Throughout the 2019 season, and with the expansion of legal sports betting in the United States, we will check in on some Rays-centric betting tips for upcoming games and series, and look at bigger trends in the sports betting world, writ large.
I must emphasize that this column is most meant for fun. I am by no means an expert, and if you know anyone who has a gambling problem, please contact Gamblers Anonymous. Never bet more than you can afford, and sports betting isn’t for everyone.
However, for those who are excited to sports bet responsibly, hopefully we’ll give you some good tips and tricks every couple weeks. Here’s the introduction to the series, and here are some key terms to help you along the way.
Welcome back to our running Rays gambling series. With baseball back in our lives this weekend, let’s get to the action.
Wide Lens Trend: Rays adjusted win total bets
At the halfway mark, most sportsbooks will release a new season over/under win total for every team around the league. Season win total over/unders are some of the most fun bets to make, as they provide eight months worth of entertainment, instead of your typical one night of enjoyment. I know I’m a sucker for making more of these than I probably should just because of the extended enjoyment taken away from it.
Personally, I have several preseason win total over/unders that are looking strong, and as such, there is the potential to middle here. What does that mean?
For example, back in late March, I put a bet on the Rays to win more than 84 games. They are currently on pace to win 93 games (92.5, to be exact), so that bet is looking good. In fact, the new Rays end-of-season win total line set at the All-Star break has come in at 91.5 wins. That means, if I want to, I can guarantee myself profit by making a matching bet (in terms of capital allocated) on the under for the Rays 91.5 new win total line.
By doing this, I would be hedging my bet, and performing a bit of sports arbitrage. I’d be setting up a win-win zone of 84-91 wins, while capping my potential loss (and winnings) if the Rays finish with either fewer than 84 wins, or more than 91 wins. It is a smart strategy, even more so if the bettor is putting in large sums of money and looking at sports betting as a form of investment rather than just an extra reason to root for her/his team.
However, let’s say you didn’t make a preseason bet on the Rays season win total. Is that 91.5 number a tempting one?
Let’s consider a few factors. For one, the Rays have the run differential of a 97-win team; the third-order winning percentage of a 105-win team (!); and they are going to play the second-easiest schedule in the entire major leagues the rest of the way (per our own JT Morgan). The team is also far more likely to buy than sell at the trade deadline (although they may be most likely to do some of those buy-AND-sell moves), and they get to play the Orioles 11 more times.
Now, I do think the over is the play, but we know to be a bit hesitant about the Rays and third-order winning percentage, and in addition to playing the Orioles 11 times, they have to face the Yanks and Sawks a combined 16 times, with the Red Sox appearing to be back near their 2018 levels of play recently. Nothing is ever a guarantee in the AL East, but I feel comfortable enough with the Rays over 91.5 adjusted end-of-season win total that we’ll be adding it to the tracker at the end of this article.
Gambling Best Practices: Don’t be afraid to pound the favorites
There’s something inherently boring in betting a -182 favorite to win, straight up. The bettor wins only $0.55 on $1, and the implied odds of 64.5% are high for any baseball game, which we know are basically slightly weighted coin flips. However, a long-running trend that has proven true again this season, is that it pays to bet on the heavy favorites, especially after the early portion of the season when the gambling public may still be figuring out who those “heavy favorites” are.
Bet of the Day (?): Rays (-157) over Baltimore
Friday’s game is actually an incredibly interesting betting matchup, and one I want to dive into a little. On the surface, it seems like betting $1 to win $0.64 for the very good Rays to be the lowly Orioles should be easy money.
However, if we zoom in one layer, it becomes clear why this line seems a little funky. Yonny Chirinos, while he has been excellent with a 3.15 ERA and 2.5 rWAR, looks to be poised for a little regression. His FIP comes in at 4.28 and his xFIP sits at 4.11. Of the 199 starters with at least 250 balls in play, only six have a larger gap between their wOBA and xwOBA by Baseball Savant.
On the other side of the equation, Dylan Bundy is just 4-10 with a 4.65 ERA, but among that same group of 199 starters, only 23 are more primed for positive regression by wOBA-xwOBA. If you’ve been tracking MLB betting lines this year, you know that’s what’s making this line seem so out of whack. The sharps love the Baseball Savant expected stats, and those numbers have been driving most of the line changes seen this season.
However, I’m not so sure I’m buying in quite as much. Over and over, you hear the smartest baseball minds note that the Baseball Savant expected stats are not actually that predictive. Or at least not as Silver Bullet Predictive as they are being treated by many.
There’s also the simple matter of the Rays being a far superior team to Baltimore. Yes, one starter may be due for some positive regression while the other is due for some negative regression, but we are in an era when starting pitchers go shorter into games than ever before, thus making that starting pitcher matchup have less of an impact on a the final score than ever before. Add in the fact that both bullpens will be fresh coming out of the All-Star break, and that’s another edge towards Tampa Bay.
However to my however, though: This is right after the All-Star break, all sorts of weird stuff goes on around this time of the season, and the Rays are still without Brandon Lowe, Jose Alvarado, Ji-Man Choi, and Chaz Roe (although that last one may actually be a good thing...). All things considered, this seems like a classic Stay Away game. It’s telling that Draftkings, the books the usually offers the smallest cut, is at nearly 30 points of juice: +128 for Baltimore and -157 for Tampa Bay. I don’t think even Vegas knows what to do with this game, and I’m with them.
We’re going to stay away from tonight’s matchup (sometimes the best play is no play) and instead simply add the end-of-season bet to the season-long tracker.
Rays Betting Series Tracker
|Rays to win first inning
|Rays season win total over 91.5