Friday, April 24, 2009
Cleveland vs. Detroit
The only thing keeping this series interesting is the intense disliking that so obviously exists between these two teams. Cleveland has dominated both games and covered the identical 11.5-point spread in both games, although just barely in Game 2. The only reason Detroit lost by less than 20 in Game 2 was because Coach Mike Brown was resting his entire starting lineup from the start of the fourth quarter, prompting an unlikely 27-5 run by the Pistons before Cleveland pulled away again and won by 12. One sure sign that Detroit is entirely outclassed by Cleveland is that their 27-5 fourth quarter run only resulted in cutting the lead to nine, an absolutely astonishing factoid. As of this writing, Cleveland is a 4.5-point favorite at Detroit for Game 3, and this is a line I feel is ripe for the picking. Home-court advantage only ensures that Coach Brown will be less likely to take chances in resting his starters, and simply put, home-court advantage is useless when the home team is at such an incredible disadvantage talent-wise.
LA Lakers vs. Utah
This series was shaping up to mirror the Cleveland/Detroit affair until the Jazz took Game 3 in Utah on Thursday, winning on a last second jumper from Deron Williams. The Jazz came into the game as 2.5-point underdogs, putting them at 2-1 ATS for the series. Despite the two dominating wins by the Lakers in L.A., this series has come has been a stressful one for spread bettors, as each game has finished within 5 points of the oddsmakers' lines. I think the sportsbooks have done an excellent job of taking advantage of the public's propensity to over bet on the Lakers and I expect them to continue as this series continues. Game 3 offers Lakers apologists plenty of excuses (or as they will tell it, justifications) for why they lost the game, including poor free throw shooting and unfair officiating. However, the Jazz were basically equally bad from the stripe (64% for Utah, 61% for L.A.) and equally officiated (22 fouls vs. 25 against the Lakers). I expect the Lakers to once again be favored by around 2-3 points heading into Game 4, and then again by 10+ at home in Game 5, and I like Utah to continue to win this series against the spread, despite losing in real life. Furthermore, I can easily see a scenario where the Lakers win the title and post a below-.500 record ATS for the entire playoffs.
Orlando vs. Philadelphia
With a 3-0 record ATS in the regular season against Philadelphia, it's safe to say Orlando has been a rather large disappoint through two games in their first round series against the 76ers. Sporting a 1-1 SU record but 0-2 ATS, Orlando has not been able to utilize whatever game plan they had during the regular season that led them to three wins and three covers in three regular season meetings, and now they face two road games as they try to take control of a series they were expected to dominate. Will Orlando turn things around or will they continue to struggle? Recent history suggests the latter, as Orlando is surprisingly just 5-11 ATS over their last 16 games. Perhaps Orlando simply isn't the same team that beat Philadelphia three times in the regular season - they finished the three game series on February 28th and featured Jameer Nelson as their point guard for 2 of the 3 match-ups. Additionally, Orlando finished the season 2nd overall ATS mostly due to their torrid start to the season as the oddsmakers were slow to adjust to their unexpectedly superb play. As bettors' confidence built and the lines adjusted, things changed dramatically, as the above-mention 5-11 ATS stretch can attest to. I still think Rafer Alston is a much bigger downgrade than the public believes and I don't think Orlando is as good a team as the lines suggest, so I will be fading the Magic often as the NBA Playoffs continue.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Each week, we're going to take a look at a few teams around The Association that we think deserve extra consideration. We will not be giving picks; however, we believe these insights can help the prudent bettor looking for that extra bit of information to help them make a more informed decision on upcoming games. We welcome your feedback - contact us! Also, you can comment and subscribe to our blog. For previous articles, please visit our archive.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs have officially lost Manu Ginobili for the remainder of the season and analysts everywhere are writing them off to win even one series in the Western Conference playoffs. Ginobili is an interesting player, and certainly a big piece of the Spurs offense when healthy, but will the Spurs really not be able to win without him? The best way to tackle this question is to analyze the Spurs record with and without his presence off the bench and project those numbers to the futurr. With an eye towards the playoffs, let's take a look at what Ginobili's loss really means to the Spurs.
First, how important has Ginobili been to the Spurs during the regular season? He's played in 44 games, averaging 15.5/4.5/3.6 (points/rebounds/assists) and shooting 45.4% from the field. The Spurs won 32 of the 44 games he played in, for a winning percentage of 73%, almost 10 percentage points higher than their overall mark of 64% (50-28). Over an 82 game season, the Spurs would be expected to win about 60 games with Ginobili, an impressive mark, but in the playoffs they need only win 4 of 7 games (57%) to win a series. Clearly, the Spurs a better team with Manu than without, but are they good enough without him to win a playoff series?
In games without Ginobili, the Spurs have a record of 18-16 and a 53% winning percentage, just below the 57% that would be expected of a playoff-series winner. However, the Spurs played their worst basketball without Manu at the start of the season, losing 5 of their first 7 games. After this adjustment period, the Spurs went 16-11 without Ginobili, good for a winning percentage of 59%. Compartively, the winning percentage of the worst playoff team in the West, Dallas, currently stands at 60%. The teams that San Antonio are most likely to face sport even higher winning percentages: Houston and Portland at 64% and New Orleans at 62%. It seems as though the Spurs have a legitimate reason to be worried.
The following table presents some final research that will be useful to sports bettors once the Western Conference standings become final. It includes the head-to-head record of San Antonio against each possible opponent, with and without Ginobili.
Opponent - Spurs Record w/ Manu - (Spurs Record w/o Manu)
New Orleans - 1-2 (0-0)
Portland - 0-0 (1-3)
Houston 0-1 (2-1)
Portland is the worst match-up and New Orleans is untested, but I would fade the Spurs against both of these teams if San Antonio faces either in the first round. New Orleans has gotten the best of them with Ginobili, so you have to assume they would fare even better in his absence. Portland has taken three of four games against the Manu-less Spurs, including a recent 95-83 pounding on April 8th. Clearly Houston is the best match-up for the Spurs, and given the Rockets history in the playoffs I would feel good betting on San Antonio to take the series.
Just like our NBA Teams of Interest article, this article is going to examine some teams around Major League Baseball, searching for value opportunities in the sports betting marketplace. We will not be giving picks; however, we believe these insights can help the prudent bettor looking for that extra bit of information to help them make a more informed decision on upcoming games. We welcome your feedback - contact us! Also, you can comment and subscribe to our blog. For previous articles, please visit our archive.
Those of you who have been keeping up with our NBA and MLB Teams of Interest for a while now may be surprised to see a name other than Chris Arena at the top of this column. You’d be right to consider it a small tragedy to miss out on his baseball insights, but don’t worry; there’s nothing amiss. A proud UNC alumnus, Chris had the wherewithal to bet his entire life savings on an outrageous prop bet, namely that the Tarheels would coast to – and through – the Final Four, winning every game by double digits and thus denying America any real March drama, much less any madness. If I were to guess at his location, I’d say he’s probably lounging in some white sand, sipping on a couple of mai tais, and tossing a line into the surf in the hopes of catching dinner. So I hope you’ll abide this jaded and altogether-in-denial Duke alum as I begin contributing to this esteemed baseball column. At least you know that I’ve had ample time to think about baseball since the Sweet 16. Now, on to the diamond…
Count me a member of the relative minority that considers the hypothetical race for best division in baseball a competitive one. The argument for the AL East is certainly legitimate, and I do think the improvement shown by perennial bottom-feeders Baltimore and Toronto is real. Neither have the pitching to compete, but the Orioles’ composure and execution against the already-crowned Yankees at Camden Yards this week – not to mention the Rays taking two at Fenway – foretells a bit of the slugfest that we can look forward to from this heralded division in the coming months.
Their counterparts in the National League, however, are no slouches. The top two-thirds of the Mets lineup can hit with anyone in baseball, and thanks to some generous spending, their bullpen went from a major liability to a strength. The Braves, for the first time since their dominance of the 90s, have real pitching depth, not to mention two of the most talented prospects in the game in centerfielder Jordan Schafer and starting pitcher Tommy Hanson, who is not long for Triple-A. As for the Phillies…well, it’s hard to argue with a trophy and a largely returning roster. The Nationals are the DC-area analogue to the Orioles, if perhaps not quite as good. Who have I left out?
That would be division-leading Florida Marlins, who are hosting the aforementioned Metropolitans this weekend. Florida is a funny franchise, content to repeatedly dismantle championship teams and rebuild with young, inexpensive talent. They led the NL East last season until the beginning of June, and they could be on their way to a similar start this season. Why? Their roster is heavier laden with young, improving talent than any team in the majors. That’s right folks, these are not the Marlins of old, who bit their nails and looked away every time Jeff Conine had to jog in from left field. The oldest player in the top two thirds of their lineup is 30+ home run hitting second baseman Dan Uggla – at a geriatric 29-years-old. There’s little reason to believe touted prospects such as Cameron Maybin and Emilio Bonifacio will do anything but get better with time, while outright All-Star and 30-30 (HRs/steals) shortstop Hanley Ramirez is only 25. Surrounded by solid contributors John Baker, Jorge Cantu and the ever-promising Jeremy Hermida, the ceiling for this offense is truly very high.
As far as talent is concerned, Florida's pitching isn’t far behind its hitting. However, it would be fair to say that they lack a true ace. Nolasco can’t yet be mentioned with the likes of Santana, Hamels or Lowe, but the stuff is there. Behind him fall Josh Johnson, Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez, three guys with the talent to compete for the number two spot in any other rotation in the division. The major reason the Marlins fell off the playoff pace last season – other than, perhaps, lack of hometown support – was a rash of injuries to their pitching staff that entailed long disabled list stints by both Johnson and Sanchez. They’re healthy this spring, and hopefully, as far as Fredi Gonzalez is concerned, for the entire year.
As sports bettors, we don’t have to be concerned with August in April. The Marlins are likely to be underdogs in all three games of their upcoming series against New York. Sanchez, who no-hit the Diamondbacks as a rookie in 2006, matches up with John Maine in the first game. Johan Santana, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, is not a favorable duel for anyone but will definitely offer some juicy odds. Johnson should close the series against Mike Pelfrey, who had to be bailed out by his offense against the Reds. With a healthy Josh Johnson projecting a mid-3 ERA and almost 200 strikeouts over a full season, I like this match-up the most.
You know what they say about youth: it makes you feel invincible. Let’s play on the Florida kids while they’re healthy and hot off a sweep of Washington. We may be singing a different tune late in the season if injuries or oddsmakers catch up to the Marlins, but for now, we’ll take two out of three underdog lines and cross our fingers for the sweep.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
The world of Sports Investing is full of nebulous verbiage, trite clichés, and axioms treated as Gospel, and perhaps no word encapsulates this more so than “value”. With the 2009 Major League Baseball season just days old, soon the sports forums, tout service advertisements, and various web sites offering their free “MLB Play Of The Day” selection write-ups will be peppered with the word “value”. Such phrases as “this favorite is greatly overpriced which gives the underdog extreme value here”, and “this favorite is underpriced and offers a great value play in this spot” will once again make their way into our sports betting lexicon, but what does the concept of value really mean within the realm of wagering on Major League Baseball?
It is one thing to casually refer to “looking for value” when analyzing a potential investment, but it is another thing all together to be able to quantify value in regards to specific Moneyline pricing. In addition, how do we go about recognizing true value and turning that into a profit? What pricing dynamics will create the most profitable investment opportunities, thus providing the true value we are seeking? This article will explore the concept of value in reference to the first month of the Major League Baseball season and will provide a foundation for you to get off to a profitable beginning to the season.
In an effort to quantify the concept of value and how it applies to Favorites and Underdogs in the early part of the Major League Baseball season, I went back and looked at every game featuring a favorite priced -150 or higher for the month of April the last three seasons. In addition, I went one step further and broke down the Moneyline pricing into four different price sectors: -150 to -175; -176 to -200; -201 to -225; and -226 and higher. The goal of this analysis was to identify whether or not there were any consistent price levels, in regards to Favorites and Underdogs, that offered consistent profits over the early portion of the last three seasons.
We will begin our analysis from a wide perspective and look at all games featuring a favorite with a closing line price of -150 or higher, the won-loss record of Favorites and Underdogs in those games, and the corresponding profits (all lines taken from Pinnacle sportsbook, an 8-cent sportsbook for lines up to -190/+182. For more information on how they calculate their underdog lines, please click here):
63-35 (64.2%) -1.7
35-63 (35.8%) -10.96
52-41 (55.9%) -11.83
41-52 (44.1%) +19.64
60-42 (58.8%) -5.74
42-60 (41.2%) +4.77
175-118 (59.7%) -19.27
118-175 (40.3%) +13.45
The next table breaks down games featuring a favorite priced between -150 and -175:
Favorites -150 to -175
32-27 (54.2%) -7.9
27-32 (45.8%) +6.66
26-24 (52.0%) -8.51
24-26 (48%) +10.28
40-32 (55.6%) -6.55
32-40 (44.4%) +8.09
98-83 (54.1%) -22.96
83-98 (45.9%) +25.03
Here we have the games featuring a favorite priced between -176 and -200:
Favorites -176 to -200
11-3 (78.6%) +2.98
3-11 (21.4%) -5.78
17-3 (85.0%) +6.67
3-17 (15.0%) -11.89
13-6 (68.4%) +1.6
6-13 (31.6%) -2.66
41-12 (77.4%) +11.25
12-41 (22.6%) -20.33
This table breaks down games featuring a favorite priced between -201 and -225:
Favorites -201 to -225
7-2 (77.8%) +1.35
2-7 (22.2%) -3.17
5-10 (33.3%) -7.63
10-5 (66.7%) +15.15
5-4 (55.6%) -1.62
4-5 (44.4%) +3.34
17-16 (51.5%) -7.9
16-17 (48.5%) +15.32
Lastly, we have the games featuring very heavy favorites priced -226 and above:
Favorites -226 and higher
13-2 (86.7%) +2.84
2-13 (13.3%) -8.67
4-4 (50%) -2.36
4-4 (50%) +6.1
2-0 (100%) +.83
0-2 (0%) -2.0
19-7 (73.1%) +1.31
7-19 (26.9%) -4.57
Based on the results within these tables, we are able to make some rather strong conclusions regarding value investing in the early part of the Major League Baseball season. An indiscriminant Sports Investor who only played Underdogs in games where the favorite was priced -150 and higher would have made a respectable 13.45 units over the first month of the season from 2006-2008 with an ROI of 4.6%. While these are very respectable numbers, you can greatly improve your profits and ROI by implementing some Moneyline price-level dynamics into your analysis.
By playing mid-level underdogs in games where the favorite is priced -150 to -175, a Sports Investor would have made 25.03 units over the first month of the season from 2006-2008. That is a 186% increase in profits by limiting your plays to this specific price range and sticking with only Underdogs. In addition, the ROI on these plays is a rather astounding 13.83% for an ROI increase of 300%!
The third table (-176 to -200) demonstrates that value is not a concept strictly limited to Underdogs. By investing in strong favorites priced in the range of -176 to -200, a Sports Investor would have made 11.25 units over the same time span with an ROI of 21.2%, which is higher than either of the Underdog categories! However, it is important to keep in mind that when you begin to consistently play favorites priced -201 and higher, you will begin to reach the point of diminishing returns with a rapidly decreasing ROI as evidenced in the tables above.
The last point I would like to address is in regards to the fourth table (-201 to -225). The Underdog numbers in this table are rather impressive, with a total profit of 15.32 units on a 48.5% strike rate; however, with such a small sample of games fitting this profile it would be somewhat naïve to expect to maintain such an astoundingly high profit margin and ROI by consistently playing teams that are a more than 2-1 dog. This is not to say that selective plays on live dogs with great prices should not be a part of your early season wagering arsenal, but you should definitely temper your long-term expectations when investing in such scenarios.
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Friday, April 3, 2009
Early Season Series of Interest
NY Mets at Cincinnati Reds
The opener of this series will feature Johan Santana against Aaron Harang, most likely making the Mets a huge favorite. I would avoid this game; the Mets will almost certainly win, but the odds will be astronomical. Games 2 and 3 of the series, however, should present some good opportunities for contrarian investing. The Mets will likely start Mike Pelfrey and Oliver Perez, while the Reds will send out Edinson Volquez and Bronson Arroyo, putting the pitching match-up far in favor of the Reds, as far as I'm concerned. I believe Cincinnati's offense and defense is currently very undervalued, as they lost their best "big name" slugger, Adam Dunn, but have a wealth of young stars in the making. As a result, I think the last two games of the series will offer very appealing underdog lines for Cincinnati that could pay big dividends for sports investors.
Kansas City Royals at Chicago White Sox
I like the Royals to make a splash this season in the AL Central, and I think they get started early in this series at Chicago. I like Kansas City's pitchers (Meche, Grienke, and Davies) slightly more than Chicago's (Buehrle, Danks, Floyd), although Davies is a major drop-off from Meche/Grienke and puts the third game of the series in favor of Chicago in my eyes. I really like Kansas City to take the first two games of the series for two reasons: one, as stated above, the pitching match-up is strongly in favor of the Royals, and two, I think the Royals' offense is more well-rounded than the White Sox, who will be heavily reliant on the long ball to score any runs. Look for Kansas City to take at least two out of three in what should be a low-scoring series in the south side of Chicago.
Washington Nationals at Florida Marlins
It may be the least exciting season-opening series of the year, but I think there is value to be had in the Washington/Florida match-up. While both teams are average at best on the offensive side of the ball, the Marlins actually boast solid starting pitching in Ricky Nolasco, Josh Johnson, and Chris Volstad. The Nationals really only have one decent starter in John Lannan, but he is more equivalent to Volstad, the Marlins' third starter, than a legitimate ace. I get the sense that the Marlins will be slight favorites in each game and I would be happy to take Florida throughout this series.
LA Dodgers at San Diego Padres
The Dodgers are being picked to win the NL Pennant by many analysts, and for good reason, but I think there will be a lot of value in fading the Dodgers throughout this series. The Dodgers are a powerhouse on offense, but their pitching is merely adequate, featuring a lot of injury risks and unproven youngsters. The Padres, on the other hand, offer maybe the worst offense in baseball, but sport a legitimate ace and a solid bullpen. Petco Park is the premier pitchers' park in all of baseball and should help equalize the large divide between two team's offenses. Additionally, Jake Peavy hasn't lost to the Dodgers since September 2006 and the Dodgers' third starter, Clayton Kershaw, is a 21-year-old phenom with control problems, meaning the Padres should have a legitimate shot at taking two games of the series.
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Welcome to the Sports Marketwatch – March Madness Edition, where SportsInsights gives sports fans unprecedented insight into the sports marketplace. If you want to know what is really happening on the sportsbook side, you now have an all-access pass with Sports Marketwatch!
The staff at SportsInsights.com speaks directly with the line managers at some of the sports betting industry’s largest sportsbooks about which games the public is chasing and the Sharps are pounding. We’ll look at what’s in store for the upcoming NCAAB games.
Sports Marketplace – March Madness
Recapping the NCAA Tournament
This year's Sports Marketwatch contrarian sports investing picks have underperformed mightily, but that will sometimes happen with a relatively small sample size. Over the long-term, over tens of thousands of games -- and across every major US sport -- "betting against the Public" has proven to add value for handicappers. College basketball "public bettors" will be flush with cash -- so let's see how the Final Four match-ups are shaping up.
2009 March Madness Games to Watch: 4-11 = 26.7%
Sports MarketWatch – Sports Marketplace
Michigan State +4.5 over Connecticut
The Big East has done well in the NCAA Tournament and the "Public" is taking U-Conn in this game. At the time of this writing, Connecticut is collecting about 63% of the bets. It's still early, but the semi-final games are already being heavily-bet. We'll "bet against the Public" and sell U-Conn and the Big East at the crest of their wave (hopefully!) -- and buy a Michigan State team that has quietly gotten into the Final Four.
In addition, to some, the line seems suspiciously low. The "theory on soft lines" is that if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! All of these arguments point to Michigan State plus the points. If you shop around, you can grab 4.5 points.
Michigan State +4.5 (SIA)
Villanova +7.5 over North Carolina
This is an interesting game that our offshore contacts circled. Betting has been fairly heavy, with point spread bets evenly split between NC and Villanova. Including teasers and parlays, the Public favors the powerhouse NC team over Villanova. Even so, the line has decreased from its opener of NC -8 to NC -7, due to some "big, sharp money" getting down on Villanova.
Our readers know that we like to follow the "smart money" -- which usually fades the "Public." Let's go with the "sharps" and cheer for a good, close, game! There are some 7.5's available that we would grab.
Villanova +7.5 (Bodog)
Games to Watch (4-11)
Michigan State +4.5 (SIA)
Villanova +7.5 (Bodog)
It should be another exciting NCAA Tournament for the sports marketplace. Keep Sports Marketwatch picks handy and your browser pointed to SportsInsights.com for the latest real-time updates, using our exclusive Sports Investing tools.
We’ll be back soon with a new edition of the Sports Marketwatch – March Madness Edition.
Enjoy the games!
The Team at SportsInsights.com