For many years, from a betting perspective the months of June, July and August have been referred to as “the golden 90” as in the time of the season when bettors tend to have their greatest success in beating baseball at the betting windows.
The “90” refers to the three months left in the regular season with the underlying theory holding that this is when teams play truest to the form they have developed in April and May.
Each team has now played about 70 games and the total number of games played through this past Sunday is 1,046. That’s a pretty large sample from which conclusions can be drawn as to the capabilities of each of Major League Baseball’s 30 teams.
One measure that has become popular over the past couple of decades that is used as a predictor of future short term performance has been briefly discussed in recent columns. It is a tool from the sabermetrics community, the Pythagorean Theorem.
Created roughly 30 years ago by Bill James, widely acclaimed as the “godfather of sabermetrics,” the Theorem seeks to establish a relationship between a team’s runs differential and that team’s winning percentage.
In applying the Theorem to baseball wagering, the concept is that a team whose winning percentage is much lower than the Theorem suggests is a team that should win more in the short term as on the field results catch up to projected win percentage. Teams that have won at a rate greater than what the Theorem projects should experience a short term losing period.
There are two teams whose actual wins are more than five games away from what the Theorem would dictate based upon those teams’ run differential. Both teams are winning considerably less than their differentials suggest.
Through this past Sunday the Oakland Athletics had scored 319 runs while allowing just 284 for a net plus of 35 runs scored. According to the Pythagorean Theorem Oakland’s record should be 40-32. Such a record would have the Athletics in second place in the AL West, just 1.5 games behind first place Houston. But at 31-41 Oakland is falling short of their sabermetrics projection by a whopping 9.2 wins.
Oakland is in last place, trailing the Astros by 10.5 games. If the sabermetricians are on target, Oakland should be a profitable team in the short term. Let’s use an arbitrary period of three weeks and see if Oakland is indeed a profitable team between now and the All Star break, which begins when the games of Sunday, July 12 have been played.
The other team with a greater than five games discrepancy between projected and actual wins is Toronto. The Blue Jays have played better of late, their runs differential of +78 translates into 43 wins. Through Sunday the Jays had won just 37 games and their 37-34 record has them fourth in the AL East, three games behind first place Tampa Bay. Toronto’s +78 runs differential is the best in all of baseball and suggests the Blue Jays should have a winning record over the next three weeks.
The team with the best record in baseball is St. Louis. At 45-24 the Cardinals are plus 77 in runs differential and are winning exactly as that differential predicts. Technically, the Cardinals should have 45.3 wins.
Part of the explanation as to why teams don’t win at the rate predicted of them relates to performance in one-run games and extra inning games.
Oakland is just 6-18 in one-run games and 0-6 in extra inning tilts. Of course there often is overlap between these two categories but we can see Oakland has been somewhat “unlucky” or “unfortunate” in these close games. Toronto has been almost as unfortunate, going 7-14 in one-run games and 2-2 when playing extra innings.
In theory things tend to even out over the course of a long season and we should expect both the Blue Jays and Athletics to come out on the right side of these close contests more often than not over the balance of the season.
But there are no guarantees. Just percentages that suggest that should be the case.
By the way, St. Louis’ results in one-run games (14-11) and extra inning games (5-3) are close to neutral.
Not surprisingly Oakland (-12) and Toronto (-7) have the two most extreme results in one-run games. Only one other team has a variance of more than four games above or below .500 in one-run games (the Chicago Cubs, 17-12).
Here’s a look at three series for this weekend.
Cubs at Cardinals: The Cubs and Cards meet in their third series of the season. St. Louis has won 4 of the previous 6 games. With a Major League best 26-7 home record it will require some very restrictive circumstances to play against the Cardinals as hosts.
PLAYS: UNDER 7 or higher in starts not involving Chicago’s Kyle Hendricks or St. Louis’ Tyler Lyons; St. Louis -140 or less with any starter against the Cubs’ Jake Arrieta or Jason Hammel; St. Louis -150 or less against other Chicago starters; Cubs +160 or more in starts by Arrieta or Hammel against any St. Louis starter.
Rangers at Jays: First meeting this season. The fundamentals suggest this should be a high scoring series, which should be reflected in higher than average totals.
PLAYS: Texas +125 or more in starts by Gallardo, Martinez or Gonzalez against any Toronto starter; Toronto -120 or less in any matchup; OVER 9 or lower in any matchup; OVER 9.5 or lower if Gallardo, Martinez or Gonzalez do not start for Texas.
Twins at Brewers: Milwaukee’s rotation has been a major weakness. Any success the Brewers may enjoy over the balance of the season should rest upon their offense whereas the Twins have a rotation capable of putting in a quality start about twice in every five starts.
PLAYS: Minnesota +125 or more in any matchup; Minnesota as underdogs of any price when facing Garza or Lohse; Milwaukee +120 or more against Pelfrey or Phil Hughes; OVER 8.5 or lower in any matchup.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]