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    MLB Win Totals, Final Four (4/1)

    Dave Tuley's Vegas Beat
    By Dave Tuley
    Monday March 31

    LAS VEGAS – Baseball Fever – Catch up!

    Spring is the time of year when a young man’s fancy turns to baseball, but it’s also easy to get distracted by March Madness – and the NBA, NHL, NASCAR, horse racing, golf, soccer and all sorts of other sporting events. Since it’s still only March (at least for one more day), I’ve heard countless people in the sports books saying that they didn’t know the baseball season has started.

    Alas, my laddies, it has as the MLB season actually started over a week ago in Australia with the Dodgers beating the Diamondbacks in the first two games. And then on Sunday night, when most people were trying to recover from the thrilled NCAA regional finals, the Dodgers looked like they were going to improve to 3-0 but blew a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the eighth as the Padres rallied to win 3-1 as a +105 home dog.

    So it’s time to catch up on baseball as the rest of the major league teams open Monday and Tuesday. The Predictalator has done a lot of great work here at PredictionMachine.com so check out the other baseball content, but this article is intended to look at how the oddsmakers in Nevada set the MLB odds for this season and how the early bettors (the ones paying attention the most) have attacked those numbers and bet them into place.

    We’ll start by saying that the Dodgers, despite their Sunday night loss, are the 6-1 World Series favorite at the LVH SuperBook as of their updated odds at 5:44 a.m. Monday. The Tigers, Nationals and Cardinals are the co-second choices at 7-1 with a drop-off to the Red Sox and Rays at 12-1, the Yankees at 15-1, and the Angels at 16-1.

    But most professional bettors are less interested in betting those odds and instead prefer looking at over/under season win totals. The wiseguys prefer these because you’re just betting on how a team does compared to market expectations. There are many times you might think a team will do well this year but maybe not be able to go all the way to win a championship, but you can still bet them over their win total and cash. Also, it gives you the option of betting against a team and taking the under if you think they’ll fall short of their win total.

    The chart shows where each team opened when the Atlantis Casino in Reno put up the first MLB over/under win totals on Thursday, Feb. 13 (2-13 below). The LVH followed suit that Sunday, Feb. 16 (2-16 below), so we can see how those oddsmakers differed, and then we see where the numbers sat on Sunday. This exercise might not help you with betting these totals unless you can get down before a team’s first pitch (though in a lot of cases if you’re following the money you’d be taking the worst of the number), but rather we can take hints of which teams we might be looking to bet (or fade) in individual games.
     
    MLB OVER/UNDER WIN TOTALS (2-13 is the Atlantis, 2-16 and 2-30 is the LVH)
    Team   13-Feb 16-Feb 30-Mar      
    DODGERS  92.5 93.5 95*      
    CARDINALS  90.5 91.5 91.5      
    NATIONALS  90.5 87.5 90.5      
    TIGERS    91.5 89.5 89.5      
    RAYS    88.5 87.5 88.5      
    A'S    86.5 89 87.5      
    ANGELS    84.5 87.5 87.5      
    RED SOX  87.5 87.5 87      
    YANKEES  83.5 85.5 86      
    BRAVES    86.5 87.5 86      
    RANGERS  86.5 86.5 86      
    GIANTS    86.5 85.5 85.5      
    REDS    87.5 83.5 84.5      
    PIRATES  86.5 84.5 83.5      
    ROYALS    85.5 79.5 82.5      
    INDIANS    82.5 80 81.5      
    ORIOLES  80.5 78 81.5      
    MARINERS  81.5 80.5 80.5      
    BLUE JAYS  77.5 79.5 80      
    BREWERS  78.5 79.5 79.5      
    PADRES    76.5 78.5 78.5      
    DIAMONDBACKS  81 80 78      
    ROCKIES  76.5 75.5 77      
    METS    71.5 73.5 75      
    WHITE SOX  76.5 77 75      
    PHILLIES  78 76 74.5      
    MARLINS  66.5 69.5 70.5      
    TWINS    65.5 71.5 70.5      
    CUBS    65.5 68.5 70      
    ASTROS    57.5 63.5 64      
    *-Dodgers were at 94 before started season 2-0 in Australia
     
    Now, as you can see, in a lot of cases it was a matter of the two sports books having a difference of opinion and the market betting the extremes and settling in the middle. But we have several examples of teams that have been bet up or down regardless of the number (note: I’m going to disregard the group at the bottom as the Rockies, Cubs, Mets, Marlins and Astros were all bet over at both the Atlantis and LVH, but, c’mon, how much lower could they have gone?)

    Bet-on teams

    Dodgers: They opened at 92.5 at the Atlantis and 93.5 at the LVH and have been bet up to 95 (though note that they were at 94 before beating the Diamondbacks twice in Australia to start the season), so bettors are still high on them even though they have the highest total. Now, obviously, they’re going to be favored in most games – even on the road – so bettors need to be selective on when to back them.

    Nationals: Same thing with the Nationals being favored in most games, but the prices won’t be as prohibitive as the Dodgers except when Stephen Strasburg is on the mound.

    Yankees: I list them here with some trepidation as some of the movement in their win totals is probably square money from fans (just like the Cubs’ big move on the over), but there are some indications that they won’t be as bad as a lot of people were predicting and they could be available at better prices than we’re used to seeing on them.

    Royals: This is a big move in Vegas, though it has headed toward the Atlantis number; however, I know Atlantis’ sports book director Steve Mikkelson was high on the Royals and set their number high on purpose.

    Blue Jays: Bettors have been backing them like they think they’re at least a .500 team. There should be plenty of spots to back them.

    Rockies: They were bet up to 77 wins after opening 76.5 at the Atlantis and 76 at the LVH, so there’s plenty of people who think they can be competitive even if a notch or two below the Dodgers and Giants.

    Fade teams

    Braves: They’ve been bet down at both books as bettors see them taking a step back with a depleted pitching staff as Tim Hudson is now with the Giants, Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are out for the year with injuries.

    Pirates: Personally, I don’t agree with this one, but early bettors do see them as overrated a little as they’ve been bet down at both Atlantis and LVH (and they were a recommended under play by the Predictalator).

    White Sox: Being a die-hard Cubs fans, I don’t mind seeing this, but bettors have jumped on the under with the Sox (though admittedly not as low as the Cubs).

    Phillies: It seems like yesterday that the Phillies were being touted as the best team in baseball, but they’ve underachieved and no one appears afraid to bet against them.

    Diamondbacks: They are in a tough division with the Dodgers and Giants, plus the Rockies, and starting 0-2 doesn’t help many bettors’ confidence.
     
    NCAA recap and Final Four preview
     
    This past week’s Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament were very good to underdog bettors. On Thursday and Friday, dogs went 6-2 ATS and I was lucky enough to be on the three underdogs that pulled outright upsets – Dayton +150 over Stanford, UConn +105 over Iowa St., and Kentucky +175 over Louisville – in my picks at ESPN Insider.
     
    The dogs kept barking Saturday and Sunday as Florida dominated Dayton but ended up winning just 62-52, as Dayton covered as 10.5-point underdogs (note: I grade all my betting results against my ViewFromVegas Consensus Closing Lines that I get from averaging out all the closers at the Vegas books on the Don Best screen) though many earlier bettors and some at closing pushed on 10. In Saturday’s second game, Wisconsin beat Arizona 64-63 in overtime as a 3-point dog and +150 on the money line.
     
    On Sunday, UConn beat Michigan St. 60-54 as a 5.5-point underdog and +220 on the money line. In the last regional final, Kentucky ended the dogfest by beating Michigan 75-72 to cover as a 2.5-point favorite, though they needed a 3-pointer by Aaron Harrison with 2.3 seconds left in the game to not only win but cover. That was also the only regional final to go over the betting total.
     
    With dogs going 6-2 ATS and overs going 6-2 in the Sweet 16, and then dogs going 3-1 ATS and unders going 3-1 in the Elite 8, dogs now lead 31-27-1 ATS for the tournament and overs lead 32-27-1. As soon as each Final Four matchup was set Sunday, books here and offshore started putting up their lines. Here’s a look at how the early betting went here in the desert:
     
    Florida vs. UConn:
    The MGM Grand opened Florida as a 5-point favorite over UConn, but the rest of the books went higher (just like the offshore books) with most posting between -6 and -7. William Hill was the only other book to open below 6 as they went with Florida -5.5, while Wynn was the high opener at -7. During the Kentucky-Michigan game, the majority of the money came in on Florida as it looked like every book was going to go to 7 (and Caesars, Treasure Island, Golden Nugget and Stratosphere joined Wynn at that number), but then the buyback came in on UConn and the number settled at Florida -6.5 just about everywhere. The over/under also saw upward movement as it opened between 124 and 125 at most Vegas books and closed the night at a consensus of 126 with the LVH and South Point going to 126.5.
     
    Kentucky vs. Wisconsin: Despite being a No. 8 seed, Kentucky is going to be favored over a No. 2 seed for the second straight game. The Wildcats opened as low as -1 and -1.5, respectively, at the Treasure Island and Wynn, but most other books in Vegas went with 2. The Aliante, near my house in North Las Vegas, opened the highest at 2.5. By the end of betting Sunday night, every book was at Kentucky -2 with the Boyd Gaming group (including “Coast” books) joined the Aliante at 2.5. The over/under opened between 139 and 140 but by the end of Sunday night had mostly settled at 139 with the Wynn and Boyd Gaming holding the line at 139.5 Florida, which opened the tournament as the 5-1 favorite at the LVH SuperBook, is now even-money to cut down the nets, with Kentucky the second choice at 5-2, Wisconsin at 7-2 and UConn at 8-1.

    Dave Tuley is an award-winning journalist who has covered the Las Vegas race & sports beat since 1998, first for the GamingToday newspaper in Vegas and has written for Daily Racing Form since 2000. Tuley started his own website, ViewFromVegas.com, in 2007 and has written for other websites, including ESPN.com. In 2006, he won "Best News Story" by the Professional Football Writers of America, the only time a gambling story has won a PFWA award. Tuley, 47, grew up in the Chicago suburbs and is married with children in Vegas. His roots can be seen in the names of his three children: daughters Jordyn and Peyton (named for Walter Payton, not Peyton Manning) and son Maddux. Dave can be followed on Twitter @ViewFromVegas.
     
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