Find Value by Fading Trendy 2018 MLB Win Totals
© Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Before every season starts, I always scan the betting market to find the most popular win totals being bet by the public. It doesn't matter whether it's MLB, NFL or NCAAF — the goal is to find which totals are the "trendiest" in the eyes of public bettors, and fading those picks accordingly. We often follow a contrarian approach to betting individual games, and it works for futures/props as well. By aggregating public betting %'s, we can find out which bets to fade this season.
First, let's see how the most popular win total bets fared last season (>70% of bets across the three sportsbooks):
In 2017, the most popular public win totals went just 1-6, so blindly fading those plays would have been very profitable. The Royals were the only team to cash for public bettors, winning 80 games and hitting over 75.5 wins. Public bettors liked both the Dodgers and Padres to go under their season win total in the NL West, but both went over.
Now here's a look at the most lopsided win total bets by the public in 2018:
Los Angeles Dodgers Under 96 wins
Once again, public bettors are loving the Dodgers to go under their season win total of 96/96.5. Their division appears to be stronger overall than last year, but many projections, including FanGraphs, have them winning 100+ games again. LA has tons of pitching and hitting, and may not even need a big contribution from OF Yasiel Puig (pictured above). It's a huge number, but there's still contrarian value in taking the over.
Washington Nationals Over 93.5 wins
The Nats play in a weak NL East and should be healthier than they were last season. Thus, the public feels pretty optimistic about Washington this season. I'm admittedly on the Nats -225 to win the NL East but didn't bother messing with their win total at all. If I was strictly fading the public, I'd lean toward the Nationals under win total, but I'm hoping the public has this one right.
San Francisco Giants Over 83.5 wins
The Giants made some huge splashes in the offseason acquiring former studs Evan Longoria and Andrew McCutchen in trades. Last season, San Francisco had very little power in their offense, and struggled more than anyone could have predicted. 2018 won't be as bad as 2017, but I'm not as high on the Giants as the public. The NL West is finally turning into a strong division with the likes of the Dodgers, Diamondbacks and Rockies to compete with and I don't think wins will be that easy to come by. They would need to go at least 84-78 to go over their win total and I'd fade the public by taking the under.
New York Mets Over 82.5 wins
The Mets Over is the most popular win total bet at one sportsbook, and it's not even close. We saw similar betting patterns on the Mets last year with overwhelming support on their over, but they were hit with injuries and fell well under the total. Public bettors are high on their starting rotation and when it's completely healthy, it's one of the best in the league. The problem is that their rotation (or anyone's for that matter) likely won't stay healthy all year. Fortunately they play in a weak NL East so there should be plenty of divisional wins out there, but will they get to at least 83 on the season? It'll be close but I think they fall short at 81-81.
Texas Rangers Under 76.5 wins
The Rangers underperformed last season, finishing with a 78-84 record when their season win total was 86. This season their win total has been set at just 76.5, yet public bettors think they'll regress even further by taking the under. Besides Cole Hamels at the top of the rotation, the pitching staff isn't very intimidating, but they do have plenty of bats including Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, and Nomar Mazara, to name a few. I can understand why the public doesn't expect much from Texas this season, but they're a potentially dangerous team that could get to .500.
Oakland Athletics Over 75.5 wins
The most surprising public wager is the Oakland A's over. On paper, both the rotation and lineup are underwhelming, and they need to contend with AL West teams like Houston, Seattle, LA Angels and Texas. This may be my favorite play to fade the public and take the Oakland under, which essentially works in tandem with the Texas Rangers over. If you end up fading the public with both bets, you'll be rooting hard for Texas to beat Oakland 18 times this season.
Cincinnati Reds Under 74 wins
Public bettors are low on the Reds this year after they started trading off their best players, but oddsmakers expect at least 74 wins from Cincinnati. For me, it's hard to see how they get to that number, and the Reds will need to maximize the potential of their starting rotation. I've struggled to find reasons to fade the public here, and a lot would have to go right for Cincinnati to go over their season win total. This is a total that I'm passing on.
Chicago White Sox Over 69.5 wins
The public has been hammering the White Sox total. Chicago has been in rebuild mode since trading away SP Chris Sale, but has done a nice job putting together a starting rotation of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Carson Fulmer, Carlos Rodon and James Shields. They also have some nice offensive pieces including Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada and Avisail Garcia. In the AL Central, the Cleveland Indians are the cream of the crop, but there could be wins out there to be had against the Royals, Twins, and Tigers. With a low win total of 69.5, it's understandable that public bettors think this club can get to at least 70 wins.
Miami Marlins Under 64.5 wins
The Marlins have only been in existence for 25 seasons but have already changed their name (Florida > Miami) and have brand new ownership once again, led by Derek Jeter. In the offseason they traded some of their best players, like Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, which means expectations are extremely low for 2018. Their win total sits at just 64.5 wins, so they're projected to lose nearly 100 games. This team will be bad, but it's possible they could finish in the high 60s. Similar to the Reds total, I'm not keen on fading the public here, so I'm passing.
LA Dodgers Over 96 wins
SF Giants Under 83.5 wins
NY Mets Under 82.5 wins
TEX Rangers Over 76.5 wins
OAK Athletics Under 75.5 wins