National League's hike in home runs is giving value to MLB Over bettors

May 13, 2017 |
The Milwaukee Brewers are first in the majors in home runs and the second most profitable Over bet in the bigs at 22-13-1 O/U as of Saturday.
Photo By - USA Today Images
The Milwaukee Brewers are first in the majors in home runs and the second most profitable Over bet in the bigs at 22-13-1 O/U as of Saturday.
Photo By - USA Today Images

Major League Baseball is on track to snap the record for most home runs hit in a single season but baseball bettors aren’t seeing that increase in dingers equal a huge uptick in Over results.

After Friday’s action, MLB games are averaging 1.18 big flies per game – a number which if held would break the record of 1.17 from the year 2000 – smack dab in the middle of the steroid era.

For bettors, the question is why aren’t all these bombs leading to more Overs cashing at the window? The Over is hitting at just 51.68 percent win rate for the homer-happy 2017 season so far. It would seem that while home runs are meeting the totals from 2000, on-base percentage and runs scored are not.

At the turn of the century, the average big league on-base percentage was .345 with about 10.28 runs per game. On-base percentage this season stands at .320 and the average number of runs per game is nine. But don’t fret baseball bettors, there are still gambling opportunities to take advantage of rising home-run rate.

Before the first pitch on Friday, the Over/Under record was 127-100-9 (56 percent) in games involving only two NL teams. All you have to do is look at the standings to see who the main culprits are. Every club in the East and the Central Divisions – outside of Pittsburgh – have more Overs than Unders.

There’s a stigma attached to the National League – most people associate it to small ball. Where the American League is free to mash away because of the designated hitter, NL teams have to think about the double switches and moving the runner over to generate that needed insurance run.

The reputation hasn’t been unwarranted. In just the last 10 years, the average NL team has been out-homered and outscored by the average AL team by 14.9 (HR) and 39.5 (R) per season.

Things are different in 2017 though. After Friday’s action, the NL leads the AL in home runs (630 to 604) and runs scored (2432 to 2286). If the trend holds this would be the first time in eight years where more homers were hit by National League clubs and the first time since 1975 where the Senior Circuit outscored its Junior counterpart.

Because it was only three years ago in the 2014 campaign when we saw a historic low in runs and home runs (0.86 per game), the sudden increase in homers has made many suspicious about balls possibly being tempered by league officials to increase scoring.

“…the league juiced the baseball in the summer of 2015,” Baseball Prospectus writer Matthew Trueblood wrote, “and they haven’t unjuiced it.”

The Ringer’s Ben Lyons wrote a great piece detailing the surge in home runs and also dispelling Trueblood’s accusation about the balls being juiced. MLB enlists a third-party to test its game balls to determine whether any of the balls are being altered, and the results show no evidence of any tempering.

Still there are more and more souvenirs for fans in the outfield bleachers. In 2009, 9.4 percent of fly balls resulted in homers but that percentage now sits at 12.8 according to Business Insider. There were 19 dingers hit on Thursday night in just 10 games – an average of 1.9 home runs per game – but those 10 games finished with a 4-6 Over/Under count (1-2 O/U in the National League).

Bettors shouldn’t expect the home-run rate to drop as the campaign moves on. Typically, the rate increases as the weather warms and the balls tend to carry. You can find added value in capping games in hot temperatures and high humidity, along with Over-friendly umpires and flyball pitchers.

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