The Baseball Savant

where sabermetrics & betting collide with our national pasttime

Getting the Information the Sports Book Doesn’t Have

In the 2012 Hardball Times, James Holzhauer makes a very compelling although intuitive statement in his essay entitled “Diary of a Mad Sports Bettor.” The statement is:

Placing winning sports bets often hinges on an information advantage. The problem is that most publicly available information is already factored into the betting odds.

Intuitive right? But the problem is that most people don’t live and breath by those very prescient words. Holzhauer goes on to talk about the inherent advantage the team playing at home has on their visitors, but the problem is that any bookie is already going to factor in the odds of the home team winning in the initial line. The person placing the bet has no inherent advantage in taking the home team because the value of playing at home really isn’t there due to the bookies already knowing about this advantage and adjusting the line accordingly. Holzhauer further explains this in recounting his success in betting on the World Baseball Classic. The trick to beating those odds was in diving deep into a tournament the sports books didn’t really know a ton about it. By becoming an “expert” on all the foreign teams and some computer simulation, Holzhauer was able to lick those odds for tremendous profit.

How does that really help us going into 2012 when betting on baseball games? Baseball betting is all about starting pitching match-ups, but luckily for us there are so many variables within baseball that a sports book simply cannot keep up with every nuanced statistic that can affect the outcome of a baseball game. For example, say you have the following match-up:

St. Louis-Wainwright -130
Cincinnati-Latos +120

Those odds note that St. Louis’s odds of winning is 56.5% while Cincinnati’s is 45.5%. If Cincy is a better than 45.5% bet to win then clearly the bet is for the Reds. The trick here is trying to figure out if the Cardinals are greater than 56.5% favorites or are the Reds greater than 45.5% favorites? What do we know? That’s the trick in trying to bet this game. How can we make that determination by factoring in something that the sports books didn’t factor in? Is umpiring crew factored in? How much of recent success is factored in? If you knew that Jason Motte wasn’t going to pitch would it swing things more in favor of Cincinnati? If Joey Votto had the day off would it swing things more towards St. Louis? How does bullpen usage affect which relievers could be available for this particular game and do the bookies go so far as to forecast which relievers won’t be available based on usage patters and figure those variables into the odds?

You simply have to widen the information gap into your favor, but how to do that is the fundamental question.



March 17, 2012 - Posted by | Hardball Times, James Holzhauer, Rules of Betting Baseball

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