Handicapping Impact of Home vs. Away When Making MLB Picks: Tips, Forecast & Best Futures Bet to Win World Series

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, March 31, 2015 2:58 PM GMT

The home edge is always a big factor for sports bettors to consider, but is it really all it’s cracked up to be in MLB, with such a long season & starting pitchers being such a dominant part of the portion of most games?

Introduction
The 2015 Major League Baseball season begins a little more than a week from now on Sunday, April 5, when the Chicago Cubs welcome the St. Louis Cardinals to the Windy City and the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field (ESPN2, 8:05 p.m. ET/5:05 p.m. PT) for what is sure to be a memorable Opening Night for the new year of baseball, with new Cubs-signee John Lester (16-11 in 2014 with Athletics, 2.46 ERA) scheduled to get the start for the hosts against the Redbirds and their ace, Adam Wainwright (20-9, 2.38 ERA in 2014). So, what better time than Now to think about some abstract ways of looking at and betting MLB, a sport where the players have traditionally done better than in the majority of other sports? This particular reality can be measured by a Sportsbooks’ specific annual ‘Hold Percentages’ on the individual sports, and baseball has always been one of the few sports where it feels like the bookmakers and sportsbooks actually fear losing to the players over the Long Run. And I actually remember one just-off-The-Strip casino out here in Las Vegas in the Summer of either 1991 or 1992 actually choosing to remodel its sportsbook during MLB season as to avoid the reality of having to begrudgingly offer up Baseball betting to its players, more than likely coming off of a particularly rough MLB season (low Hold Percentage) the year before. But still, over the long haul, the sportsbooks still have the edge, especially over the marathon-like 162-game MLB seasons, easily the longest schedules of any of the professional sports.

Check out our Best Bets to go Over MLB Season Win Totals

The Homefield Edge is Always Baked into the Odds
When deciding on your MLB picks, first and foremost, it’s probably to start off from the point that any Homefield Edge in Baseball is always built into these odds. So, if you think you’re getting it (that perceived and real edge of playing at Home), you’re actually paying for it, usually when betting a Favorite. And betting on a team solely because they are playing at Home isn’t a very sound long-term idea if profiting is your end goal. One key is to picking your spots. And of course, as always, getting some Luck along the way. And, one thing to think about when thinking about when trying to find those key spots, is that most MLB series are 3-game affairs, and the heavy percentage of those series don’t end in Sweeps (3-0, 4-0), meaning that usually there is at least one spot in that 3-game series where the Road team—and usually the Underdog—wins one of the games. And whether your strategy is employing and handicapping individual Starting Pitching matchups for a specific game, backing Trends, waiting for the “Due-To Factor”, playing the Hotter current team, or using some bastardized mix of all of these and more, you can usually try to figure what that game will be from a distance. The best way of doing this is my mind is to look at the Starting Probable Pitching Rotations for these theoretical 3-games series’ a day before the series starts and try to pick the best Spot where the Road team can win, before seeing and MLB odds that may throw you off or sway your precious confidence.

 

Know the Reputations, Recent/Current Home Records of Teams
Some MLB teams have reputations as being good at Home, but usually teams go through little waves (clusters of seasons) of either being Great, Good, Average or Bad at Home. One way to evaluate that ‘Great Level’ for Home baseball teams is to examine who reached the 50-win mark the previous season(s). And, as you can see in the below chart, last season (2014), five MLB teams achieved that 50-win mark: The Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals and Washington Nationals in the National League all finished with 51-30 records—a robust 21 games above the .500 mark—while in the American League, the Baltimore Orioles (50-31) and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (52-29) both achieved that status. And, no MLB teams ended with 49 Home wins, but three did end up with 48-33 marks at Home, 15 games above .500—the Cleveland Indians, San Diego Padres and Oakland A’s—so with three of those dominating Home teams in 2014 coming from the state of California, maybe a case can be made for travel and different Time Zones and Body Clocks and things. Makes sense.

In 2013, eight MLB teams won 50 or more games: The Atlanta Braves (56-35), Pittsburgh Pirates (50-31) and St. Louis Cardinals (54-27) in the NL; and the Boston Red Sox (53-28), Cleveland Indians (51-30), Detroit Tigers (51-30), Oakland A’s (52-29) and Tampa Bay Rays (51-30) in the AL. And, three seasons ago in 2012—when The World didn’t suddenly come to An End on December 21—three more NL teams finished with exact 50-31 records at Home—the Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals (again) and the Washington Nationals—as, strangely enough so did three teams from the AL: The Detroit Tigers, Oakland A’s (again) and Texas Rangers. And the team that finished with the best Home record in 2012? None other than the The New York Yankees at 51-30.

So if you want to remember something Simple and Smart from this, it would be to take the A’s in the AL and the Cardinals in the NL when they play at Home at their respective O.Co. Coliseum or Busch Stadium homefields. The Cardinals have had the highest peak (+27 games, 2013) over the last 3 seasons at Home of all teams in MLB and St. Louis is a combined 155-88 (63.8% Wins) over that span, also the best mark. The Oakland A’s are 150-93 (61.7% Wins, +57 combined games above .500) over the last 3 seasons, while the Washington Nationals and young sensations Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg are a combined 148-95 (60.9 % Wins, +46 combined games above .500). A small sample size, but still significant and worth knowing heading into this 2015 MLB season.

 

MLB Home and Away Records Last Three Seasons

Conclusions and Funk
The Numbers don’t lie, brother, and it’s never a bad idea to really focus on bets when Good Home teams play Bad Road teams. And usually in Game 1 of those series’, the Home side doesn’t lose, as that puts them behind the proverbial 8-ball right out of the gate in a series against a team you know it was aiming to go 3-0 in. And should that (upset loss) happen in Game 1, taking that Home team in Games 2 and 3 (and even 4 if applicable) seems very logical. Mad + Home = Good. And another thing to use when focusing (or fading) Home teams in MLB: Be aware of the Hot Pitchers and their Lifetime Records and recent activity vs. certain teams. Betting a solid Starting Pitcher in a situation on the Road against these perceived (and real) quality Home teams in a spot where his team needs the win, can prevent a sweep and/or is matched up against the No. 4 or No. 5 Pitcher in the opponent’s Rotation at (usually favored) prices of -115, -120 (and up) is a perfect example of one of these ideal spots. But you have to stay on top of it and really do your homework and betting on few sports can require as much legwork and record-keeping as Baseball does. So again, remember that the Cardinals (+1300, 13/1 Bwin), A’s (+3300, 33/1, Ladbrokes) and Nationals (+550, Sky Bet) have been very good at Home recently and that information like that can be used in betting on teams as much as it can in staying away from them. And that’s often one of the hidden things in sports gambling—what we often choose not to wager on. And that kind of Discipline takes Time, Patience, and often, a number of silly, forced Losses. But as lead singer Steven Tyler of Aerosmith howls in the band’s immortal hit song ‘Dream On,’ “You got to lose to know how to win.” Amen, brother. Amen.

RELATED MLB FUTURES PICK: St. Louis Cardinals to Win World Series, 13/1 (5Dimes)