MLB Betting Strategy - A Team on a Losing Streak Facing a Team on a Winning Streak
Sports Betting Strategies
MLB – The Cold Team versus Hot Team Matchup
Hello savvy sports investors! In this article, I’m going to answer the following gambling-related question:
Considering the public’s tendency to overreact to recent results, should we bet MLB teams which are undergoing a losing streak facing a team riding a winning streak?
Let’s find out if we can profit from this hypothesis!
1. Basic Exploration
First of all, you should note that the results presented in this article come from a dataset on all Major League Baseball regular season games from the seven seasons covering the 2010 to 2016 period. In total, we have data on over 17,000 games.
Note: Some readers contacted me to inquire about the missing data on the most recent years. Please note that I did not leave out these data points intentionally; I simply don’t own data on the 2017 season up to today.
Let’s kick off this study with a very simple analysis: we are betting $1 on each team coming off at least one loss playing against a team coming off at least one win. Here are the results:
- Record = 6938-7287 (win percentage = 48.8%)
- Profit = -$349.69 (ROI = Return On Investment = -2.5%)
It would have been a shocking discovery if this very simple angle had provided a net positive gain. We will dig a little deeper to try to unveil winning betting strategies.
To put the numbers above in perspective, how much money would we have won or lost from using the opposite strategy (i.e. betting on teams coming off at least one win facing a team coming off at least one loss)?
- Record = 7287-6938 (win percentage = 51.2%)
- Profit = -$315.81 (ROI = Return On Investment = -2.2%)
The obvious conclusion is that both options lead to similar results.
2. Length of the Losing and Winning Streaks
Does the length of the losing/winning streaks have an impact on the outcome of the game? For example, is it possible that we make some money when betting teams undergoing a long losing streak facing a team riding a long winning streak? That would fit the rationale which claims that the betting public is inclined to be influenced by the recent performance of the two teams playing each other.
2.1 Betting the Team on a Losing Streak
Let’s pretend we had placed $1 bets on each team going through a losing skid when facing an opponent who is surfing a winning streak during the 2010-2016 seasons.
Below are the results as a function of the length of each team’s streak; -3 means a 3-game losing streak, while +2 means a 2-game winning streak, for instance. The figures in each cell indicate the profit from placing such wagers, whereas the numbers in brackets show the number of bets.
If you focus on the sum of each column, shown in the last row of the table, you see that the profit is negative for any length of the losing streak.
Similarly, if you focus on the sum of each row, shown in the last column of the table, you can detect a general improvement as the length of the winning streak increases. In fact, let’s consider a first potential system:
- Strategy #1: Betting a team coming off at least one loss facing a team coming off at least four straight wins. Profit = +$39.18 over 1897 games (Return On Investment = ROI = 39.18 / 1897 = +2.1%).
Let’s now turn our attention to the 6 * 6 = 36 cells within the table. Is there a block of cells that seems to offer a promising system as a function of the length of both the losing and winning streaks? Personally, my answer would be yes:
- Strategy #2: Betting a team coming off at least three straight losses facing a team coming off at least three straight wins. Profit = +$21.56 over 1492 games (ROI = +1.4%).
2.2 Betting the Team on a Winning Streak
Let’s switch gears and place $1 bets on teams riding a winning streak when facing a team undergoing a losing streak:
It does not matter which way you look at it: there isn’t any way to profit from this strategy. The gains are negative no matter the length of the losing streak, and no matter the length of the winning streak.
Let me save you some time. Throughout the rest of this article, I am going to completely omit the case of betting a team on a winning streak facing a team on a losing streak. Digging further in the following sections did not produce any system that even appeared to be close to profitable.
For those reasons, the remainder of this study will focus exclusively on the context of betting teams on a losing streak playing against a team on a winning streak (including Strategies #1 and #2 presented above).
3. The Road/Home Split
Do the potential strategies described earlier perform better when wagering on a road or a home team? Also, could we find brand new systems when splitting the results depending on the location of the game?
Recall how we lost $349.69 from betting teams coming off at least one loss versus teams coming off at least one win? It turns out we lost $137.48 over 7508 games when backing road teams (ROI = -1.8%) compared to $212.21 over 6717 games on home teams (-3.2%). In other words, we did significantly worse on teams playing in their own stadium. Let’s break down the results, like we did before, as a function of the length of the streaks.
3.1 Betting the Road Team
Let’s see what happens when betting $1 on each road team coming off at least one defeat when facing a home team coming off at least one win.
The first strategy detailed earlier does extremely well when our team is on the road. If their opponent’s winning streak is of length 4+, the profit is +$66.51 over 993 games for a very nice +6.7% ROI. At first sight, a 6.7% ROI may not astonish you, but such a figure obtained with a sample size close to 1000 is awesome!
Meanwhile, Strategy #2 yields a +$23.59 profit over 788 games for a +3.0% return on your money. Those are pretty decent numbers.
3.2 Betting the Home Team
How about the case where we are betting a home team that lost at least one game in a row when playing a road team that won at least one game in a row?
The results here are just terrible. We would have lost money for all lengths of our team’s losing streak, and for all lengths of their opponent’s winning streak (except if 4-game winning streak, in which case the profit was negligible).
Strategy #1 applied only to home teams yields a -$27.33 loss over 904 games, whereas Strategy #2 yields a -$2.03 loss over 704 games at home.
One might argue, after careful inspection of the table figures, that a new potential system could be introduced: betting a home team coming off at least five losses in a row against a road team riding a winning streak of length 3+. Profit = +$9.29 over 185 games (ROI = +5.0%).
However, I have decided to omit this system for various reasons. First, I would have liked a higher ROI for such a moderate sample size. Secondly, the choices of the minimal streaks’ lengths (5+ losses in a row, 3+ wins in a row) seem a bit ad hoc.
4. The Odds Split
The preceding section came to the following conclusion: the couple of strategies exhibited earlier seem to work on road teams only. Therefore, from now on, we consider the following revised systems:
- Strategy #1B: Betting a road team coming off at least one loss facing a team coming off at least four straight wins.
- Strategy #2B: Betting a road team coming off at least three straight losses facing a team coming off at least three straight wins.
Are we making more profit on favorites or underdogs? More specifically, are there certain sets of odds that provide more favorable conditions for betting? Let’s find out!
The system was a winner across all odds, except in the (1.80, 1.952) and (2.50, 2.75) ranges. I do not detect any strong patterns here.
The last two categories seemed to indicate that the strategy was great on underdogs with a 23.8% ROI, but the $11.66 loss in the (2.50, 2.75) range made this theory vanish.
Hence, I believe Strategy #1B is a viable option no matter the odds.
Let’s see how Strategy #2B did as a function of the money line on the visiting team:
No clear signals can be found from the table above. Neither big favorites nor big underdogs did very well. Also, the (1.80, 1.952) odds category did badly.
You may contend that betting odds greater than 2.05, which corresponds to all underdogs (except the very slight dogs), was responsible for all of the profit. As a matter of fact, doing just that would have yielded a +$24.23 profit over 560 games for a +4.3% ROI. Let’s call it Strategy #2C for further examination.
5. The Season Split
This is the final validation step. Once I have determined potential sports betting strategies, I always like to assess their performance from year to year. If the profits were well distributed across all seasons, that’s a good sign of stability. If huge up-and-down swings in terms of yearly profit are spotted, I am getting pretty skeptical about its future outlook.
Strategy #1B: Betting a road team coming off at least one loss facing a team coming off at least four straight wins.
I’d be lying if I said those results are perfect. The overall $66.51 profit basically came from three spectacular seasons (2012, 2013 and 2016). We also got a relatively good 2010 season, and three seasons ending close to $0.
While not flawless, those results have the merit of not showing any year where our bankroll would have suffered a big blow. Indeed, the worst season occurred in 2011, where we would have lost only 4.35 units.
Strategy #2B: Betting a road team coming off at least three straight losses facing a team coming off at least three straight wins.
This is exactly what we do not want to see: huge gains mixed with huge losses. Many gamblers might not have survived the horrible 2011 season where we lost 16.50 units. A $100 bettor would have lost $1650 that year. With four winning seasons compared to three losing ones, I suggest staying away from this strategy.
Strategy #2C: Betting a road team coming off at least three straight losses facing a team coming off at least three straight wins (only if the money line on the road team is greater than 2.05).
The same comments as those made regarding Strategy #2B could be replicated, except that the consistency is a bit better here. All things considered, I would still avoid this strategy though.
This statistical study investigated the case of a MLB team undergoing a losing streak facing an opponent who is riding a winning streak. Based on the evidence, the best counsel I could offer is to opt for the following betting strategy:
Betting a road team coming off at least one loss facing a home team coming off at least four straight wins.
- +$66.51 over 993 games (ROI = +6.7%)
- Expected profit per season = 9.50 units ($66.51 / 7 seasons)
Taking everything into consideration, I do have faith in this system. First of all, it goes in accordance with my initial intuition, which states that the betting public overreacts to the most recent games. In this particular case, we are fading a team that has been doing great lately, while backing a team who is on a losing skid.
Secondly, the strategy performed pretty well, in terms of profit, across all odds and across all seasons.
Finally, a 6.7% return on investment over close to 1000 games is hard to beat. The sample size is certainly sufficient to draw reliable conclusions.
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Many thanks for reading this report, I hope you enjoyed it!
Disclaimer: I am not telling anyone to go out and bet those angles blindly. There are no guarantees in the sports betting world. This article is presenting findings from past data and then trying to find what seem to be potential winning strategies. Bet at your own risk. I am not responsible for any losses incurred from such wagers.