Sportsbooks vs FanGraphs: Which 2020 MLB Win Totals have value?

June 26, 2020 12:01 AM

When it comes to season win totals, the NFL gets all the attention. After all, it is the most heavily bet and most popular sport overall. However, season win totals are also available for other sports, including basketball and baseball (hockey also has a variation of a win total, known as the points total). 

Regardless of the sport, the premise is pretty simple: Before each season, the oddsmakers set a number of wins for every team during the upcoming regular season. Bettors can then take the over or the under. 

Betting win totals requires patience and liquidity. You won't know the result of your bet for months. You need to be comfortable with tying up a piece of your bankroll long term. You also don't want to waste all of your bankroll on win totals and then have nothing left to bet with during the regular season.

In years past, MLB win totals were based on the standard 162-game season. But thanks to this year's shortened 60-game season we are now seeing win totals that look completely foreign at first glance. 

For example, before the Coronavirus hit the Los Angeles Dodgers had the highest win total of any team in baseball at 102.5. But now, due to the shortened season, oddsmakers have reset the Dodgers' win total at 38.5. 

The biggest question bettors must ask themselves is how the 60-game schedule will affect each team. With so many unknowns and such a short sample size, will the variance benefit the bad teams and hurt the good teams? In other words, could a bottom-dweller get "lucky" and play well over a short period of time, when in normal years they would fade over the long run and sink to the bottom of the standings? Or what about a contender getting off to a slow start? Just last year we saw the Washington Nationals start 19-31 through 50-games and then get red-hot, finishing 93-69 and winning the World Series. 

Which teams are built for the long haul? And which teams could catch lighting in a bottle over a short sample? Bettors must keep these variables in mind when deciding which win totals to bet on.

PointsBet was the first sportsbook to post updated MLB win totals for the shortened 60-game season. Below, you'll find the complete list for every MLB team. Next to each win total is the FanGraphs projected win total. FanGraphs is the most trusted source for advanced baseball analytics. By comparing the sportsbooks' win totals to the FanGraphs projections, we can look for discrepancies and locate possible value.

Note: I've abbreviated PointsBet win totals to "PB" and FanGraphs projected wins to "FG"

Dodgers PB 38.5, FG 36

Yankees PB 38.5, FG 34

Astros PB 35.5, FG 35

Braves PB 34.5, FG 33

Twins PB 34.5, FG 32

Rays PB 34.5, FG 33

Indians PB 33.5, FG 31

Nationals PB 33.5, FG 33

Athletics PB 33.5, FG 32

Cardinals PB 32.5, FG 31

Red Sox PB 32.5, FG 31

Cubs PB 32.5, FG 32

White Sox PB 31.5, FG 30

Reds PB 31.5, FG 31

Angels PB 31.5, FG 30

Brewers PB 31.5, FG 31

Mets PB 31.5, FG 32

Phillies PB 31.5, FG 30

Padres PB 31.5, FG 32

Diamondbacks PB 30.5, FG 31

Rangers PB 29.5, FG 28

Rockies PB 27.5, FG 29

Blue Jays PB 26.5, FG 27

Pirates PB 25.5, FG 27

Giants PB 25.5, FG 27

Royals PB 24.5, FG 26

Marlins PB 24.5, FG 26

Mariners PB 24.5, FG 24

Tigers PB 21.5, FG 24

Orioles PB 20.5, FG 21

Overs with value: Tigers (+ 2.5), Marlins (+ 1.5), Royals (+ 1.5), Giants (+ 1.5), Rockies (+ 1.5)

Unders with value: Yankees (-4.5), Dodgers (-2.5), Indians (-2.5), Twins (-2.5), Rangers (-1.5), Phillies (-1.5), White Sox (-1.5), Angels (-1.5), Red Sox (-1.5), Cardinals (-1.5), Athletics (-1.5), Braves (-1.5)

Based on FanGraphs projected wins, it looks as though a basic rule of thumb is taking the over win total for many of the bad teams and the under win total for many of the good teams. This is a classic contrarian "buy low, sell high" strategy and makes sense based on the expected variance of a shortened season. 

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