Breakdown of how often MLB games are decided by one run

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As the non-waiver trade deadline approaches at the end of the month, teams are about to play game number 100 of 162 in the regular season schedule.

With the addition of a second wild card in each league, 10 of baseball’s 30 teams will make the playoffs. As such more teams than in the past will look to add players at the trade deadline. The effect of the added wild card teams are more staying in playoff contention deeper into the season.

An argument can be made that there is greater parity than in most recent seasons. As this week begins, no team in baseball is winning more than 60 percent of its games.

The New York Yankees own baseball’s best record. After being swept in a four game series for the first time since 2003, the Bronx Bombers start this week 57-38, exactly a 60% winning percentage. The Texas Rangers are just a half game behind the Yanks for the top seed in the American League at 56-38.

Both the Yankees and Rangers lead their respective divisions. The AL Central has a new leader for the first time in quite a while. In sweeping their three game home series against Chicago, the Detroit Tigers have passed the White Sox and start the week with a 1½ game lead.

The Los Angeles Angels controlling the first AL wild card, but Baltimore and Oakland are tied for the second one just a half game behind. Five others are within four games of that second AL wild card.

The Washington Nationals continue to set the pace in the National League with a 55-39 mark, a half game better than Cincinnati. At 55-40 the Reds hold a slim half game lead over Pittsburgh in the NL Central. San Francisco leads the NL West by 1½ over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Pirates and Atlanta Braves hold the two NL wild cards with L.A. and St. Louis within two games. Four other teams are between five and eight games out of that second wild card.

Philadelphia is not one of those teams. The Phillies start the week 10½ out of the second wild card and 14 from the NL East lead. Philly sits in last place with a 42-54 record starting the week.

Run line continued

To win a run line bet the favored team. The club laying the run and a half must win the game by two or more. Likewise, to cash your run line ticket on the underdog plus the 1½, that dog must either win outright or lose by exactly one run.

Our study looked at more than 20 seasons of data involving over 50,000 games in which one of the teams was favored by -110 or more, thereby more than likely being the run line favorite.

Here is a breakdown of how often games are decided by one run and by more than one run.

We found that 28.6 percent have been decided by exactly a single run with the remainder (71.4 percent) won by two runs or more. But of those games decided by exactly one run, 56.9% are won by the favorite and 43.1% by the underdog.

Overall, just 16.3% of all games have seen the favored team win by exactly one run. In the other 83.7% the favored team has either won by at least two or lost the game outright.

Put simply, only 1 of 6 games sees the run line come into play and affect the outcome of the wager.

Recall that when the underdog wins by exactly one run the run line did not matter as the underdog did not need that extra cushion – it won the game outright. And, in most cases, backing an underdog that wins outright actually costs the bettor money as the return on an underdog played “straight” will be greater than the return if that underdog lost by exactly one run.

But what about a breakdown of the performance of home favorites versus road favorites?

The home team was favored in 70% of the more than 50,000 games in our study. Interestingly the percentage decided by exactly one run is nearly the same for games in which the home team is favored (28.9 percent) as when the road team is (27.8 percent).

Where there is a significant difference is when looking at the breakdown of who wins those one run games. The only time the run line comes into play is when the favored team wins by exactly one run.

In looking at games in which the home team is favored, the 1½ comes into play 18.1% of the time. In the other 81.9 percent of the games either the underdog wins by exactly one run (10.8%) or the game is decided by two runs or more (71.1%).

In games with road favorites the percentage of one run wins is just 11.8%. In the other 88.2% either the underdog wins by exactly one run (16.0%) or the game is decided by two or more runs (72.2%).

Of course there will be variations that involve specific teams with teams that have a limited offense often giving the appearance of being an attractive underdog with which to take the run and a half. On the other hand there are teams with plenty of offense that make for good favorites with whom to lay the 1½.

Thus far in 2012 there are a dozen teams that when winning in the role of a favorite (-110 or more) do so by two runs or more at least 75% of the time. A few of the teams on the list are rarely favored and thus have only a handful of wins in that role.

Toronto has been the best bullying favorite with 25 of their 28 wins as a favorite coming by two or more runs (89.3%). Other teams with more than 30 wins in the role of a favorite that have seen at least 75% of those wins come by more than a run include the L A Angels (88.1%), the NY Yankees (80%), Boston (78.8%), St. Louis (78.4%) and Texas (76.9%).

Arizona and the Chicago White Sox have between 25 and 30 wins as favorites with more than 75% of the victories coming by two runs or more.

When considering a play on those teams as favorits, you might want to look at laying the 1½. Those teams have shown a solid propensity to win by more than one run as a favorite.

Here’s a look at four series of interest this weekend, the results of which could heavily influence moves a couple of days later at the trade deadline next Tuesday.

Phillies at Braves: This could be the last stand for the Phillies who are but days away from deciding to be sellers rather than buyers as the trade deadline looms. The road team has taken 4 of 6. Philly took 2 of 3 in Atlanta in early May before the Braves swept 3 in Philadelphia just before the All Star break. The Braves have been very consistent on offense, averaging the same 4.6 runs per game both at home and on the road. The Phillies have actually been more effective on the road, averaging 4.6 runs per game away from home while tallying an average of 3.8 when at home.

The Phillies continue to underperform, even on the mound. Of the starters only lefty Cole Hamels’ 3.23 ERA is below 3.70. The Phils are a combined 15-29 in games started by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Vance Worley. The Braves are not much better in that area. Veteran Ben Sheets has pitched very well in his two starts but with Brandon Beach out for the season only Tim Hudson (3.70) has an ERA under 4.

Potential plays:

• OVER 8 or lower in any series matchup.

• Either team +120 or more in any matchup.

Dodgers at Giants: The home team has won 5 of 6, outscoring the road club 29-5! The Dodgers took 2 of 3 at home in early May when off to their red hot start. The Giants swept 3 in San Francisco in late June, all shutouts. The OVER / UNDER is 3-3 with the teams averaging a combined 5.7 runs per game. Both teams rely more on pitching than on hitting for their success although the return of both Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier to the Dodgers’ lineup does give them the much needed punch they lacked while both were injured.

Madison Bumgarner, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong each have ERAs of 3.12 or lower and WHIPs of 1.11 or less. For the Dodgers a pair of lefties – Clayton Kershaw and Chris Capuano – have anchored the rotation. The Giants’ offense is better than perceived with the offseason trade for Melky Cabrera from Kansas City looking as one of the best trades in all of baseball over the past few seasons. With Buster Posey and Pablo Sandoval the Giants have perhaps their most offensive punch since the days of Barry Bonds. Still, this forecasts as a low scoring series.

Potential plays:

• Giants -140 with any starter against other than Kershaw.

• Giants as underdogs of any price against Kershaw.

• Dodgers +150 in any matchup.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if the Dodgers start Kershaw or Capuano against any San Francisco starter.

White Sox at Rangers: The home team has won 5 of 6. Texas took 2 of 3 at home in early April and the White Sox swept 3 game in early July. The UNDER is 5-1.

The White Sox have been an UNDER team this season, especially on the road. Texas has also been an UNDER team. Chicago’s pitching has been paced by veteran Jake Peavy and rookies Chris Sale and Joel Quintana. Unfortunately, their pitcher who tossed a perfect game earlier this season, Philip Humber, has been awful since. Eleven of his 14 starts this season have resulted in OVERS.

Texas’ staff has been paced by Colby Lewis and Matt Harrison. Lewis is just off the DL and has a strikeout to walk ratio of 6.6 to 1 while posting solid primary stats. Harrison has the rotation’s best ERA (3.02) and 12 of his 19 starts have stayed UNDER the total.

Potential plays:

• White Sox +140 with any starter other than Humber against Harrison or Lewis.

• White Sox as underdogs of any price against other Texas starters except in a Humber start.

• White Sox -125 or less in starts by Peavy or Sale not facing Harrison or Lewis.

• OVER 9 or less in games not involving Harrison, Peavy or Sale.

• OVER 10½ or lower in a start by Humber not facing Harrison or Lewis.

• OVER 10½ in a start by Scott Feldman not facing Peavy, Quintana or Sale.

Rays at Angels: Tampa Bay swept three home games in late April. All stayed UNDER. The top of the Angels rotation has been outstanding. They are a combined 27-10 in start by Jered Weaver and C J Wilson, both of whom have solid stats on the season. But as well as Weaver and Wilson have pitched, Ervin Santana and Dan Haren have struggled. Each have ERAs above 4.75 and the Angels are a combined 12-25 in their starts.

Lefty David Price has been solid for the Rays but both James Shields and Jeremy Hellickson have been inconsistent. Mike Trout continues to amaze as a rookie and is all but a certain winner of the Rookie of the Year in the AL. He’s also a leading candidate for the MVP as well. Albert Pujols has overcome his sluggish April and May and starts the week hitting .280 for the season and on a pace for 30 home runs and 100 RBI, even with that slow start factored in.

Potential plays:

• Rays +130 or more in a start by Price against Weaver or Wilson.

• Rays -120 or less in a start by Price against other Angels starters.

• Angels -1½ in starts by Weaver or Wilson not facing Price.

• Angels -150 or less not facing Price.

• UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 7 or higher if Weaver or Wilson oppose Price.

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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