Expert: Make big $$$ betting on streaks

April 16, 2002 9:14 AM
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It’s common during baseball season to find teams on winning streaks that can last for several games. Even though the current season has just started, we’ve already seen streaks (at press time) that include Detroit losing 10 straight, Milwaukee (seven straight losses), Cardinals (five straight wins), Cleveland (10 straight wins), and Seattle (seven straight wins).

These early streaks lead to what could be lucrative trends in baseball and baseball betting: you can hit a lot of winners by riding these winning (or losing) streaks, according to sports handicapper Jim Feist.

“Actually, baseball is, by nature, a game of streaks,” Feist said. “Therefore, the books can get hurt by a run of form, or the lack of it.”

Feist said streaks raise two schools of thought. The first is to bet that the streaking team will continue to streak. The second ”” ­­definitely a less favorable attraction among most bettors ”” is to go with “percentages” or the “due factor” to end the streak. Feist leans toward the former.

“Streaks build on momentum,” he said. “The hotter a team gets, the more likely it is to win its next game. The colder it gets, the more likely it is to lose its next game.”

Yet, the dichotomy can lead to a tough situation. As a team gets hotter, it becomes both more due to lose and less likely to lose at the same time. Winning ­­carries its own emotional fuel, but there is no such thing as an undefeated baseball season; 60% win rates are considered pretty high.

For example, a team on a six- or seven-game winning streak is certainly overdue to lose a game. Yet it probably has a better chance to win its next game than any other team in baseball, Feist said.

Likewise, a team that has lost eight of its last 10 games, though overdue to win, is seldom regarded as a good bet.

A good many streaks end relatively early, before a lot of momentum has been built up and before they are even due to end. Winning and losing periods reaching the likes of 3-of-3, 5-of-7, and 8-of-11 have not stretched long enough to establish a strong due factor in the ­­opposite direction.

So, when does the momentum become stronger than the team’s due factor to lose? For an unbeaten streak, a team should be 5-0 or better, Feist said. For a team with three losses, figure on 11-3 or better.

If a so-called “law of streaks” exists, it seems to be strongest when attributed to a consecutive-game winning streak. The bottom line is that you only lose once when betting on a winning streak, but some factors suggest how long to keep riding the bandwagon, especially if the prices are high, Feist said.

If a team on a winning streak is close to or even a bit above its expected win rate, one can assume there is still room for additional upward movement and that the team will continue to win fairly regularly for a while. But if the pronounced win streak has sent a team soaring way above its true levels, it might be best to stay away from most of its games until the streak ends.

If a team on a losing streak is still well over its head, you may continue to figure on more losses. It’s probably best to concentrate on going with the winners rather than against the losers, look at how much you could have won riding against the Detroit Tigers!

The key is knowing your teams and, after the season starts, to put a number on each team: a .500 club, a slightly-better-than .500 team, a .400 team, etc. Then it will be rather clear, and profitable, when teams may be playing on their level, too far above it, or too far ­­below, and you will better be able to jump on a streak early rather than late.