Each year in baseball there seems to be one or two divisions that are particularly weak. The leading team is barely above .500, the competition is limp, and some of the teams in the division are just plain bad. For baseball bettors these weak conferences can be a particular issue. They can provide real opportunities for MLB bettors, but only for those who are really aware of what the weakness means and how best to exploit it. Here are four issues that baseball handicappers need to consider when a division is particularly weak:
Inflated records – A weak division can inflate records in two distinct and important ways. First, for the ball teams in the division. The biggest portion of every team’s schedule is made up of games against the other teams in their division. If there is a team or a couple of teams in that division that are, while still weak, stronger than the rest of the teams, then their record will be inflated because of the number of games played against the really weak teams. That means that these baseball teams can look better than they really are, and that can be misleading when those teams venture out of the division. Second, the records can also be inflated for other teams in the league. The schedule isn’t balanced, so some teams can end up playing the large majority of their games against one division before other teams have played games in that division. If the division is weak then the team that has played that division a lot will have an inflated record, and could seem to be stronger than they really are. That can be a problem for MLB bettors who are using the record of teams to evaluate their comparative strength.
Inflated statistics – The issues with records can also extend to statistics. When a MLB division is particularly weak, then playing a lot of games against the teams in that division is going to have the tendency to inflate statistics. As a general rule the bad teams in the division are likely to struggle to hit, so opposing pitchers will enjoy better statistics than they might against better teams. Those bad teams are also likely to have pitching and defensive issues, so the offenses of the teams are going to be more productive against those teams than they are against other squads. A few ball games can have a big impact on statistics – especially early in the season. If the team or players have played a disproportionate amount of their games against weak teams then the statistics can be higher than they should be, and can be misleading to bettors when they use those statistics to make handicapping decisions. If baseball bettors aren’t aware of how these games against weak teams can skew the stats then they can make bad betting decisions.
Skewed public opinion – When one division is significantly weaker than the others in the league then the public can quickly form strong opinions. They will have a negative opinion of the teams in that division, and are likely to have a particularly strong opinion of good teams playing the teams in that division. In other words, there are a number of ways that the public can overreact in these situations. Whenever the public is likely to overreact there is a good chance that there can be value to be found for smart bettors who know where to look for it.
Bettor apathy – The public doesn’t have a lot of patience for major league teams that aren’t very good – especially if those teams weren’t expected to be good, if they lack stars, and if they are playing against other weak or uninteresting teams. When public bettors choose where to place their money they are likely to pay far less attention to games featuring these weak teams than they will against teams with higher profiles, and stronger resumes. Whenever the public is likely to pay little attention to a game there is a chance that there can be value to be found in that game – at least relative to games with higher betting volume – so they are worth more attention from baseball handicappers.