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Thinking of laying -1.5 runs with big favorites? Keep thinking

Jeff Fogle
VSiN.com

June 21, 2017 12:17 AM

We begin a summer series on baseball proposition handicapping by discussing the pitfalls of laying -1.5 runs with favorites. Don’t let the system game YOU!

MLB: Beware the pitfalls of laying -1.5 runs with big favorites
If you’re relatively new to baseball betting, you may not be aware that sports books offer the option to lay -1.5 runs with favorites at a more favorable price. Your basically “selling” a run back to the sports book. You now have to win the game by two runs or more…but the prices might strike you as very appealing. 

Here are some quick examples from Tuesday night’s card. (None of these games saw the favorite win by a run, we’re just giving you a sense of the price difference.)
 
The Cubs were around -200 vs. San Diego, but just even money at -1.5 runs
The Yankees were around -260 vs. the LA Angels, but just -135 at -1.5 runs
The Blue Jays were around -125 vs. Texas, but plus 125 runs at -1.5 runs

The biggest mistake most bettors make with these involves backing big favorites. Psychology drives us to avoid pain…and losing -200 or -260 on a bet seems a lot more painful than losing even money or -135. You’ll hear gamblers say something like “I can’t lay -200 with the Cubs here, but I have no problem laying a-run-and-a-half at even money.” The deal is…in market terms…that’s the same thing! The market knows the price of a run. You’re not “gaming the system” by laying -1.5 runs at a lower price, you’re letting the system game you. You were about to pass a big favorite because of a high price…but now you’ve bet on that big favorite at what turns out to be an equally high overall cost. Runs are valuable…and you just gave one back to your sportsbook.

If you started out your personal betting with football, as many gamblers do, a high point spread means “the favorite is gonna kill ‘em.” In baseball, a high moneyline doesn’t mean the same thing. Sure, sometimes the big favorite will win big (as the Cubs ultimately did Tuesday night). But, a price of -200 means the favorite is expected to win straight up about 65% of the time (with added juice so that YOU have to win more than 67% of the time to earn money). That win rate represents all kinds of wins, including nailbiters. 

If you see any team laying -200, they’re probably going to lose about a third of the time, win some one-run games, win some by 2-3 runs, and win a few blowouts. By laying -1.5 runs, you’re giving away the nailbiters without thinking of the true cost. If a game is tied after seven innings, a decent home team will find ways to eke out a tight victory. That’s part of the insurance you have at -200 that you forfeit when you lay -1.5 runs.  

Another line of thinking that snares unsophisticated gamblers…losing less when you’re wrong makes you feel like you got away with something! Anyone who laid -260 or more with the Yankees Tuesday got spanked. If they only laid -135 at -1.5 runs…well the 8-3 loss only cost them that -135 in retrospect. It’s very easy to think to yourself “I’m better off across the board as long as the game doesn’t land exactly on the favorite by one run.” 

While technically true, the market knows how often games end with the favorite winning by exactly one run. The math makes you pay a penalty for your gamble. 

So, if you’re thinking about adding run lines to your portfolio, don’t use them to make big favorites “feel” cheaper. Oddsmakers have a lot of experience making casual gamblers suffer with that approach.

Instead, look for situations where the market may have mis-priced the value of a run. Runs are cheaper in high scoring environments. Look to fade opponents who have hittable starting pitchers and lousy bullpens. Your point of emphasis isn’t on “making big favorites feel cheaper,” it’s on asking Major League hitters to punish poor pitching. 

We’ve talked a few times about the recent collapse of the Baltimore pitching staff. That storyline is still in play. The Orioles have STILL allowed at least five runs in every game they’ve played since June 3! From that date through last night’s 6-5 win over Cleveland, Baltimore has allowed opponents to score 5-7-5-6-6-8-16-14-10-6-6-5-11-7-5-12-5 on a game-by-game basis.

It’s kind of a miracle that the Orioles are 6-11 straight up in those outings. It’s worth nothing that not a single Orioles loss was by one run. So, fading the Orioles and laying -1.5 runs against them would have gone 11-6 at very cheap pricing. 

Who are other teams with vulnerable relievers, that will pour kerosene on messes started by shaky starters?

Worst Relievers’ xFIP (thru Monday’s games, source: fangraphs)

  • Detroit: 4.86 
  • Minnesota: 4.79
  • Philadelphia: 4.68
  • Baltimore: 4.65 
  • Miami: 4.63 
  • San Francisco: 4.61 
  • Tampa Bay: 4.59 
  • Seattle 4.58 
  • Milwaukee 4.52 
  • Atlanta: 4.51 
  • NY Mets: 4.50 

Remember that xFIP is “fielding independent pitching,” and works on a scale very similar to ERA. If you’re wondering about Washington’s notorious bullpen, they just missed the 4.50 cutoff at 4.47. 


The first piece of advice you should always heed when betting on sports is “don’t do what the general public does!” Be very careful with run-line betting. See if you can find blowout scenarios connected to struggling pitching that will let you give back cheap runs you’re less likely to need. 

NBA: Tuesday Trades
As the countdown to Thursday’s NBA Draft continues, there were a couple of notable trades Tuesday. Player swaps featured the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers, then the Atlanta Hawks and Charlotte Hornets. 

Brooklyn gets: D’Angelo Russell, Timofey Mozgov
LA Lakers get: Brook Lopez, and the #27 pick in Thursday’s draft

Atlanta gets: Marco Belinelli, Miles Plumlee, and the #41 pick in Thursday’s draft
Charlotte gets: Dwight Howard and the #31 pick in Thursday’s draft

None of those are expected to move the needle on Futures Prices. Though Brian Windhorst of ESPN says his reporting suggests that Atlanta’s trade of Howard is an early signal that the team is going into a full-blown rebuilding effort. If subsequent developments regarding Paul Millsap confirm THAT, then the Power Rating of the Hawks and their Futures prices would take a hit. 

Otherwise, we’re looking at salary dumps, or the gathering of resources to package together in future transactions (the Lakers may be including that #27 pick in efforts to acquire Paul George, for example). 

If you’re an NBA fan interested in the draft, we think you’ll enjoy this article by Ben Falk (former VP of Basketball Strategy for the Philadelphia 76ers and Basketball Analytics Manager for the Portland Trailblazers), which was inspired by a recent Ringer podcast featuring Bill Simmons and Malcolm Gladwell. 

Look for more draft analysis Wednesday on “Follow the Money” when Jay Bilas of ESPN joins Mitch and Pauly for a must-see segment (or “must-listen” on Sirius channel 204!). “A Numbers Game” with Gill Alexander and “My Guys in the Desert” with Ron Flatter and Amal Shah Wednesday, Brent Musburger and Ron Thursday, will also feature multiple interviews the next two days to get you ready for Thursday’s draft.

NHL: Las Vegas Golden Knights Expansion Picks Must be Finalized by 10 a.m. ET Wednesday
By the time most of you have read this, general manager George McPhee will have turned in his final list of expansion selections to the NHL office. The formal deadline is 10 a.m. ET, 7 a.m. here in Las Vegas. 

The official announcement of those selections will be made Wednesday evening during the NHL’s awards ceremony that will be televised live at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. in Vegas) by the NBC Sports Network.

Additional Reading
The USA Today posted these suggestions for selections
Steve Carp of the Las Vegas Review-Journal prepared this mock draft
Adidas unveiled the Golden Knights uniforms Tuesday night at the Wynn

Look for discussion throughout Wednesday on VSiN programming.

NFL: AFC North looks to bounce back after disappointing season
We continue “AFC Week” in VSiN City with a look at the AFC North. The Pittsburgh Steelers didn’t have stats as good as their 11-5 record last year…while the rest of the AFC North unfortunately did have stats that were in line with disappointing records. Not exactly a launching point for greatness! Let’s take a closer look at what went wrong…and what might go right in 2017 as we continue our series of NFL divisional dives.

Pittsburgh Steelers
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 10.5 (Over -120)
Odds to win AFC: 4/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 9/1

2016 Record: 11-5 
Yards-per-Play: 5.8 on offense, 5.5 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 41% on offense, 41% allowed

Passing: 7.3 yards-per-pass attempt, 33 TD’s, 15 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 7.0 yards-per-pass attempt, 20 TD’s allowed, 13 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 23 takeaways, 38 sacks

The Steelers didn’t have the raw stats of an 11-5 team…but they do have a great drive finisher in Ben Roethlisberger…and a defense that gets stingy around the end zone. So, the YPP and third down differentials understated how good this team played last year because of those end zone dynamics. That said, most 11-5 teams are MUCH more impressive in those indicators stats. Pittsburgh’s defense probably needs to get opponent YPP down to the low 5’s, and opponent third down rates down into the 30’s before the Steelers are a true threat to healthy New England in the AFC. Remember that New England’s offense managed 8.1 yards-per-pass-attempt with only 2 interceptions, while also converting 46% of their third down tries. Nobody’s going to “out-offense” the Patriots, no matter how many bombs Big Ben completes. 

Baltimore Ravens
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 9 (Under -130)
Odds to win AFC: 15/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 35/1

2016 Record: 8-8 
Yards-per-Play: 5.2 on offense, 5.2 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 37% on offense, 35% allowed

Passing: 6.4 yards-per-pass attempt, 20 TD’s, 16 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 6.8 yards-per-pass attempt, 28 TD’s allowed, 18 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 28 takeaways, 31 sacks

An offensive disaster, as critics of quarterback Joe Flacco had a field day. An elite defense kept the team at .500. Baltimore goes on the list with the NY Giants, Minnesota, Arizona (and eventually in our reports Houston, Jacksonville, and Denver) as teams who had playoff caliber defenses but very disappointing offensive production. Tough to anticipate big steps forward unless you can isolate the trigger that’s going to ignite any of these struggling offenses. You have to figure somebody’s going to figure something out. Will fortune’s roulette wheel smile on the Ravens?

Cincinnati Bengals
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 8.5 (Under -135)
Odds to win AFC: 25/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 50/1

2016 Record: 6-9-1 
Yards-per-Play: 5.4 on offense, 5.4 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 39% on offense, 40% allowed

Passing: 7.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 18 TD’s, 8 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 6.7 yards-per-pass attempt, 22 TD’s allowed, 17 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 20 takeaways, 33 sacks

Even Cincinnati skeptics were surprised the team only managed six victories last season. Andy Dalton somehow posted a decent yards-per-pass while not finding the end zone often. He did avoid interceptions…but couldn’t move the chains. The biggest concern is that Dalton has hit his ceiling…which will prevent this franchise from really mattering as long as he’s there. A big investment of time and money went into that 6-9-1 mark a year ago. 

Cleveland Browns
2017 Regular Season Win Estimate: 4.5 (Over -120)
Odds to win AFC: 150/1
Odds to win Super Bowl: 250/1

2016 Record: 1-15 
Yards-per-Play: 5.1 on offense, 5.9 allowed
Third Down Conversions: 36% on offense, 45% allowed

Passing: 6.5 yards-per-pass attempt, 15 TD’s, 14 interceptions thrown
Pass defense: 7.7 yards-per-pass attempt, 36 TD’s allowed, 10 interceptions 

Defensive Impact: 13 takeaways, 26 sacks

Save this profile, so you can see what “tankers” generally look like in key indicator stats. It won’t be Cleveland again because it’s tough to get away with doing that two years in a row to ticket holders. Future tankers will make all quarterbacks look like Pro Bowlers while earning very few takeaways and sacks (less than one per game and less than two per game). The offense was pathetic…a reflection of both “need to lose” and a lack of experienced talent. The head coach is supposed to be a quarterback guru! We’ll learn more about that this season with the greater sense of urgency. (Keep in mind that head coaches who are “offensive gurus” often put together teams with horrible defenses…and head coaches who are “defensive gurus” often put together teams with horrible offenses.)

At least the areas that need improving are obvious in this division. If Flacco and Dalton don’t bounce back, the AFC North race, and the whole AFC title picture are going to feel anticlimactic. Not many clear contenders to wrest control of the conference away from Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger. 

Back Thursday to look at the AFC South, a division even uglier than the North. If you’re reading today on the homepage of VSiN, don’t forget that you can get free email delivery of this newlsetter every weekday morning (along with PDF files of the daily South Point betting sheets) by subscribing. Programming notes and show snippets are available throughout the day on twitter. Click here to follow us. If you have any questions or comments about VSiN programming or this VSiN City newsletter, please drop us a note.

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