On June 27 in South Florida against a woefully underperforming Marlins organization that had already parted ways with one manager so far this season, three-time Cy Young award winner and reigning National League MVP Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers took the field as astronomical -280 favorites against little-known 29-year-old righty Tom Koehler, who currently owns a career Major League record of 21-25.
Two hours, 26 minutes and two costly errors later, Los Angeles exited the stadium with a 3-2 defeat on its resume that currently stands as one of the biggest upsets of the 2015 season despite the fact that Kershaw surrendered just one earned run in seven solid innings of work. Those who rolled the dice on Miami that evening enjoyed a significant financial windfall while those who laid the monstrous price on the N.L. West-leading favorites suffered a serious hit to their collective bankrolls.
Backing the long shot in a seemingly one-sided baseball game—or any sport for that matter—is not a novel concept, as some gamblers relish the notion of risking a little in order to win a lot. Look no further than the Kentucky Derby, The Masters and Floyd Mayweather fights for proof of this notion. Some bettors thrive on taking a small, insignificant risk for a shot at a jackpot-like score.
But the big question here as it specifically pertains to baseball betting is whether or not such a strategy can serve as a viable, long-term approach to profitable wagering.
The answer, as I’m sure many of you could imagine, is a resounding no.
I floated this theory by my good friend Paul Bessire of the website PredictionMachine.com for some feedback as to how the 2015 Major League baseball campaign has treated bettors who routinely find themselves on the long shot side of a matchup that features a heavy favorite with the simple mission of determining whether or not there were enough significant underdog victories to turn a profit after offsetting the losses sustained when the favorites came through.
Here are the results for the 2015 season through Tuesday night’s games:
MLB underdogs from +160 to +169 (based on a $100 bettor)
Overall: 35-67 (34.3% SU), -$850
Home: 6-11 (35.3% SU), -$150
Road: 29-56 (34.1% SU), -$700
MLB underdogs from +170 to +179 (based on a $100 bettor)
Overall: 18-49 (26.9% SU), -$1,700
Home: 5-8 (38.5% SU), +$100
Road: 13-41 (24.1% SU), -$1,800
MLB underdogs from +180 and upward (based on a $100 bettor)
Overall: 10-29 (25.6% SU), -$1,075
Home: 3-5 (37.5% SU), +$50
Road: 7-24 (22.6% SU), -$1,125
As you can tell from the above information, blindly backing MLB underdogs of +160 or higher has produced disastrous results for gamblers during the 2015 season. Essentially, for every time a relative unknown like Tom Koehler upsets a future Hall of Famer like Clayton Kershaw, there are 2.2 matchups where the heavy favorite seals the deal. This type of strategy isn’t just a losing proposition, but it’s a bankroll-decimating approach capable of busting bettors prior to the July All-Star break.
However, it’s imperative to note at this point that we aren’t advocating the opposite approach to this strategy, which involves blindly betting on heavy favorites who face an opponent lined at +160 or higher. Trust us when we say that if gambling were that easy, all the casinos in Las Vegas would cease to exist.
Look no further than the Los Angeles Dodgers for proof, as Kershaw has lost each of his last two starts (-280 and -180) while fellow ace Zack Grienke was defeated at Miami on June 28 as a -215 favorite.
The lesson, as always, is that gamblers have to put in the requisite amount of time and research while looking to isolate the most favorable of spots when it comes to the Major League Baseball calendar. Rarely does a tell-all trend emerge that provides an opportunity to sprint to the counter while blindly following the logic.
And even when such a trend does rear its profitable little head, you can surely bet the bookmakers will be hot on its tail.