By Edward Egros
FOX Sports MLB Betting Analyst
Classes are back in session with the Professor!
We’ve mostly focused on the futures markets in this space, like who will win the World Series and who will take home Rookie of the Year honors. Now, let’s focus on a trend happening in baseball this season that can be capitalized on for betting on individual games, especially totals.
At the last check, if you blindly bet the total sub-races for each game so far, you would win at a rate of 53%. If you’ve watched enough baseball this season, you may have noticed a huge drop in overall offense.
Run errands at home. Batters hit fewer in the first two months of the season than in recent memory:
The home season runs until May 31
2020*: 2107 (* The pandemic season, from July 23 to September 22 has been analyzed)
This result is surprising because the National League has included designated hitters this season. However, even if you only look at NL hitters on the nine hole, there are six fewer home runs this season than last.
Although this is the “Analytical Age,” hitters are still swinging for the fences more than ever. But, if you think crossed out numbers should skyrocket, think again:
Season withdrawal rate
What’s also strange is that other parts of the game didn’t deteriorate. The BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, is barely down:
BABIP season until May 31
The removed offense is almost exclusively due to the lack of a long ball. However, thanks to Statcast, we can further investigate what is going on. As we discussed, Statcast measures the ball’s exit velocity and launch angle after it hits the bat. Obviously, to hit a home run, the ball must be hit with enough power and with just the right trajectory to exit the stadium. Of course, one or the other factor would affect the lack of circuitry. However, the data does not support this idea:
Season average exit speed (mph), average launch angle (degrees)
2022: 88.7, 12.6
2021: 88.9, 12.2
2020*: 88.4, 12.8
2019: 89.0, 12.6
2018: 88.9, 12.4
As you can see, the average release velocity and launch angles are similar to other recent seasons.
So what’s going on? Many have offered different theories to explain the trend. For example, how the baseballs themselves are stored before games or how the lockdown has influenced batters’ off-season preparation routines. If these are found to have an impact, the circuits will remain removed. Especially as the summer months approach, the air becomes less dense as temperatures soar and the ball has less resistance in flight.
So let’s talk about all of this from a betting perspective. How can we take advantage of what we see in the data?
Well, blindly betting under probably won’t net you a fortune because the market will likely correct itself and that 53% rate shouldn’t hold. However, finding ball clubs that will make runs without relying on the long ball should help you figure out where to overbet.
Now let’s get down to business! Here are two teams to consider placing bets on:
Boston Red Sox: No team has a higher expected batting average (xBA) and more double hits than the Fenway boys. They also have smart baserunners. Outs on Base (OOB) counts how often a runner is out while running through the bases. Boston has just 11 outs that way, one of the lowest ratings in MLB.
Cardinals of St. Louis: Paul Goldschmidt can grab the spotlight, but almost every other hitter does their part. Extra Bases Taken Percentage (XBT%) is a stat that shows how often a baserunner turns a single into a double or a double into a triple. The Redbirds rank third as a group, even though speedster Tyler O’Neill completes his 10-day stint in IL.
On the other hand, here are two teams reporting under bets:
Houston Astros: These aren’t the same Astros who have crushed almost every pitch and could overcome almost any deficit. Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) calculate an offense’s performance, and since 2015, these Astros have the second-lowest wRC+ (108) ahead of the 2020 team. Additionally, Houston has the most XBT% low among the greats, which you can’t blame for sign theft.
Detroit Tigers: To put it simply, Detroit is more than half a run worse per game than any other ball club. For more advanced numbers, they have the third lowest XBT% and the fourth lowest xBA. The metrics suggest the Tigers won’t be offensive juggernauts going forward.
Until MLB changes the way it stores its baseballs or some unobservable force helps batters get back to their batting habits, we won’t see a bigger increase in offense than we usually see. in summer. This is why finding the value of the totals for the individual games will be key. As we pointed out above, look for offenses that struggle to find other ways to craft runs and those that are adaptable enough to thrive.
Simply put, look to bet on the Red Sox and Cardinals overs and the Astros and Tigers unders moving forward every night. Along those same lines, their team totals could be another bet to take advantage of.
As always, the data is smooth, so come back to this space for more. And if you fancy shooting some totals, head over to FOX Bet now.
Edward Egros is a sports analytics broadcaster/writer, sports betting analyst, data scientist, and adjunct professor of statistics at Pepperdine University. These passions led him to becomee a cold brew lover. Edward previously worked in local television, including at Fox’s Dallas affiliate covering the Rangers, Cowboys and high school football. Follow him on Jwitter @EdWithSports.
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