It’s been a strange start to the week in the Tuley’s Takes home office. The Stanley Cup wrapped up early last week and the NBA is taking its sweet time between games in the NBA Finals. That left us with MLB, which then went on it’s All-Star break. We were left betting the Home Run Derby and some All-Star Game props, but mostly we’ve been spending our time looking ahead to the second half of the baseball season.
We posted our 2021 MLB betting preview in Point Spread Weekly on March 3 and then an update on March 31, so this is a good time to see what we got right and wrong and what we can learn for the second half.
Underdogs started the season so strong that I kept posting the faves vs. dogs record in my nightly betting recaps on Twitter @ViewFromVegas and in the VSiN morning newsletters even after faves went well above .500. I wanted to show that the win percentage was still lower than usual as chalk usually hits around 57%-59%. Well, faves continued to stay hot as the temperatures rose and entered the All-Star break right back on track at 768-539 (58.8%) with 38 games closing pick-’em (which accounts for any differences you see for similar records on other sites). Of course, no one should be betting blindly one way or the other, but it shows again that the betting markets are usually pretty good at correcting themselves.
The same holds true for totals wagering. A major topic before the season was the deadening of the baseballs. I warned readers not to automatically assume they should bet a lot of Unders. Through the All-Star break, Overs actually hold a slim lead at 655-639-45 (50.6%) as oddsmakers have adjusted through the changes in the ball and the June 21 addition of umpires cracking down on illegal substances used by pitchers.
Let’s look at the division races.
We started our division previews in the spring with the NL West because the Padres made the biggest splash in the offseason and everyone was excited about their attempt to dethrone the defending champion Dodgers. I recommended betting the Padres Over 93.5 wins and also thought the Padres had a chance to make a run at + 245 to win the NL West, + 400 to win the NL and/or + 850 to win the World Series. Of course, very few of us expected the Giants to be leading the division at 57-32 at the break, two games ahead of the Dodgers and six ahead of the Padres. The Giants have been the biggest money-maker for bettors at + 20 units through the first half. The Giants have a nice balance of offense and defense, and I expect them to stick around to the end (in fact, the Dodgers are the -225 favorite to win the division, but the best value on the board still looks like the Giants at + 250). However, I wouldn’t bet the Giants often in individual games. That + 20 units was built on a lot of plus prices as dogs and short favorite prices and they’re going to be laying a lot more juice.
The Cubs Over 78 wins was my favorite Over/Under season win total and I’m still confident the Cubs will get there as they’re 44-46 after limping into the break. However, I’m not as confident in them getting back in the division race with the Brewers and Reds. My Over 84 recommendation on the Brewers looks even more solid, and I expect them to be the only playoff team to come out of the NL Central. In fact, while all the attention seems to be on the NL West and the Mets, the Brewers look like the best NL value at 7-1.
I had no clue in this division as it seemed very wide open. The Mets have a 3.5-game lead over the Phillies at the break with the Braves another half-game back. The -375 division price on the Mets is a little too steep, but I’m not sure it’s worth it to look at the Phillies at 6-1 or the Ronald Acuna Jr.-less Braves at 14-1.
My A’s Under 86.5 ticket is in trouble, though it looks better than it did earlier in the season. At 52-40, the A’s are on a pace for 91.5 wins, so I need them to fall off quite a bit more. At least my Astros -105 to win the division (some got them at plus-money) is looking a lot better with a 3.5-game lead at the break. They’ll probably have to be playing before more full-capacity booing crowds in the second half, but they’ve fared fine overall with what they’ve had to face.
We have future tickets on the White Sox at + 445 to win the AL and + 1100 to win the World Series, and those look like decent investments with the White Sox leading the Indians by eight games and having the easiest path to a playoff berth. You can still get the Sox at + 350 to win the AL and + 900 to win the World Series. Unfortunately, the White Sox’s strong run against left-handed starters has really cooled off. I am still sweating out my lone O/U season win total in the division as I took the Indians Under 81.5. They’re 45-42 at the break and on pace for nearly 84 wins, so I need them to stumble back to .500.
The Yankees were the prohibitive favorites at -235 to win the AL East as the season was about to start, and I hope no one out there thought that was a value bet. They’re in fourth place and eight games back, though I guess if you really believe the Yankees can sort out all their problems, they’re available at 12-1 to just win the division. I think I have more good news for all the Yankee fans out there. They’re -10 units on the season, but that of course is because of all the times they’ve lost as overpriced big favorites. It appears the market has corrected enough where they’re going to be more playable as long as they’re around the .500 mark (I’m sure they will be overpriced again if they get on a big winning streak or climb back in the NL East race). My biggest bet in the division was the Blue Jays Over 86 wins, and it looks like I’ll be sweating that the whole way as the Jays are 45-42 and on pace for between 83 and 84 wins.
Take on streaks
For those who have been following my advice on betting teams on winning streaks and fading those on losing streaks (and then making “swagger” plays when a team snaps a losing streak and “anti-swagger” plays when a team has a winning string snapped), I usually do a total reset coming out of the All-Star break. I mean, the White Sox have a five-game winning streak and the Giants and Twins having four-game winning streaks while the Nationals, Orioles, Tigers and Royals all have four-game losing streaks, but I don’t think we can expect any momentum or lack of momentum to continue after a four-day layoff from Sunday until all the teams resume play on Friday.