An MLB Opening Day Trend with 10 Matches: Should You Back Favorites?

An MLB Opening Day Trend with 10 Matches: Should You Back Favorites? article feature image

Opening Day! The start of another baseball season begins Thursday with every team in action for the first time since 1968. Like me, you’re probably skipping work to watch your favorite team begin the season. So, let’s make a little money while out of the office by finding value on the 15-game slate.


Using the Bet Labs software, I’ve identified a winning betting system with 10 game matches (ranging from 12:40 p.m. ET to 10:10 p.m. ET start times) for Opening Day.

Since 2005, moneyline favorites in the regular season have gone 18,084-13,473 (57.3%) straight-up. Despite the winning record, it would have been unwise to wager on favorites blindly. A $100 bettor backing every favorite would be down $58,531.

But that changes on Opening Day. Using the Game Number in Bet Labs filter we can see that favorites in the first game of the season have gone 123-73 (62.8%), and a $100 bettor would be up $1,386. Why have favorites performed better on Opening Day?

One theory is that teams enter the season as healthy as they will be all year and typically, a team’s ace will start the first game with a full complement of arms available in the bullpen. All of these factors give the better (likely favored) team in the first game of the season an edge.

Betting favorites on Opening Day is even more profitable when the opposing team missed the playoffs the year before. Teams in this situation have gone 105-56 (65.2%), +$1,646 for a $100 bettor.

There is one more filter we can add to squeeze the last drops of equity out of favorites in the first game. As you can see from the table below, the sweet spot for betting favorites against non-playoff teams is when a team is a -120 favorite or greater. By eliminating the weakest favorites, we improve our win rate and return on investment. Moneyline favorites of -120 or greater against non-playoff teams on Opening Day have gone 90-34 (73%), +$2,493 for a $100 bettor since 2005.

The 10 Opening Day favorites that fit this trend:

  • Chicago Cubs (-195) at Miami Marlins (12:40 p.m. ET)
  • New York Mets (-134) at St. Louis Cardinals (1:10 p.m. ET)
  • Houston Astros (-168) at Texas Rangers (3:35 p.m. ET)
  • New York Yankees (-156) at Toronto Blue Jays (3:37 p.m. ET)
  • Boston Red Sox (-176) at Tampa Bay Rays (4:00 p.m. ET)
  • Los Angeles Angels (-136) at Oakland Athletics (4:05 p.m. ET)
  • Philadelphia Phillies (-125) at Atlanta Braves (4:10 p.m. ET)
  • Kansas City Royals (-169) vs. Chicago White Sox (4:16 p.m. ET)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers (-300) at San Francisco Giants (7:08 p.m. ET)
  • Cleveland Indians (-171) at Seattle Mariners (10:10 p.m. ET)

The moneyline odds will change for each game until the first pitch on Thursday so be sure to check our free odds page for line movement as games may fall in and out of this system.

Top photo: Indians pitcher Corey Kluber; credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

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