Ks/9 innings

  1. Oakland: 7.08
  2. Tampa Bay: 7.15
  3. Washington: 7.43
  4. Boston: 7.78
  5. Texas: 7.91

Top 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. San Diego: 0.73
  2. Chicago Cubs: 0.75
  3. Los Angeles Dodgers: 0.94
  4. Atlanta: 0.99
  5. New York Mets: 1.10

Worst 5 Bullpen Last 7 Games WHIPs

  1. Philadelphia: 1.78
  2. Washington: 1.70
  3. Oakland: 1.69
  4. Tampa Bay: 1.61
  5. Milwaukee: 1.58

As a reminder, I use a manual process of analyzing daily box scores to build my Bullpen Power Ratings. In most cases, the end number is a reflection of the stats listed above with great consideration also given to overall talent, injuries, and momentum.

Biggest Movers in SM Bullpen Power Ratings since Monday, May 1st:

Biggest upward movers (PR points)

  1. Chicago White Sox: +11 points
  2. Colorado: +9, New York Yankees: +9
  3. Boston: +7, Los Angeles Dodgers: +7

Biggest downward movers (PR points)

  1. Philadelphia: -7 points
  2. Baltimore: -6, Milwaukee: -6
  3. New York Mets: -5, Kansas City: -5

Steve’s Current Bullpen Ratings/Ranks

Rank - Team - Bullpen PR

  1. Houston: 19
  2. New York Yankees: 18
  3. Seattle: 17
  4. Tampa Bay: 15
  5. Los Angeles Dodgers: 11
  6. Atlanta: 11
  7. Boston: 10
  8. Cleveland: 10
  9. Baltimore: 9
  10. Los Angeles Angels: 9
  11. Chicago Cubs: 9
  12. Toronto: 8
  13. Minnesota: 8
  14. Milwaukee: 8
  15. Pittsburgh: 4
  16. Detroit: 4
  17. New York Mets: 3
  18. San Diego: 2
  19. Philadelphia: 1
  20. Texas: 1
  21. Cincinnati: 1
  22. St Louis: 0
  23. Colorado: -3
  24. Washington: -3
  25. Miami: -5
  26. Arizona: -8
  27. Kansas City: -9
  28. San Francisco: -12
  29. Chicago White Sox: -12
  30. Oakland: -27

These are sorted first by bullpen ranking, and then by overall team power rating. Remember to be selective using the drill-down systems I shared above. Good luck with your baseball wagering this week.

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