So what makes a team a good regular 'OVER' bet, or a good steady 'UNDER' play? Let's try to figure that out by looking at what's happened in totals betting so far this season, and decide if these observations can help with our MLB picks.
When it comes to betting baseball totals many of us assume
teams that bop the ball around, or teams with weak pitching staffs, tend to
play a lot of 'OVERS,' while teams that struggle to score and/or own good
pitching staffs tend to play a lot of 'UNDERS.’ But of course, 'assuming'
things can get one in trouble, and in the case of betting baseball totals that
is exactly what would happen.
Just because a team is scoring tons of runs, or giving up
runs by the bushel, or plays its home games in a bandbox, does not mean they
will play a lot of 'OVERS.' And just because a team owns a lights-out pitching
staff and/or an anemic offensive attack does not mean it will play a lot of 'UNDERS.' Baseball odds makers certainly are aware of
all this, and they set their totals accordingly.
For example, the New York Yankees lead the Majors in homers
and play their home games in a hitters' park, but are 36-48 on the 'OVER/UNDERS'
this season. Why? Mainly because the totals on Yankees games are regularly
among the highest on the board.
The Best 'Over' Plays
The Philadelphia Phillies, a team that's played almost the
entire season so far without two of its biggest bats, have trended further
toward the 'OVERS' this season than any other team in baseball, at 53-31. That
sounds counter-intuitive, but it looks like what has happened is that odds makers
and baseball bettors have put too much into the absences of Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Sportsbooks were regularly posting totals of eight and less on Phillies games,
but Philly managed to average over four runs per game without its two big
boppers. Combined with a staff ERA of 4.25 a considerable majority of Phillies
games have been going 'over' on the totals.
Now, with Howard and Utley back in the lineup, our guess is
that lines makers will begin to bump Phillies' totals upwards. In fact, in
Philly's last series before the All-Star break, at home against Atlanta, the
total on all three games was nine. Two of those three games stayed 'under,' and
the third game 'pushed.' So we're thinking Philly might very well start
trending back toward the 'UNDERS' during the second half of this season.
The New York Mets have been the second-heaviest 'over'
leaners in baseball so far this year, at 49-33. New York actually is averaging
almost 4.6 RPG on offense, a pleasant surprise, after the Mets averaged 4.4 and
4.0 RPG the previous two seasons. Again, though, much of New York's record on
the totals has to do with the low numbers posted on Mets games.
The Milwaukee Brewers have gone 48-34 on the 'over/UNDERS'
so far this year, thanks partly, we think, to the over-rated importance odds makers
and bettors have put on Prince Fielder's departure, and the Brewers' bullpen,
which has shown a tendency for splashing gasoline on just about any minor
Finally, the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies are both
47-36 on the 'over/UNDERS' this season.
Bettors might want to note that in the rankings of bullpen
ERAs, Colorado ranks 21st, Houston 26th, Milwaukee 27th,
Philadelphia 29th and the Mets dead last.
The Oakland A's, who are kind of a 'perfect storm' at the
moment for 'UNDERS,' have leaned further that way than any other team in
baseball so far, at 31-52. Oakland ranks 29th in scoring, fourth in
team ERA, and plays its home games in, shall we say, one of the more
pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball. The A's also happen to own the
fourth-best bullpen ERA. The only thing we can see that would trend Oakland
toward 'OVERS' would be for the odds makers to start dropping the totals on A's
games to some really low numbers.
The LA Angels come next on our 'UNDERS' list at 35-49.
Unlike other teams whose records on the totals, we believe, are based largely
upon what odds makers think and do, the Angels' trending toward the 'UNDERS' is
based largely on their early-season offensive woes. With the addition of Albert
Pujols LA was expected to roll right from the start. Instead Sir Albert and the
Angels struggled mightily with the sticks early on, and consequently played a
lot of 'UNDERS.' Recently, though, Pujols has picked up his game, as we
expected he would, and LA has played 12 'OVERS' in its last 18 games. That
recent trend could very well continue after the break.
Finally, the Cincinnati Reds, despite playing in the
hitters' haven that is the Great American Ballpark, are 34-48 on the totals
this year. Apparently the Reds are also having their totals 'over'-rated on a
Others leaning toward the 'UNDERS' this season have been, as
mentioned above, the Yankees at 36-48, the Tampa Bay Rays at 35-46 and the
Kansas City Royals at 36-47.
On a parting note we should recognize that every team
mentioned above as trending toward the 'OVERS' this season plays in the
National League, where games are supposedly low-scoring, while most of the
teams trending 'under' play in the American League, where supposedly games are
higher-scoring. This just underlines our contention that baseball totals are
decided more by the oddsmakers than by the teams themselves.