MLB Moneymakers

Non-Surprises in MLB Make Surprising Money

There were definitely some big surprises early in the Major League Baseball season, and just past the midway point at the All-Star Break. But, now that we're coming down the home stretch…it's pretty much the teams that were expected to make the playoffs who will be playing in October

*The Philadelphia Phillies built one of the best starting pitching rotations in the history of baseball. Even though they've had to deal with some injuries here and there, the Phils have the best record in the majors at 89-48. They were supposed to be dominant, and they have been. I'd have to say the market has been a bit surprised at the magnitude of that dominance. If you had bet the Phils every game this year in Las Vegas, you'd be up about 18-19 units. That's third best in the majors. So, even though oddsmakers and bettors knew Philly would be good…there was still value betting on the best!

*The Boston Red Sox were the other team granted superpower status because of offseason acquisitions. They started the season poorly, but caught fire after that. For about a four month period they were the best in baseball. They recovered from an awful 2-10 start. Though, things have been pretty shaky lately because of pitching issues. Still, Boston will be in the playoffs barring a stunning collapse. They're plus units for the season too.

*The New York Yankees weren't supposed to be as good as Philadelphia and Boston, but they were still a very rich team that knew how to acquire resources. Prices were going to be high on the Yankees too because they always get respect in the market. Even with those hurdles, the Yanks are about plus 13-14 in betting units to this point in the season after Monday's win over Baltimore. That's how good the Yankees have been this year. They've made money for backers even at very high Vegas lines.

Those are the “big three” in terms of market expectations entering the season. There really haven't been many surprises when you get past them either.

*Detroit was a popular pick to win the crowded AL Central. The big surprise in this division was that Minnesota collapsed. Nobody's shocked that Detroit's probably going to beat out Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox to take the crown.

*Texas was the defending league champion, and a fairly obvious choice to win the AL West. They don't have that division wrapped up yet by any means. But, it's certainly not a surprise that they're in first place on September 6.

*Milwaukee was a popular choice to win the NL Central because they acquired quality pitching in the offseason without giving anything up. Some people liked St. Louis. Cincinnati and Chicago got some support. But, Milwaukee was the frontrunner as long as their sluggers didn't get hurt. The Brewers currently enjoy the biggest lead of any first place teams.

*Atlanta was nearly a unanimous pick for a Wildcard if there could be such a thing. Philadelphia was going to be great. Atlanta was going to have a playoff caliber team even if they weren't as good as the Phillies. That meant they'd get the Wildcard. No surprises there.

There's been only one truly big surprise to this point in the season in terms of the playoff picture. That's the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. Nobody was taking them seriously because they didn't seem to have much talent, and Kirk Gibson was an unknown quantity as manager.

In the NL West, San Francisco was the defending World Champion…Colorado always seems to crawl into the mix…the LA Dodgers have big money players even if it drove the team into bankruptcy. Arizona was completely off the radar. And, THAT'S why Arizona is the best money team in Las Vegas to this point in the season.

Arizona: +25-26
Milwaukee: +21-22
Philadelphia: +18-19
NY Yankees: +13-14
Atlanta: +10-11
Detroit: +9-10

I'm putting in general estimates because lines vary during the course of the day. Openers are different than closers. The widely available numbers an hour before closing may be different than the closers. These are good ballpark estimates. Arizona easily qualifies as the biggest surprise of the year. It's amazing to me how well you could have done by just backing the projected divisional favorites though. The market may have been overly influenced by early season results. Then, everyone was caught flatfooted when teams like Milwaukee and Detroit lifted their game after the All-Star Break and started playing like the contenders they were expected to be.

Who were the biggest BAD surprises this year? Let's look at the bottom of the ledger.

Houston: minus 34-35
Colorado: minus 21-22
Baltimore: minus 20-21
Seattle: minus 19-20
Oakland: minus 15-16
Minnesota: minus 14-15
Chicago Cubs: minus 14-15

Funny, everyone knew Houston would be horrible, but everyone underestimated the magnitude of their collapse. Colorado is probably the biggest “true” surprise because they weren't supposed to fall apart like that. They always get a lot of respect in the line at home, but are only 35-34 at altitude this season. Minnesota has been dealing with injuries, and never could get things on track.

All told, there weren't really that many surprises in baseball this year. But, the money you could have made “betting the obvious” is a pretty big surprise. The market “couldn't price the obvious” very well.

This article is part of the VSM MASTERS SERIES presented by For more information on NICK BOGDANOVICH'S handicapping packages, call 1-877-822-2276.


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