NFL and college football betting have completely overshadowed MLB betting and, frankly, that’s probably a good thing at this time of year. MLB, like late-season NBA, can be very difficult to bet. The bad teams aren’t tanking for draft position like they do in the NBA, but the grind of the 162-game season gets to be a lot without the adrenaline to keep going out and performing at a high level.
It’s hardly a coincidence that two of the three worst teams in the American League over the last 10 games already have 80 losses and most of the teams that are 4-6 over the last 10 games are not in the playoff picture. Of the six teams that are 4-6 or worse in their last 10 games in the National League, four of them are not anywhere close to contention and two of them are desperately clawing away to stay in the wild card chase after overachieving to start the season.
Motivation is really hard to gauge. People look at baseball as an individual sport of pitcher vs. batter, but it’s far more complex than that. A hitter does his job if he draws a walk, but the guys after him have to do their jobs to drive in a run. A pitcher does his job if he misses the barrel of the bat, but the fielders still have to make the play. At this time of the season, not everybody is on the same compete level and that makes it really hard to wager on games.
Bettors are also paying a premium on teams in “must-win” types of situations. Looking just at the Tuesday games, the Indians opened -175 before the market moved the number down 15 cents as it has been hard to justify Trevor Bauer as a big favorite. The Twins, however, have been playing poorly and the Indians are attempting to stay in the playoff race. Edinson Volquez was a -140 favorite for the Pirates against the hapless Phillies. The market felt that line was too high and it, too, moved down 15 cents at some shops. The Angels opened -160 at Texas, who hasn’t cared for a couple months, yet that line also moved down because Hector Santiago has done nothing to warrant a -160 line, especially in a hitter’s park on the road.
What that tells you is that, as an MLB bettor, it takes betting on bad teams or laying big numbers to make money in September. The market is efficient because of the uncertainty. That seems like an anomaly, especially when other sports’ markets are inefficient because of uncertainty, but the unknown is what makes the September MLB market tough to bet. Of the 15 favorites on the MLB card for Tuesday, the opening line has moved down in nine games, with very small changes in most of the other games and only a couple that moved the favorite into heavier chalk.
Expect more of the same on Wednesday and through the end of the regular season. It will be something that gets monitored in this weekly update and something that those still playing baseball should be aware of. Most teams have made whatever September call-ups they are going to make and there’s no more help coming to the current roster.
There’s not a whole lot to update on the injury front because roster expansion has allowed teams to simply keep a player on the bench without sending him to the disabled list for an injury.
Something worth taking a look at for this time of the season is how pitchers, as a whole, perform in September compared to the rest of the season. Common sense would suggest that pitchers get less effective as their workload builds. Also, in September, rookies and inexperienced pitchers are getting spot starts or making relief appearances. Is there a major change in September for starting pitcher numbers?
2014 season: 3.87 ERA, 3.84 FIP, 7.32 K/9, 2.72 BB/9
2014 Sept/Oct: 3.81 ERA, 3.93 FIP, 7.00 K/9, 2.52 BB/9
2013 season: 4.01/3.95/7.19/2.83
2013 Sept/Oct: 3.92/3.81/7.46/2.81
2012 season: 4.19/4.13/7.14/2.84
2012 Sept/Oct: 4.10/4.10/7.35/2.88
2011 season: 4.06/4.00/6.75/2.85
2011 Sept/Oct: 4.17/4.08/6.94/2.87
2010 season: 4.15/4.13/6.77/3.06
2010 Sept/Oct: 4.06/4.10/6.92/3.05
Recent history suggests that there’s no starting pitcher drop-off of note. How about relievers?
2014 season: 3.56 ERA, 3.61 FIP, 8.45 K/9, 3.32 BB/9
2014 Sept/Oct: 3.59 ERA, 3.79 FIP, 8.39 K/9, 3.40 BB/9
2013 season: 3.59/3.70/8.29/3.37
2013 Sept/Oct: 3.62/3.58/8.57/3.45
2012 season: 3.67/3.79/8.37/3.46
2012 Sept/Oct: 3.64/3.71/8.60/3.47
Interestingly, this season is the only one without a strikeout jump from relievers. As the sample size gets bigger, that may change, but relievers were already setting a historical best in terms of strikeouts per nine innings anyway. Overall, it would seem that hitters tire out more than pitchers given this data.
Be very careful with bankroll management if you’re still betting MLB. It’s best to cut your losses and focus on something else if you’ve had a tough baseball season or be very careful and take good care of your profits if you have made money. Betting big favorites and ugly dogs is a hard way to make money, so take that into consideration in September.