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We knew this MLB season had the potential to be the wackiest in recent memory, and it's certainly lived up to the billing through the first 10 or so games. Starting pitchers are putting up dazzling lines; six players are batting at least .400; and the Orioles have the ninth-best record in baseball. Wait, huh?
Some of baseball's early trends are products of small sample sizes, while others portend untapped value in the betting market. Here's what we know through the first couple of weeks.
Heading into 2020, we weren't sure whether we'd see the juiced balls that boosted runs in 2019 or if offenses would take a dive. So far, the pitchers have the edge as league-wide slugging percentage (.396) has reached a six-year low, and strikeouts (8.97 per nine innings) are at an all-time high.
Unsurprisingly, runs per game (4.51) have dropped by more than 0.3 since last year, and the results are being felt in the betting market. The under is hitting at a 54.3% rate, which would be the best mark since Sports Database started tracking it in 2004. This is even truer at the extremes - totals below 8 and above 11 are going under more than 70% of the time.
Small sample size is a factor, but totals aren't as low as they should be: The under is 18-12-3 (60%) since Aug. 1. Under is the way to go if you're blindly betting totals this month.
By far the most profitable trend this year has been betting the Indians under, which has gone 10-1 with an $895 payout on $100 bets. That's great for those who bought early, but will it last?
There's reason to suspect it will. Cleveland's star-studded rotation is five deep and is pitching better (2.53 xFIP) than its early returns (2.63 ERA), though both marks are among the best in the league. Conversely, its power-friendly offense is dead last in hard-hit rate (31.9%) with a putrid .190 batting average.
The offense will eventually regress closer to the mean, while Cleveland's arms are legit. Hammer away on the under if oddsmakers keep hanging totals between 8.5 and 9.5 for this club.
The Yankees have officially taken off as the juggernaut in the AL East, but the Rays and Red Sox were expected to put up a fight in the division race. Instead, Tampa Bay (4-6) is on a five-game losing streak, and New York swept Boston (3-7) by a combined score of 19-10.
Tampa Bay's issues might be a case of bad luck, as the Rays are plating more runs than the opposition through 10 games. Their fourth-ranked xFIP (3.67) aligns with the elite talent on their staff, and a low BABIP (.260) suggests run support may be on the way.
Things look bleak in Boston, though. The already thin Red Sox rotation lost ace Eduardo Rodriguez for the season and sports MLB's worst ERA (6.69). Boston's lineup, which was supposed to be its driving force, somehow ranks fifth in BABIP (.310) and 27th in hard-hit rate (36%). Something's gotta give, and it's more likely the Red Sox BABIP dips before their hard-hit rate moves up.
Baltimore (5-3) and Detroit (5-5) were supposed to be two of the worst teams in baseball. Instead, both clubs are .500 or better and have been two of the more profitable teams to bet on through the opening two weeks. Is it sustainable?
Probably not. The Orioles have a negative run differential (minus-3) on the season and have feasted on the Red Sox and Rays, two of the most disappointing teams thus far. The Tigers, meanwhile, are tied for the seventh-worst run differential (minus-11) despite a break-even record.
Both clubs rank near the bottom in soft-contact rate and ERA, so they're bound for some immediate regression. Feel free to take a shot on either team if their daily odds stay juicy, but don't expect sustained success.
C Jackson Cowart is a betting writer for theScore. He's an award-winning journalist with stops at The Charlotte Observer, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Times Herald-Record, and BetChicago. He's also a proud graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, and his love of sweet tea is rivaled only by that of a juicy prop bet. Find him on Twitter @CJacksonCowart.