MLB Betting Strategy - Both Teams Undergoing a Losing Streak

Professor MJ’s

Sports Betting Strategies

 

MLB – Both Teams Underdoing a Losing Streak

 

In this article, I am going to answer the following question:

When two MLB teams facing each other are both undergoing a losing streak, should we bet the road or the home team?

 

My initial intuitions as a gambler were:

  • Since both teams are currently struggling, I would rather bet the road team since it does not have to cope with the pressure from the home crowd, who may be quick to boo their favorite team.
  • Considering the public’s tendency to overreact to recent results, I would rather bet the team whose losing streak is the longest. We might be getting a good bargain on their money line in such instances.

The results presented in this article come from a dataset containing information about all Major League Baseball regular season games from the seven (7) seasons covering the 2010 to 2016 period. In total, we have data on over 17,000 games.

Note: Some people have emailed me asking why I left out the most recent seasons. The reason is simple: I don’t own the data for such years. If you do and are willing to share it with me, I will be glad to either: 1) include those seasons in my analysis; 2) use it to verify if the suggested betting strategies would have done well during those years.

 1. Basic Exploration

Let’s start the analysis with a very simple investigation: we are betting $1 on each road team coming off at least one loss playing against a home team coming off at least one loss. Here are the results:

  • Record = 586-745 (win percentage = 44.0%)
  • Profit = -$101.51 (ROI = Return On Investment = -7.6%)

Let’s now turn our attention to the opposite strategy: betting $1 on each home team coming off at least one loss playing against a road team coming off at least one loss. The results are presented below:

  • Record = 745-586 (win percentage = 56.0%)
  • Profit = +$8.35 (ROI = Return On Investment = +0.6%)

The results above go against my initial intuition: it looks like it is preferable to put our money on home teams rather than road teams when both of them are going through a losing skid. But let’s dig a little deeper.

2. The Streak Split

My second hypothesis was that the money line may be boosted on the team whose losing streak is the longest. Therefore, it might be a good idea to bet such teams.

2.1 Betting the Road Team

Let’s try the following experiment: betting $1 on road teams coming off at least one loss facing a home team who is also coming off at least one defeat, but this time we break down the results by the length of each team’s losing streak.

The figures below indicate the profit obtained from placing such wagers on the road team; the numbers in brackets specify the number of bets.

Both MLB teams on a losing streak: betting the road team as a function of the length of each team's losing streak

Despite huge losses overall, we discover something great: it turns out beneficial to bet road teams whose losing streak is a long one. Indeed, here is a strategy we might want to scrutinize further:

  • Strategy #1: Betting a road team coming off at least four straight losses playing a home team coming off at least one loss. Profit = +$8.94 over 171 games (ROI = +5.2%).

2.2 Betting the Home Team

Now, let me break down the case of betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing against a road team also coming off at least one loss by the length of each team’s losing streak. Once again, the figures below indicate the profit obtained from placing $1 bets, whereas the numbers in brackets specify the number of games.

Both MLB teams on a losing streak: betting the home team as a function of the length of each team's losing streak

We unveil some interesting findings, which tend to agree with our initial suspicions. Let me point out two potential betting strategies:

  • Strategy #2: Betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses. Profit = +$21.04 over 1160 games (ROI = +1.8%). Sure, the return on investment is not jaw-dropping, but the huge sample size makes it fairly attractive.
  • Strategy #3: Betting a home team coming off at least four straight losses playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses. Profit = +$24.04 over 162 games (ROI = +14.8%). This one makes sense from a logical perspective, and also yields a juicy return on investment.

3. The Odds Split

Do the suggested strategies described above perform better under certain sets of odds? For example, are we better off restricting ourselves to cases where we are betting an underdog? Let’s find out!

First, let’s dissect strategy #1: Betting a road team coming off at least four losses in a row playing a home team coming off at least one loss.

Betting a road team coming off at least four losses in a row playing a home team coming off at least one loss (as a function of the money line)

Based on the table above, it seems like we should only bet such road teams when they are underdogs. More specifically, we should stick to cases where the money line in decimal format is higher than 2.50. Profit = +$10.78 over 50 games (ROI = +21.6%). The sample size is getting small, though…

Let’s jump to strategy #2: Betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three losses in a row.

Betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three losses in a row (as a function of the money line)

The results above indicate we should bet the home team if its money line is 1.667 at most. In other words, it should be a fairly solid favorite. Profit = +$32.68 over 347 games (ROI = +9.4%).

Let me now break down the results for the third strategy by odds:

Betting a home team coming off at least four straight losses playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses (as a function of the money line)

The results are neat: the strategy seems profitable across all odds.

4. The Season Split

I have divulged three potentially good betting strategies under the scenario of two MLB teams facing each other, where both are undergoing a losing streak. I always like to verify the consistency of a given strategy across various seasons to see if the gains all came from a couple of years, or if the method yielded positive results year in and year out.

Strategy #1: Betting a road team coming off at least four straight losses playing a home team coming off at least one loss.

Betting a road team coming off at least four straight losses playing a home team coming off at least one loss (as a function of the season)

Ouch. That is exactly what we do NOT want to see: huge gains were made in 2015, leaving negative profits for the remaining six seasons combined together. Four years out of seven turned out to be profitable, but one of them barely made it above $0. This takes a serious blow to my faith in this system.

We do not look at the season-by-season performance of Strategy #1 when the odds on the road team were greater than 2.50. As mentioned in the Odds Split section, a sample size of 50 is too small to consider seriously.

Strategy #2a: Betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses.

Betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses (as a function of the season)

You could basically copy-paste the comments relative to strategy #1, except that this time the big gains occurred in 2010. I do not like what I’m seeing here.

Strategy #2b: Same as Strategy #2a, but only when the money line on the home team is 1.667 or less.

Betting a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses when the money line is 1.667 or less (as a function of the season)

That’s much better! We notice five solid winning seasons versus two losing ones. The consistency is more than decent, so we consider this strategy as viable.

Strategy #3: Betting a home team coming off at least four straight losses playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses.

Betting a home team coming off at least four straight losses playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses (as a function of the season)

Now we’re talking! We observe five winning seasons versus just two losing ones (including a negligible $0.87 loss in 2011). That shows nice consistency and reinforces our trust in this system.

5. Conclusion

Based on this in-depth statistical study of past MLB data, I believe there are two strategies that offer a promising outlook and are worth betting in the future:

  • Bet a home team coming off at least one loss playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses. Do so only if the money line on the home team is 1.667 or less (American format: a -150 favorite or more).
    • +$32.68 over 347 games (ROI = +9.4%)
    • Expected profit per season = 4.67 units ($32.68 / 7 seasons)
  • Bet a home team coming off at least four straight losses playing a road team coming off a maximum of three consecutive losses.
    • +$24.04 over 162 games (ROI = 14.8%)
    • Expected profit per season = 3.43 units ($24.04 / 7 seasons)

Among these two angles, I endorse the second one a lot more than the first. Why?

First of all, I give more credence to a strategy that fits a sensible narrative. In this case, the second strategy fits my original intuition like a glove: we are betting a team whose losing streak is longer than their opponent’s (which can lead to an inflated money line).

On the other hand, the first strategy is suggesting to bet a team coming off 1+ loss(es) versus a team coming off at most three defeats in a row. This scenario includes betting games where the length of our team’s losing streak is smaller  than their opponent’s, which seems more illogical. For example, you may end up betting a team whose losing streak is of length 1 versus a team on a 3-game losing streak.

Obviously, you are free to interpret the results from this study as you wish. Those of you who are willing to take more risks may bet some of the strategies I raised earlier, but eventually left out for specific reasons. If you are more risk averse, stick only to the second strategy described in this section.

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Professor MJ

Professor MJ logo (sports investor)

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.