Ride or fade MLB streaks?

makinen

I was very intrigued by the Squawk Box interview of Pete Rose last week. Naturally, Rose is looked upon favorably by most people in the sports betting world, and being one of the greatest baseball players of all time, his opinion on betting baseball is well received. He was asked about the things he looks for when picking baseball games, and the answer I found most interesting was about how teams are playing lately. Rose explained that teams’ good and bad play can extend for days at a time. In other words, it seems that he likes to back (or fade) streaking teams. Is this a valid profit-making strategy? Will it carry you over the course of a six-month season? Naturally I went to the database to find out. Like me, I’m sure you’ll be surprised by the findings.

What is the common perception on what a “streak” entails? Is it winning or losing three in a row? Four? Five? More than that? I feel a streak starts when you beat more than one team during the run. In other words, with most series being three games, winning or losing four games in a row qualifies. With that in mind, I decided to pull out all of the games from the last three-plus seasons in which a team won or lost four or more games in a row. I then analyzed what that team did in the follow-up game in a variety of scenarios.

For the record, as of Friday, we had already seen 14 teams lose four straight games or more and 17 teams win at least four straight. We are less than a month into the season.

Of the 24 instances this season in which a team had lost four in a row, 14 saw the losing streak end right there. In the four cases where a losing streak reached six games, three teams ended streaks in that next game.

In the 28 times in 2021 in which a team had won four straight games, only 11 extended the winning streak to five games.

This contrarian type of result in 2021 follows a pattern of recent years. In fact, you will see that it is generally a better handicapping strategy to fade the winning streaks and back the losing streaks. This would certainly qualify as a “fade the public” mode of betting. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and had bettors chosen to fade Oakland when its winning streak reached four games back on April 13, they would have lost a significant bankroll chunk all the way through this April 25. The A’s impressive 13-game winning streak was the exception, not the norm.

Naturally, going back to the start of the 2018 season gives us a sizable database to work with, and thus the findings should be of value.

 

Overall Records of Streaking Teams (since start of 2018 season)

Lost 4: 399-467, + 14.4 units - ROI: 1.7%

Lost 5: 212-250, + 16.4 units - ROI: 3.5%

Lost 6: 122-126, + 34.45 units - ROI: 13.9%

Lost 7: 66-59, + 31.3 units - ROI: 25.0%

Lost 8: 35-24, + 23.6 units - ROI: 40.0%

Lost 9: 16-8, + 17.2 units - ROI: 71.7%

Lost 10: 6-2, + 8 units - ROI: 100.0%

 

As you can see, there is a steady and consistent increase in ROI from backing teams in each successive game of a losing streak. Some bettors may consider this a method of chasing. In theory, the longer a losing streak continues, the more the market typically plays against that team. That is a mistake, obviously. In fact, after the seventh consecutive loss, teams have actually posted winning records in the next game.

 

Won 4: 479-419, -48.65 units - ROI: -5.4%

Won 5: 250-226, -39.85 units - ROI: -8.4%

Won 6: 120-129, -48.95 units - ROI: -19.7%

Won 7: 64-56, -7.15 units - ROI: -6.0%

Won 8: 30-34, -13.25 units - ROI: -20.7%

Won 9: 14-16, -4.7 units - ROI: -15.7%

Won 10: 6-8, -5.05 units - ROI: -36.1%

 

While not a near-perfect slope like that of the losing streak data, the negative ROI of teams getting deeper into winning streaks also tends to increase with successive games. There seems to be a breaking point on this data, too, that being after a sixth straight win. Teams tend to almost hit a wall at that point, both in terms of winning percentage and return for bettors. That said, the overall takeaway here is that it is never profitable to consistently back teams that have won four or more consecutive games.

 

Does playing at Home or on Road influence streak data?

 

HOME, Lost 4: 199-193, + 17.35 units - ROI: 4.4%

ROAD, Lost 4: 200-274, -2.95 units - ROI: -0.6%

HOME, Lost 5: 113-104, + 23.25 units - ROI: 10.7%

ROAD, Lost 5: 99-146, -6.85 units - ROI: -2.8%

 

HOME, Lost 6: 67-54, + 26.15 units - ROI: 21.6%

ROAD, Lost 6: 55-72, + 8.3 units - ROI: 6.5%

 

HOME, Lost 7: 32-27, + 12.45 units - ROI: 21.1%

ROAD, Lost 7: 34-32, + 18.85 units - ROI: 28.6%

 

HOME, Lost 8: 17-13, + 7.6 units - ROI: 25.3%

ROAD, Lost 8: 18-11, + 16 units - ROI: 55.2%

 

HOME, Lost 9: 6-4, + 3.15 units - ROI: 31.5%

ROAD, Lost 9: 10-4, + 14.05 units - ROI: 100.4%

 

HOME, Lost 10: 2-1, + 1.45 units - ROI: 48.3%

ROAD, Lost 10: 4-1, + 6.55 units - ROI: 131.0%

 

In terms of losing streaks, teams playing at home seem much more successful in ending them, at least until the streak reaches seven games. At that point, the data seems to shift, showing road teams snapping skids at a highly profitable rate.

 

HOME, Won 4: 257-214, -52.6 units - ROI: -11.2%

ROAD, Won 4: 222-205, + 3.95 units - ROI: 0.9%

 

HOME, Won 5: 127-108, -34.7 units - ROI: -14.8%

ROAD, Won 5: 123-118, -5.15 units - ROI: -2.1%

 

HOME, Won 6: 58-57, -28.1 units - ROI: -24.4%

ROAD, Won 6: 62-72, -20.85 units - ROI: -15.6%

 

HOME, Won 7: 32-25, -2.8 units - ROI: -4.9%

ROAD, Won 7: 32-31, -4.35 units - ROI: -6.9%

 

HOME, Won 8: 14-17, -8.5 units - ROI: -27.4%

ROAD, Won 8: 16-17, -4.75 units - ROI: -14.4%

 

HOME, Won 9: 6-7, -4.25 units - ROI: -32.7%

ROAD, Won 9: 8-9, -0.45 units - ROI: -2.6%

HOME, Won 10: 3-4, -4.1 units - ROI: -58.6%

ROAD, Won 10: 3-4, -0.95 units - ROI: -13.6%

The data for comparing the ability for home teams or road teams to better maintain winning streaks is, in my opinion, conclusive. Home teams typically continue to win at a little better percentage, but the return on investment from backing road teams on a winning streak is much greater or, in this case, not as harmful. Neither is profitable over the long haul, but when given the investment choice, bettors should prefer road teams as the prices are more reasonable.

 

Locale/Moneyline scenarios with streaking teams that have proven very definitive

 

Most profitable losing streak scenarios

HmDog + 145 to + 195, Lost 9: 3-0, + 4.6 units - ROI: 153.3%

HmDog + 200 or Higher, Lost 7: 4-1, + 7.55 units - ROI: 151.0%

HmDog + 145 to + 195, Lost 6: 16-13, + 13.3 units - ROI: 45.9%

RdFav -140 to -175, Lost 4: 21-9, + 7.55 units - ROI: 25.2%

HmFav -150 to -195, Lost 5: 17-8, + 4.3 units - ROI: 17.2%

 

From this data, it’s clear that larger home underdogs on losing streaks can be very solid wagers. The same can be said for road favorites.

 

Least profitable losing streak scenarios

RdDog + 100 to + 140, Lost 4: 58-92, -22.15 units - ROI: -14.8%

RdFav -180 or Higher, Lost 4: 7-9, -10.9 units - ROI: -68.1%

 

Moral of this story is that you don’t want to overpay for struggling road teams. Small underdogs and large favorites are bad spots.

 

Most profitable winning streak scenarios

RdFav -200 or Higher, Won 5: 23-6, + 7.6 units - ROI: 26.2%

HmDog + 145 or Higher, Won 4: 12-13, + 6.35 units - ROI: 25.4%

 

There are really only a couple of different line scenarios in which backing teams on winning streaks has proven fruitful. Huge road favorites have been nearly automatic, and the bigger home dogs have won enough to be very dangerous.

 

Least profitable winning streak scenarios

RdFav -105 to -145, Won 6: 14-15, -4.95 units - ROI: -17.1%

HmFav -250 or Higher, Won 5: 21-10, -7.95 units - ROI: -25.6%

HmFav -150 to -195, Won 5: 29-31, -22.4 units - ROI: -37.3%

HmDog + 100 to + 140, Won 8: 1-6, -4.85 units - ROI: -69.3%

HmFav -200 to -245, Won 6: 6-9, -13.2 units - ROI: -88.0%

 

Three of the five scenarios on this “loss list” feature home favorites, big ones at that. Simply put, it hasn’t been a sound strategy to back these streaking teams at home, particularly when they are expected to win, as they get overpriced by oddsmakers.

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