As a rule, sports bettors should focus their wagering on genuinely good teams, meaning teams that win outright more often than they lose and contend for championships.
OK, that seems like common sense, but the point spread and the moneyline odds are designed to make every team pretty much equal to every other team mathematically when it comes to Maryland sports gambling.
And the betting public can get a little delusional when it sees the underdog getting a big plus number on the point spread or getting the juicy odds on the moneyline that offers a big payday on those ‘dogs.
However, in the long run, experience tells us that overall betting on bad teams (not just underdogs but truly bad teams) will eat away at a sports gambler’s bankroll.
Consider that in 2021, a hypothetical bettor who wagered on the eventual last-place finishers in each MLB division for every game would have lost money on every one of those teams by the end of the season — usually big money — even though those clubs were ostensibly getting the best of the line most of the time.
The same was true in 2020, and in 2019 and in 2018, and — well, you get the idea. It was unfailingly true that no matter how much the odds appeared to be tilted in favor of those very bad teams, they lost money for their backers.
But then along comes those occasional teams who, although they spend much of the season under .500, do defy the oddsmakers’ usually uncannily accurate betting numbers and reward their betting backers with surprising, and profitable, success.
Losing MLB Teams That Made the Most Money (ML) Each Year Since 2010
2022 Orioles Defy the Odds
This season’s Baltimore Orioles are just one such team. Prior to opening day, the Orioles’ predicted over-under win total for the season was 62.5 wins, the lowest forecast for MLB and a reasonable number, it seemed, considering the Orioles won just 52 times in 2021.
Yet, heading into the All-Star break, the Orioles were 46-46 and the biggest money-makers in the majors for bettors who, for whatever reason, believed in them. Bettors can wager at retail sites in the state, but Maryland sports betting apps haven’t launched yet.
Through 92 games, the Orioles were +$1,759 on benchmark $100 bets (in baseball, odds are posted with bettors on underdogs risking $100 to win a larger amount of money against favorites).
The Orioles’ performance against the moneyline through the first 92 games was the best in all Major League Baseball by far — even better than the New York Yankees (+$1,188) who were an astounding MLB-best 36 games over .500 and running away with the AL East.
The Orioles were also tops against the run line (sort of baseball’s version of football’s point spread) at 59-33.
To be sure, the Orioles aren’t quite a “good” team yet — even after getting to .500 just before the All-Star break, they were still 18 games behind the Yankees and were also still in last place in the AL East. But they’re much, much better than what was expected and it is that virtue of better-than-expected that has made them such a profitable betting choice in 2022.
Losing on Field, Winning for Bettors
In prior seasons, other teams have been below .500 in the standings but also profitable as betting propositions.
In the last dozen seasons, at least four teams have had losing seasons but made relatively big winners out of their backers. Just last season, the Detroit Tigers finished 77-85 but were a whopping +$2,303 against the money line.
The 2010 Houston Astros, the 2011 Washington Nationals and the 2019 Chicago White Sox all were sub-.500 but were over the $1,000 mark against the money line.
More often, a losing team in the standings that is a winning team at the betting counter isn’t a huge jackpot find — for instance, the 2015 Arizona Diamondbacks (79-83) were a $6 winner over the long season — but there’s usually a loser in the standings that is a triple-digit dollar winner as a wagering proposition.
Look at the Starting Pitching First
There’s no absolute formula to divining such teams but since the oddsmakers usually use starting pitching as the starting point for setting odds, bettors should look for some less obvious team strengths, such as relief pitching, longball offense and the frequently overlooked statistical category of fielding, which can offset shaky starting pitching.
Often, underdogs who overcome the money line odds find ways to win close games even when they’re outscored over the course of the season. For instance, the 2022 Orioles were -7 in run differential as they were compiling a league-best money record against the odds through 92 games (the Yankees were +199 at the same point). And, as an aside, the Orioles were ranked No. 23 out of 30 MLB teams for starting pitching, but were tied for No. 4 in relief pitching).
There’s no suggestion here that any bettor should randomly bet on losing teams hoping to catch betting lightning in a bottle. But there is some history that shows fans who follow specific teams and see qualities in them beyond starting pitching that make them more formidable than the oddsmakers’ numbers suggest, can take a sweet contrarian ride.