The Baseball Season in Review

With the World Series now behind us, and NBA regular season starting today, I thought I would take a little break from talking about football and spend the next few weeks looking at baseball and basketball. This week, I want to recap this past baseball season (hence my highly creative title for this week’s edition).

Although TV ratings weren’t great for this year’s edition of the World Series, those of us that watched were treated to some exciting baseball. It didn’t quite carry the drama of last year as John Lackey is not Curt Schilling and the Giants aren’t the Yankees (and what was the deal with the Rally Monkey anyway!?), but the comebacks in Games Four (Giants trailed 3-0, won 4-3) and Six (Angels trailed 5-0 and won 6-5) were as entertaining and exciting as any in recent memory.

In our Costa Rican wager center, we didn’t see any slowdown in football betting for Game One of the World Series (on a Saturday night, up against college football). In fact, we had bettors calling up to see when the game started and it was already in the 5th inning. Games Two (Sunday night), Three (Tuesday night) and Four (Wednesday night) ran unopposed by football and generated big, big handles for the House. However, Games Five (Thursday night) and Six (Saturday) were up against college football and didn’t see as much money. We expected Sunday night’s game Seven to be another case of football over baseball, but surprisingly baseball handle was very strong and the call center actually was quiet as the Colts/Redskins game kicked off (the football game started 45 minutes after Game 7 started). It seems bettors could be motivated to watch baseball if the World Series gets to a Game Seven (Bud Selig take note!).

Overall, it was a very strong baseball season for us. We moved to a graduated dime line from a 20-cent line this year and expected increased handle and a slightly lower win percentage. We did see a huge increase in baseball handle (up over 300% over last year!) and that more than compensated for what turned out to be a very slight dip in win percentage. April and September were the worst months for the book with players actually coming out slightly ahead but the months in between were very strong for us.

Septembers are typically difficult for books for two reasons. First, bad teams stop caring (and often play rookies more to start working on the next season) and teams fighting for a playoff spot are extremely motivated so favorites (which the public loves) tend to cash in more. For example, the two World Series teams (which were both Wild Cards in their respective leagues) had a combined 58.5 win percentage going into September. During that last calendar month of the regular season, these teams played at a much higher clip with Anaheim going 18-9 and San Francisco going 18-8 for a combined 67.9 win percentage. The other reason is football. To put it purely and simply, bookmakers have less time to work on baseball lines in September than they do during the rest of the Summer. We try and keep the accuracy of the lines up, but when a minor college football game is outdrawing any baseball game, it is easy to see where a bookmaker’s loyalty lies. This is why several books (including ourselves) move back to a 20-cent line after August 31st.

Playoff baseball has not always been kind to us, but this year it was overly generous. With the Yankees, A’s, Braves and Diamondbacks all getting bounced in the first round, books cleaned up. Throw in a bunch of 1-run wins by the favorites in the two League Championship Series (two in both the ALCS and NLCS) and the World Series (three games) and it gets even better (bettors like the dog on the moneyline and favorite on the runline so a 1-run win often means the House wins both ways – see Issue 30 for more on this) for the books. Players also typically like betting the Over in the regular season and the Under in the post-season so the early rash of Overs (12 of the first 14 post-season games went Over) was also good for the House. Overall, it added up to a 15% baseball month, unheard of in a moneyline sport. So, if you had a rough October betting baseball, take solace in the fact that you weren’t the only one.

On a quick personal side note, I want to share a funny story about Troy Glaus and me. I have gone to a couple of hundred baseball games in my life and even though I am in my mid-30s, I still bring a glove to just about every game (it holds a couple of napkins, some mustard packets and two hot dogs very well). Catching a baseball at a major league game has always been something I have wanted to do but I have never got a ball in my life (no home-run ball, no foul ball, no batting practice ball, nothing). However, on a business trip to Toronto for a gaming convention last Spring I took in a game without a glove for the first time in several years. I bought a seat in the first row in left field at the Skydome for a Toronto-Anaheim game and made sure to get there early to see batting practice. Balls were hit behind me, to my left and to my right but nothing within 30 feet. As the cages were being taken down I gave up on getting a batting practice ball, sat down and turned my attention to the frosty cold beer at my feet. Just then I heard someone scream lookout and felt a sharp pain in my shin. Troy Glaus had taken one more hack as the cage was being rolled away and it was a special delivery for me!.and I blew it! Lucky for me, the hockey playoffs were on and nobody was at the game so I was able to limp over and pick up the ball. It now sits proudly on my shelf at work and will get even more prominence now as it came of the bat of the World Series MVP. (I also want to mention that if every player in Major League Baseball were as friendly as Corey Thurman, relief pitcher for the Jays, the seats would be packed every night. From the bullpen, he cracked jokes with fans, answered questions and made me feel like he truly understood how lucky he was to be on the field, I wish you a long and happy career Corey.)

Before I wrap things up, I do want to get into a little college football with Kent’s Line Move of the Week. Kent is Bodog’s top bookmaker and every week he shares with us a glimpse at a big game or a line move of note. Here are his thoughts from the past weekend.

Notre Dame was the big play this past weekend. We opened Florida State -10.5 and it was quickly bet to -10. Money was piling up on Notre Dame as early as Wednesday and we experimented and moved to -9.5 to see what the reaction would be. It did get a little response on the Seminoles so we moved back to 10 thinking we could get favorite action at -9.5 if we needed it. On Thursday we opened the moneyline with Notre Dame +400 and it was evident very quickly that the price was too high. We moved the moneyline down 6 times over the next two days but took Notre Dame action the whole way. On Saturday, we went back to -9.5 and then -9 as dog money continued in on the spread. The moneyline finally found resistance at -380 on the favorite. We took a pile at that number but were amazed to see other books moving the spread up to -11 and even higher. I couldn’t believe Bodog bettors could be so much different than the rest of the world but apparently they were right. I was very glad we took the FSU money at -380 as it helped avoid what would have been a very bad game. Luckily players piled their winnings into Texas A&M so we were able to turn what looked like a train-wreck into a winning day.

Thanks as always Kent. I will be back next week with the first of two parts on betting basketball.

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Rob Gillespie is President of Bodog Sportsbook & Casino