No Bull...Betting MLB Unders Tough as Ever

Are Major League Baseball bullpens so bad right now that you just can’t bet any Unders?

It might feel that way if your bets have been victimized. Bullpens seem to implode on a nightly basis, with late scoring bursts flipping team side results or turning likely Unders into Overs.

The problem is, gamblers are prone to selective memory--particularly about events that turn joy to misery. If you zoom back a bit (and calm down!), you’ll notice that the Over/Under breakdown for the season is very close to 50/50 well past the 1,000- game mark.

Bettors, particularly squares, give themselves way too much credit when they’re in position to win. If a game is 2-2 heading to the eighth inning of an Under bet, they’re patting themselves on the back for their genius pick rather than admitting they probably caught some breaks for the game to be that low scoring. Worse, they’re already mentally spending the money they assume they’re going to win.

When fortune turns the other way, those fantasy purchases vaporize and the bettor wails in anguish “Look what happened to me! These pitchers are so bad you can’t bet Unders.”

Don’t be one of those guys who says, “if not for bad luck, I’d win every bet.” When handicapping a game (or a full day’s card), try to make accurate evaluations of the offenses, the starting pitchers, the most likely relief pitchers to see action, any possible ballpark effects on scoring, and any mitigating factors from weather conditions.

Don’t only look at the starting pitchers and assume everything else will be fine. Don’t play some Under trend you read about online while ignoring all the actual real-world factors that determine scoring.

It’s also important to remember the reality of relief pitching. While it’s true that it’s a reliever’s “job” to get outs, there was only one Mariano Rivera and he retired in 2013. You can’t assume elite bullpen performances just because you bet an Under in a game. Handicap bullpen skill sets before you bet an Under.

Yes, there are some lousy bullpens out there. Betting markets aren’t oblivious. That’s why you see many Over/Unders in the 9.5, 10, and 10.5 range. Entering the weekend, baseball is at 51% Overs, 49% Unders for the season. Bettors must hit 52.5% to break even at 11/10 vigorish. No meaningful edge.

You hear variations of today’s theme in every sport. “You can’t bet Unders in college football because of garbage-time defense.” “You can’t bet Unders in the NFL because the refs are babying quarterbacks and receivers.” “You can’t bet Unders in college basketball because there’s a free-throw parade at the end of the game.” “You can’t bet Unders in the NBA because nobody plays defense.”

Look up the records! You hear somebody say something like that and you know he shouldn’t be betting.

It’s OK to bet Unders if the market has mispriced the composite of skill sets and game conditions. Bet smart, and let luck take care of itself. 

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