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Bizarro World: Betting Baseball Totals

by Robert Ferringo of Doc's Sports Picks

Chicks dig the long ball. I heard that on the television once, so it must be true. But you know what else chicks dig: winning. And you know what they really, really dig: money.

It's fun to wager on the over when it comes to sports betting. We view professional athletes like they're Greek Gods who can defy the laws of physics. We overestimate their worth and approach them as if they were superhuman simply because they make more money than we can dream of, they bang hotter chicks and they are bigger, stronger and faster than any two of us combined.

It's true of all sports that John Q. Public likes to bet the over. And baseball fits right into that schema. It's common knowledge that certain baseball teams are built around powerful and potent offenses while others rely on a more fundamental, pitching-and-defense approach.

But what a lot of people don't realize is that oddsmakers use this common knowledge against the 'square' bettor. Up is black and down is white in the Gambling World. It's Bizarro World. And since the books know what the common bettor is going to play before he does, the lines are set accordingly and the House continues to rake.

For example, when you think of big hitting teams in baseball, who do you think of? The Yankees, Rangers and Rockies come to mind. You know: burly softball-style teams that play American League ball. Well, those three teams are ranked 19th, 28th and 29th against the total this season with an average record of 42-51-4 (45 percent).

And who do you think of when you think of low-scoring baseball teams? Probably some small-ball National League team like the Braves, Dodgers and Mets. Actually, those three clubs are ranked second, third and fourth against the number with an average record of 55-39-12 (59 percent).

You know what the difference between 45 percent and 59 percent is in the Gambling World? Two fingers and a couple of mortgage payments.

The American League is generally thought of as a Slugger's League. Teams in the AL, on average, do score more runs and hit for a higher average. But as a result, the books set their totals at a much higher number. And still, for every 11-7 night there is a 4-3 day.

This season the AL is 627-646-49 (49 percent) against the number. The three-year average of the AL is 49 percent against the total, meaning that the lines are clearly shaded on the high side.

Also, since 2003 an average of nine of 14 American League teams (64 percent) finished the season with a losing record against the total. So far only four of the 14 clubs are below .500 against the total so I would expect a "market correction" to take place through the last two months of the regular season.

We've already seen this correction affect some teams. On June 23, two of the top Over teams were Baltimore (42-28) and Seattle (41-31). Since that time, the Orioles are 11-14 against the total while the Mariners are 9-14. Also, the Dodgers started out 53-29 (65 percent) against the number, but have gone 2-10 since.

Thus far in 2006, only three of the top ten and five of the top 15 teams against the number are from the American League. Since 2003 at least five teams have finished in the top ten against the total every year.

Further, the three-year average for the NL is 49 percent against the total. Again, the common misconception against the average baseball bettor would be that the AL would go Over on a much greater rate than the lower-scoring NL. That's simply not true.

The National League is 813-698-61 against the total this season. That's good for a 54 percent clip, and 54 percent puts you squarely in the black. That's a full five percentage points above the three-year average for the Senior Circuit and a robust 14 of 16 NL teams (88 percent) have a winning record against the number.

The books know how you want play. They understand the public's perception and they set their lines to counter that. As a result, if you want to make any money in this racket - and believe me, there's money to be made - you have to learn how to swim upstream and bet against the widely held perception.

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