By the time Thursday rolls around and the divisional playoffs open in Major League Baseball, we will be down to eight teams vying for this year’s title. The divisional round is a big test for even the best team in baseball, as the best-of-five format leaves little room for error and a small amount of time to recover from any lulls in play. As a result, this round can be quite unpredictable, much to the dismay of those who bet favorites. Let’s look at key betting results from divisional rounds of the past to see if we can uncover anything to help us breeze through this year’s series.
Overall Series Results Since 2000
— A total of 84 divisional round series have been played since 2000, and better seeds are just 43-41 (51.2 percent).
— There is a decent break in success level for the better seeds when they won at least eight more games than their opponents in the regular season, as their record in those series is 15-10. Tampa Bay will have this edge over the AL wild-card winner, as will San Francisco if St. Louis upsets Los Angeles in the NL wild-card game.
In-Series Betting Systems
— Over the last five years of divisional playoff action, momentum has proven a key ingredient to handicapping on a game-by-game basis. Teams coming off a win in that series are 31-27 SU (+ 4.35 units) and 34-24 (+ 9.5 units) on run lines. Teams coming off a loss are 27-31 SU (-7.9 units) and 24-34 (-15.6 units) on run lines.
— Since 2013, the number 7 has been key in terms of runs scored. In divisional round games after a same-series game in which they scored seven runs or more, teams are 29-17 SU (+ 15.7 units) and 31-15 (+ 16.3 units) on run lines.
— In same-series games after a divisional playoff contest in which teams scored six runs or fewer, they are 76-95 SU (-25.5 units) and 77-94 (-30.2 units) on run lines. The return on investment on the seven-run angle is 34.1 percent. The ROI on the six-run angle is -14.9 percent. This represents a massive swing of just under 50 percent ROI simply from taking a team that scored seven runs or more in the previous contest. Don’t discount this.
— Since 2014, teams have bounced back well from divisional round games in which their bullpen blew a save, going 27-16 SU (+ 11.7 units) and 27-16 (+ 9.95 units) on run lines. These follow-up games also tend to go Under on totals at 24-17 (+ 5.3 units).
Game-by-game historical trends
Here are the recent performance trends for the divisional round by series game number.
— Home favorites in the divisional round are on a 23-13 SU (+ 7.55 units) and 19-17 run line (+ 7.35 units) surge.
— Road and neutral-site favorites are 8-4 SU (+ 3.05 units) and 6-6 RL (+ 0.2 units) since 2009.
—Wild-card winners are just 4-11 SU (-5.4 units) and 7-8 RL (-4.6 units) since 2012.
—Overs hold a slight edge dating to 2000 at 46-37-1 (+ 6.6 units).
—Favorites in the divisional round are on a 13-3 SU (+ 9.2 units) and 11-5 RL (+ 8.9 units) surge since ’17.
—Teams that won Game 1 are 39-21 SU (+ 17.7 units) and 36-24 (+ 13.45 units) on run lines since ’06.
—Teams that won Game 1 have thrived in the underdog role, going 14-6 SU (+ 13 units) and 16-4 (+ 9.05 units) on run lines in that span.
—Scores tend to come back down after higher-scoring Game 1s, with Unders holding an edge on Game 2 totals since 2000 at 44-35-5 (+ 8.8 units).
—Home favorites in the divisional round are just 19-21 SU (-11.6 units) and 13-27 (-10.1 units) on run lines since ’05.
—Favorites down 0-2 in a divisional series are just 7-11 SU (-9.1 units) and 5-13 (-6.05 units) on run lines in that span.
—Road favorites are on a 10-4 SU (+ 3.7 units) and 7-7 RL (+ 0.85 units) run since ’08 in the divisional round.
—Teams hoping to avoid elimination have gone 10-6 SU (+ 5.2 units) and 10-6 (+ 4.3 units) on run lines since 2015.
—On Game 4 totals, Unders are holding an edge over the last four years of 8-3-1 (+ 4.6 units).
—There have been 26 divisional round Game 5s since 2002, and 25 have had favorites of -110 or higher. Those teams have gone just 10-15 SU (-11.4 units) and 7-18 (-9.7 units) on run lines.
—Of those 25 favorites, 19 have been home favorites, and those teams are just 6-13 SU (-12.9 units) and 5-14 (-8.1 units) on run lines.
—Road favorites make up the rest of that Game 5 sample since ’02, and they have produced a record of 4-2 SU (+ 1.45 units) but were 2-4 (-1.6 units) on run lines.
—Essentially these two trends indicate that lesser seeds that make it to Game 5s are in good shape.
—The seven Game 5s in the divisional round since 2015 have featured five Overs (+ 3 units) on totals.