So far Dodgers survive curse of $200M payroll club

April 6, 2019 04:41 PM

There are four Major League Baseball franchises with 2019 payrolls in the vicinity of $200 million. The New York Yankees (injuries), Boston Red Sox (tough schedule), and Chicago Cubs (bullpen, fielding woes) all got off to much slower than expected starts. Quietly, the deep-pocketed Los Angeles Dodgers were happy to establish early authority in the NL West.

Los Angeles hopes to maintain its early winning form against the Colorado Rockies in this week’s Sunday Night Baseball feature (ESPN, 7:30 p.m. ET). 

Even if the Dodgers do avoid the pitfalls that have been befuddling other big-money franchises or heavy divisional favorites, bettors should be careful “asking for the impossible” with high-priced media darlings on the money line.

Some examples from last year that should discourage you from loading up on consistently expensive favorites…

  • Los Angeles posted a respectable 92-71 record last season. Because they were “supposed” to win around 100 games, that record yielded a loss of 23 betting units.The Dodgers were 21 games over .500 in the standings, but 23 units under .500 against the line.
  • Cleveland and Washington were supposed to run away with their respective divisions last season.The Indians finished 91-71 to win the AL Central, but dropped 25 units for bettors. The Nationals missed the playoffs at 82-80, and also dropped 25 units. How much do you bet per game? Multiply that by 25 to get a sense of what supporting these projected powers last year would have cost you. 
  • Both the New York Yankees and Houston Astros won 100 games or more, but neither could show a profit for backers. Houston was down two units with a 103-59 mark, the Yankees lost 9.5 units at 100-62. 

You’re very unlikely to show a profit for the season by asking rich or otherwise “loaded” teams to win 105-110 games to top high sports book vigorish. Boston managed in 2018. Otherwise, money makers were “surprise” teams who turned out to be much better than their mediocre market expectations. 

Colorado is a good example. The Rockies surprised the National League in 2018 with a Wildcard berth after a 91-71 season that earned 19.5 units of gambling profit. 

Other pleasantly profitable surprises in 2018 were: Oakland (plus 36.5 units), Tampa Bay (plus 23.5), Milwaukee (plus 23), Atlanta (plus 18), and Seattle (plus 10).

Early April is the ideal time to focus on finding potential market surprises in a new season. Which teams off to fast starts in 2019 are pretenders about to fall back to earth? Look at home/road splits to see if anyone’s been benefitting from a friendly schedule. Look at team offensive stats to see who’s been hitting over their heads. Look for team pitching indicators that may be overloaded with outliers. 

Teams deep in “pretty good” talent outside of major media markets who aren’t winning because of schedule quirks or performance flukes are most likely to sustain early success for investors. Something to think about as you enjoy Sunday action from America’s pastime.

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