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NFL, MLB futures yield 14% return

By Jason Weingarten  () 

The Buccaneers won the Super Bowl, as I predicted. It came down to the Chiefs’ weaknesses along the offensive line and the Bucs’ superior defensive line. The only unexpected elements were that Patrick Mahomes was held without a touchdown and the Chiefs were blown out. I enjoyed the game, the only major disappointment being that Tom Brady was named MVP over any or all members of the Bucs’ defense. That was a travesty. But it’s not like it was a surprise. Brady threw three touchdown passes and had a lineman drop a fourth, plus he’s Tom Brady. He was probably always going to win if the Bucs won. I will have to wait another year to cash a defensive player as MVP at big odds.

NFL Awards

Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert won Offensive Rookie of the Year Award with 41 votes compared with nine for Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson. Voters made the correct choice. I won $18,500 on Herbert minus about $1,000 in hedges on Jefferson, Bengals QB Joe Burrow and Steelers receiver Chase Claypool. I joked on Twitter when I made this bet that I’d like whoever priced Burrow at -110 and Herbert at + 1,300 to explain how those numbers were chosen. I’d still like to know. 

I didn’t bet much on the Defensive Player of the Year Award. I bet only $500 on the Rams’ Aaron Donald and $500 on the Browns’ Myles Garrett. Donald deservedly won, and I won $1,000 on it. I lost all my MVP bets when, as expected, Mahomes lost to the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers. 

The most surprising award winner was Kevin Stefanski of the Browns taking Coach of the Year over Brian Flores of the Dolphins and Sean McDermott of the Bills. Flores appeared to be in the lead until the Dolphins lost and knocked themselves out of the playoffs in Week 17. I had $100 on Stefanski at 45-1 odds as well as a field bet at + 210 against Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, whom I also had at + 115. I did very well in this market simply by looking at the odds available at Circa and comparing them with FanDuel. I was not really paying attention to the race when I saw Circa had 45-1 while FanDuel had closer to 7-1, and I figured it was worth a shot. I heard Circa had Stefanski as high as 75-1 in season, which is a reminder that it pays to shop around and compare futures odds across books. 

Overall for the NFL season, I risked $9,700 on futures and won $20,275. That was much better than MLB, in which I risked $32,666.36 and lost $13,621.36. Combined I risked $42,366 on MLB and NFL futures and won $6,653.64. That’s a respectable 14% return, but I think I could have done better. 

A few takeaways:

— My bets can be replicated only with access to books in multiple states and offshore. Having access to books in New Jersey, Nevada, Indiana, Mississippi, Colorado and offshore is better than having access only to one or two of those markets. I’m not even including the most recent additions of sportsbooks in Michigan and Tennessee, which I haven’t had the opportunity to check out yet.

— You have to have a lot of money (or credit) available to bet futures and withstand losses. My MLB portfolio lost over $13,000. To make money on futures like I did, I had to be willing and able to absorb a $13,000 loss while NFL futures matured.

— I won some bets that are not reflected because I bet right before sports shut down in March due to COVID-19. For example, I won over $30,000 on Trevor Bauer winning the NL Cy Young Award, but I bet it in March when the number was 55-1, and that number was never available when the season restarted. Similarly, I bet $200 on the Chiefs-Bucs exact Super Bowl matchup  at 100-1 odds the night before Brady signed. That number ceased to exist by the time I started writing in June. That would change the numbers another $20,000. Those are just examples to point out that my risk and profit numbers are not totally reliable other than to say I had a very good season on top of the wins I had here, which to my standards were average.

— Looking back on my MLB bets and seeing which were bad bets and which were good bets that lost is helpful so I can tighten my futures betting and create an even better futures portfolio for the 2021 season.

NFL 2021 Futures

I was not surprised to see the Rams move on from quarterback Jared Goff. It was a bad contract, and the Rams needed to move on if only for Sean McVay to no longer have his job attached to Goff’s performance. I’m not surprised the deal for Matthew Stafford came together so quickly, but I was hoping the Rams would hold off until right after the Super Bowl because the value is already gone. DraftKings has the Rams 6-1 to win the NFC behind only the Bucs and Packers, both at + 450. The Super Bowl odds are a similarly dejuiced + 1,300. There’s no value there, unfortunately. I was hoping to get a decent number on Stafford to win MVP. I was hoping maybe we’d see 25-1 or 30-1, but DraftKings has opened Stafford as the fifth choice behind Mahomes, Rodgers, the Bills’ Josh Allen and the Seahawks’ Russell Wilson at 15-1. So there’s no value here. 

The Chargers are a team I have my eye on for a number of reasons:

— They hired a competent head coach, Brandon Staley, who comes over after one year as the Rams’ defensive coordinator.

— They have a talented core: a franchise quarterback in Herbert plus elite defensive talent in Joey Bosa and Derwin James. They also have Melvin Ingram, Kenneth Murray, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen plus other top-tier players. And they have the 13th pick in the draft. 

— The Chiefs were exposed in the Super Bowl, and I’m not even 100% sure Andy Reid will coach them in Week 1 of the 2021 season. If division odds were posted right now, I’d like the Chargers. But I think the AFC West is up for grabs in 2021. I’m already looking to bet the field against the Chiefs to win the AFC West and the Chiefs’ win total Under. 

I’ll be keeping my eye on the numbers for the Chargers to win the AFC. I’m in no hurry to pull the trigger, but I will likely reinvest some of my Herbert money in the Chargers in hopes that Herbert makes the leap to MVP candidate. Keep an eye on Herbert’s MVP odds, too, as 18-1 is a bit short this early, but he could be a candidate in 2021. 

2021 MLB Bets

It might be that weird offseason between the end of the NFL and the start of spring training. Some people call it basketball season. But I’ve already put money back to work on 2021 MLB futures.

So far I’ve bet:

— Cardinals to win the NL Central + 210 (after Nolan Arenado trade).

— Dodgers to win the NL West -167 (before Trevor Bauer signed).

— Angels to win the AL West + 500.

— Blue Jays to win the AL East + 350.

— Mets to win the NL East + 200.

— Dodgers to win the NL + 220 (after the Bauer news).

— Dodgers to win the World Series + 450 (after the Bauer news).

— Mets to win the World Series + 850 (after the Francisco Lindor trade).

The Cardinals are currently + 110 to win the NL Central. The Mets are + 150 behind the Braves in the NL East. The Dodgers are between -200 and -250 everywhere, and as I said I bet -167 because it was the best price we were going to see all season. 

And the Angels are still available at + 350 and + 400 to win the AL West. I still like that. 

I follow a college student named Max Goldstein on Twitter. His handle is @MaxSportsStudio. He tweeted a chart of win-loss projections using FanGraphs vs. PECOTA. I attached it with his permission. 

 

What stands out is that the Dodgers are almost off the chart, followed by the Yankees and Padres and then a pretty big gap to the next tier of teams. 

The next thing that stands out is that the Angels are ahead of the A’s, but according to the odds out right now, the A’s are ahead of the Angels. I still like the Angels and think they could win the AL West. The number should drop to reflect that once spring training gets underway. The simple explanation is that the Angels have Mike Trout, and none of their competitors can say that. If you haven’t taken any Angels futures, you can find good numbers out there to win the AL West.

Baseball Cards

I’ve invested a couple of thousand dollars in autographed rookie cards of various prospects. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite Dodgers prospects, outfielder Andy Pages. I bought a 2020 Bowman chrome sparkle refractor autograph card. The card is autographed and numbered; this card is 15/299. There is no right or wrong way to buy cards, but I buy only autograph first Bowman cards. It’s just a personal preference, and I tend to buy the sparkle refractors over other refractors when possible just because I think they look cooler than purple, blue or green chrome cards. 

Pages is a 20-year-old Cuban who signed with the Dodgers for $300,000 when he was 17. He was considered one of the best hitters in his age group in Cuba, according to Baseball America. He was playing in the rookie-level Pioneer League as an 18-year-old in 2019 and showed an advanced bat for his age, hitting 19 home runs and 22 doubles with a .298/.398/1.049 slash line in 235 at-bats. More importantly, FanGraphs describes him as a “launch-angle unicorn,” with his 25-degree average angle putting him in the same territory as Joey Gallo. We can already see the home run power is there, but he’s still likely a year or two from being discussed as a major-league player. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the MLB top 100 prospects list when spring training starts. I got this card for about $100, and I’m actively looking to acquire more of his cards in the same price range before spring training. I wouldn’t pay more than $100 or $150 for a Pages autograph sparkle refractor right now, but I expect the price of Pages cards to keep going up once he breaks into the MLB top 100 prospects.

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