Part 1 of a 6-part division-by-division look at the 2013 MLB betting value for each team. Profitability for a team refers to whether or not that team is likely to be greatly under- or over-estimated by the public and Vegas money-lines. The betting lines for a team with High Profitability should be easy to exploit; vice versa for those with Low Profitability expectations.
Baltimore Orioles. (Moderate Profitability)
The Orioles surprise season in 2012 is being written off by almost everyone as a fluke. After their 93-win season, Vegas oddsmakers have set the over/under season win total at 78.5. Your first thought might be that they’ve lost a superstar to free agency or suffered a serious injury of some sort. You would be incorrect. They are trotting out a team nearly identical to last year’s squad.
Sure, the Orioles should regress in 2013. Ninety-three wins was far more than anyone could have expected and it’s far more than anyone should expect in 2013. But are we really to believe they should be a near-.500 squad. I don’t necessarily know the answer to that but I do think that the public is going overboard with their expectations of regression.
The Orioles should still win a fair number of games in 2013 and may be a solid betting option. I would tend to take the Orioles as slight favorites at home and as heavy road underdogs, when the right match-up presents itself.
Boston Red Sox. (Moderate to High Profitability)
There isn’t a lot to say about the Red Sox other than the fact that they can’t possibly be as bad in 2013 as they were last season. That being said, the expectation that they will go from 69 wins to sudden contenders is nonsense. This team will win games but they simply don’t have enough offense or pitching to compete for the division title, especially when almost 40% of their schedule will consist of match-ups with the Yankees, Blue Jays, and Rays.
However, the Red Sox are a big-name team and will probably continue to be treated that way by the public and the lines-makers. So, like the Yankees and Blue Jays, the advantage is found by betting against them when they are overvalued.
New York Yankees. (High Profitability)
There are a lot of questions surrounding the 2013 Yankees. Already without A-Rod until late in the season (or possibly 2014), center fielder Curtis Granderson will now be out until sometime in May after breaking his arm when he was hit by a pitch in a Spring Training game over the weekend. With Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera still rehabbing from serious injuries and a lineup that will include an offensive black-hole at catcher (Cervelli or anyone else they have available), the Yankees aren’t guaranteed to continue their streak of consecutive playoff appearances (4 and counting).
However, all of those factors could actually make the Yankees one of the more profitable MLB teams to bet on this season. That’s because the public tends to overvalue the Yanks, even when they are one of the league’s best teams. Last season, according to Covers.com, NYY was actually favored in 139 of their 162 games. They won 95 games, meaning they lost 44 games as favorites. That’s not something you see very often.
In 2013, they are likely to continue to be huge favorites, even though there is a good chance their on-field performance will suffer, especially over the first half of the season. My advice, look to bet against them in road games where they are listed as favorites but facing solid opposing pitchers. Last season, the Yankees were just 44-37 on the road (51-30 at home), despite being favored in more than 70% of those games.
Tampa Bay Rays. (Low Profitability)
There isn’t a lot to say about the Rays in terms of their betting profitability in 2013. They will continue to field a lineup with plenty of mismatched parts that somehow work while trotting out an exceptionally could and inexpensive pitching staff. Joe Maddon has gotten it done over the course of the last few seasons and there is little reason to believe he will get it done again, at the very least keeping Tampa Bay above water and competing in the perennially tough AL East.
This is something that most bettors and lines-makers understand and, therefore, it won’t be easy to exploit them as favorites or underdogs. The only possibly advantage is that they will still be slightly undervalued, especially with the possible emergence of the Blue Jays and the assumed re-emergence of the Red Sox.
I would suggest looking closely at Rays match-ups and taking advantage of when they are routinely and incorrectly given underdog status.
Toronto Blue Jays. (High Profitability)
After winning just 73 games in 2012, the 2013 Toronto Blue Jays are seen by many as a possible World Series contender. And with good reason. Their busy off-season has yielded a top-flight shortstop in Jose Reyes and upgrades in left field (Melky Cabrera) and a solid second baseman (Emilio Bonifacio) to go along with an already solid lineup featuring Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, and Edwin Encarnacion. Equally or possibly more important, the Blue Jays rotation has been significantly improved with the addition of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, and R.A. Dickey.
However, with all of these additions, there is no guarantee of success. Remember last year’s Marlins, expected to contend in the NL East and possibly for the World Series? At 69-93, they finished a distant 5th in the division, underwhelming by almost any standard. Interestingly enough, a lot of the Blue Jays upgrades happen to come from South Beach.
Though I do think the Blue Jays will put together a solid season, there are a few things that trouble me. Offensively, the only real question is whether or not Melky Cabrera can produce at a high level after his past success has been traced back to PEDs. To me, the issue could be the pitching staff.
R.A. Dickey is coming off an amazing season but, after more than a decade in the league, can we really be sure that his Cy Young campaign wasn’t–at least in some part–a fluke? He has solid career numbers but nothing close to his stunning 2.73 ERA in 2012. I still think he’ll be solid but a staff ace? Maybe not. Then there’s Josh Johnson, arguably the best pitcher in the NL entering 2012. His disappointing season was partly a result of injuries but the shift to the American League East and out of Marlins Park, where he had a 2.96 ERA last season compared to 4.94 on the road, could spell trouble.
While the Blue Jays could have an exceptional 2013, they are still overvalued. Dickey and Johnson are likely to be favored heavily when they’re pitching, though there is little track record to predict major success for them this season. If both get off to good starts, I could easily be proven wrong. Still, I’ll be looking to bet against the Blue Jays early in the season, when public perception is likely to make them heavy favorites before they show us they deserve that kind of respect.