MLB Picks: Profit Off the Diamondbacks When Well Over-Matched

Jay Pryce

Friday, May 29, 2015 12:39 AM GMT

Since their last playoff appearance in 2011, the Diamondbacks have been really poor against far superior opponents. We uncover a trend to help you return a sizeable profit when fading Arizona against good teams.

I think it is safe to say that the Arizona Diamondbacks are rebuilding following a rebuilding phase. Yes, they have conceded to the dreaded double rebuild. I'm not sure of the dangers in this move, but I'm sure there are many. Following their 2011 NL Division series loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, former general manager Kevin Towers began trading players away like poker chips in an effort to craft a World Series winning team molded out of his own personal values. Now that some time has passed, the consensus among virtually everyone is that most moves hurt the team, badly. Nearing the end of his tenure, Towers seemed to shift gears and entered a remodeling phase destined to bring in younger players. Shipping Justin Upton to the Braves for a non-established, 24-year old Double-A corner-infield prospect in 2014 appears to be the straw that broke the camel's back. The D-backs mustered 81 win seasons in both 2012 and 2013, as the bottom expectedly dropped out in 2014. Posting the league’s worst record, Arizona lost 98 games and earned a paltry .395 winning percentage last year. In recent months, team owners dismantled the Towers-Kirk Gibson front-office regime, replacing them with the hiring of Chief Baseball Operator Tony LaRussa, general manager Dave Stewart, and skipper Chip Hale. Outside of Paul Goldschmidt, the team is chock full of so-so prospects and mediocre MLB veterans. They employ the second youngest team in the majors (27.4) and are truly inexperienced, particularly their starting rotation. Most baseball insiders believe they are on the right track, but turning the franchise back to a winning one will take time. They are a respectable 21-25 through the first quarter of the season, though virtually every projection model predicts them to lose close to 100 games in 2015. I certainly do not wish to kick a man while he’s down, or team for that matter, but I’ve come across a trend that returns a solid profit for those willing to eat the chalk and fade the Diamondbacks at sportsbooks like GTBets.

Since their last playoff appearance, Arizona is really bad against very good teams. Since the start of the 2013 season, they are 25-60 (29%) facing opponents with a win percentage 13% or higher going into a contest. The average closing line for the winner is -140 returning a 24% profit fading the Diamondbacks throughout this period. In 2015, the angle is 2-7 with average odd of -145 for the victors and a 32% ROI. Arizona averages 3.3 runs in these contests, well below their roughly 4.0 average during this span, and give away 4.8 versus their normal 4.4 allowed. A disproportionate amount of our games occurs in April and May, as team records begin to regress closer to the .500 mean as the season wears on. The trend, however, appears to grow stronger in June and beyond, as Arizona’s record is a measly 6-27 in this situation with average MLB odds of -155 for the winner, returning 38% profit for investors.

It is tough to rationalize why the Diamondbacks lose so willingly in this scenario. Bad teams will find ways to give away ball games, and good teams find ways to wins. When you take the two extremes and put them together, then voilà, value appears. Last night's game against the league leading St. Louis Cardinals is a perfect example. Entering the ninth inning with a 3-2 lead, Hale’s pen served up a game-tying solo shot to Jason Heyward, followed up by a throwing error later in the inning to see the winning run cross the plate for the NL Central champs. Ironically, the Diamondbacks are tied for second in MLB for fewest errors to start the season, averaging .43 per game. Bad teams find ways to lose. Good teams find ways to wins.

Another way to look at the Diamondback’s failures in this scenario is to see their record in one-run ball games, the most common margin in MLB. There is a lot of debate as to what allows a team to eek out a game in the closest of contests. There is probably a large element of luck involved, but some research points to a team’s ability to play small ball in these situations. The D-backs are 9-16 in one-run games in our angle, yet rank average or above average in key small-ball stats, including hits for sacrifice and stolen base success—so much for that theory. More than likely it is a perfect blend of lesser talent, inexperience, bad luck, and betting market miscalculations that have provided the angle so much value over the last several seasons. Keep an eye out for Arizona’s record in the near future, as they face the NL West leading Dodgers six times in June and prime to trigger our trend with your MLB picks.

As always, use this information to support your leans, and best of luck.