The start of the 2018 MLB season is upon us and although some bettors will be looking at the World Series contenders, others might be considering the wide range of proposition bets available at Pinnacle. Is there any value in the MLB season prop bets? Read on to find out.
Are prop bets just a bit of fun?
Although serious bettors will be focusing on the opening round of MLB games, analysing last season’s form and any major changes during the offseason, there’s plenty of proposition bets (prop bets) on offer at Pinnacle that could still offer some value.
These types of bets focus on one particular aspect of the sport and ask bettors a question (or give them a proposition) and are primarily considered to be for entertainment purposes - these markers often span across the entire season or focus on a highlight event. However, the breadth of the markets on offer means that with some basic statistical analysis, bettors could spot potential discrepancies in the odds and take advantage.
With plenty of individual player props (number of hits, home runs, innings thrown and bases stolen) as well as different team options (most wins and most losses) there’s ample opportunity for bettors to find a niche market to exploit. The question is; which proposition markets should bettors be paying close attention to?
Will MLB’s offensive explosion continue?
One of the things most baseball bettors will be aware of is that the MLB is in the midst of an offensive resurgence. As can be seen below, the season total for home runs (and individual MLB leader) has steadily increased since 2014.
In 2014, pitching dominance had become so prominent that there were concerns it would drive away casual fans. Everything from lowering the pitcher’s mound to banning defensive shifts was dropped as a potential “solution” but before any changes could be implemented, baseball did what baseball does; it adjusted.
The combined total for the two of 80.5 home runs between Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge does offer some cushion. If one misses a month, it’s still very attainable.
With the shift hurting batters who played to their strengths, hitters adjusted by increasing their chances of hitting the ball where fielders couldn’t get it. Within the space of four seasons, the MLB was notching a couple thousand extra home runs a season and the concerns about no entertainment for the fans had disappeared.
Although it is important to reflect on what has happened in the past four years, bettors should be thinking about what is likely to happen this season when it comes to proposition bets. There have been no drastic changes that should influence sweeping offensive production, but pitchers will adjust, just as hitters did. This leaves us the question of whether we should expect more offensive dominance or a levelling off.
Being able to answer the above question could make you plenty of profit in 2018 as there are numerous offensive focused proposition markets available at Pinnacle. The honest answer here is probably “I don’t know”, but consider this; it doesn’t seem like there are a whole lot of directions to go but down, especially with speculation of a juiced ball being in play for the last two years.
The following markets will be of particular interest to anyone who thinks the offensive explosion in the MLB will continue, or that it will start to regress at a quicker rate than most are expecting:
- Most home runs by any batter will be: (O/U) 48.5
- Giancarlo Stanton home runs: (O/U) 42.5
- Aaron Judge home runs (O/O) 35.5
- Judge and Stanton combined home runs (O/U) 80.5
Who will hit the most home runs in MLB?
Last year, Giancarlo Stanton hit a remarkable 59 home runs despite playing in a pitching-friendly home park, while Aaron Judge lead the American League with 52 home runs despite playing through a production-curtailing shoulder injury late in the season. Now, bettors have a chance to bet upon whether they can do it all over again.
Looking first at the expectations for a home run leader - with 48.5 home runs the dividing line - you need to keep in mind that aside from the Yankees’ two goliaths, there aren’t a lot of guys who could conceivably challenge that mark.
Mark Trumbo hit 47 home runs in 2016 before coming back to earth last year with 23, the injury-prone J.D. Martinez hit 45 in 2017 despite losing time to an injury and Rangers’ first baseman Joey Gallo put together a 41-home run season last term while flashing the potential for more.
Outside those select names, the idea of someone hitting 48.5 home runs is unlikely, and even the three previously mentioned would be a real stretch. That leaves Stanton and Judge.
The main question to think about here is the potential for injury. It’s easy to forget Stanton had never hit more than 37 home runs in a season before 2017 thanks to his long injury history. The same isn’t true for Judge, but his 2017 debut was so unprecedented and so unexpected that we may (granted; or may not) have already seen his best.
The combined total for the two of 80.5 home runs between them does offer some cushion. If one misses a month, it’s still very attainable. For either individual to get 49+ home runs though, a lot needs to go right - with the combined total currently priced higher at 1.877* it will probably appeal the most to bettors.
Analysing the pitching markets
Pinnacle has four separate markets concerning pitchers and although all are slightly different, they have multiple similarities that bettors should be looking at when trying to find out which market could offer value. The available pitching props at Pinnacle are:
- Highest win total for any pitcher: (O/U) 20.5
- Highest loss total for any pitcher: (O/U) 17.5
- Highest strikeout total for any pitcher: (O/U) 279.5
- Highest innings pitched total for any pitcher: (O/U) 218.5
Below is a list of the previous records for these four available markets:
MLB pitching stats 2014-2018
We’ve previously examined how data often determines the choices MLB franchises make on the field and in recent years, data has highlighted the inherent dangers of pitcher abuse. In short, a pattern has emerged over the last few seasons that show pitchers aren’t throwing as much as they used to.
Just as the MLB landscape has shifted in favour of batters in recent years, bettors should be prepared for another shift in the opposite direction.
Similar to the offensive shift, bettors need to find out whether this new approach to pitching will continue or if it will simply level out. The definition of a win for a starting pitcher hasn’t changed; it is the mandatory five innings required to earn that win on their record that is important here.
Pitches are being used less often than ever before and are also being removed from a game earlier as soon as there’s any sign of trouble - this might limiting the number of losses for a starting pitcher, but it also makes it harder to get a win. Although pitchers are throwing fewer innings, strikeouts levels are still increasing overall and strikeout leaders haven’t been affected.
With markets like these, it’s easy to look at figures for recent yearsand assume they will hold for 2018. In this instance, the line for most wins for a starting pitcher is drawn at 20.5, so it’s easy to look at 2017’s number of eighteen and take the under. However, just as the MLB landscape has shifted in favour of batters in recent years, bettors should be prepared for another shift in the opposite direction.
How much will the elite dominate MLB in 2018?
Another interesting market that may appeal to baseball bettors if the most wins by any team - over 99.5 wins in currently priced at 1.444* with the under 2.810*. Given that the Dodgers (104), Indians (102) and Astros (101) all achieved this feat in 2017, it’s obvious to see why the over is the short favourite.
In actual fact, you have to go back to 2014 to find a season where no single team eclipsed 99.5 regular season wins - the Cubs posted 103 in 2016 and the Cardinals managed exactly 100 the year before.
MLB currently finds itself in what many believe to be the super team era, with the Astros, Dodgers, Indians, Yankees, Cubs, Nationals and Red Sox deemed the “select seven”. The history of baseball is littered with cases of one or two clubs enjoying superiority, but what we’re seeing now is the have-nots embracing that status by playing into opportunities that benefit losing; resulting in the teams at the top pulling away further for the time being.
The aforementioned teams are so loaded that free agents had to take cut-price deals because these clubs had “complete” rosters and so few others were interested in spending. Now, these teams will play the season out, competing more often than not with those clubs who have chosen to play for the future instead of the present.
With so much disparity in the quality of teams in the league, it’s hard to see all of these teams failing to surpass the 99.5 win mark (most will be expecting at least two or three teams to reach triple figures).