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MLB Betting Market Basics - Tips for DFS

Allan Lem (fathalpert)

Allan Lem (aka “fathalpert”) began playing fantasy sports in high school and transitioned to DFS in 2015. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and lives in California with his wife and two kids. Allan got his break in the industry covering Preseason NBA content and has since helped with NBA, Summer League, MLB, and Preseason NFL content as well as overseeing the RotoGrinders blog program. He dreams of winning a big tournament so he can try cashing one of those giant cardboard checks at his local bank. You can follow Allan on Twitter @allanlemdfs.

Hello Grinders. The goal of this Betting Markets overview is to break down the components of MLB odds, discuss how they are useful for DFS purposes, and show how you can incorporate the betting materials here on RotoGrinders into your daily process. Let’s dive in!

The Key Betting Numbers: What Do They Mean?

In baseball, the two main betting numbers I focus on are the Moneyline (or Line) and Total. The Moneyline helps us identify who the favorite and underdog are in the game, as well as giving us the odds a bettor must lay to win their bet. The team listed with the higher Moneyline is the favorite, and they will be listed with minus money (ex: -150). In contrast, the underdog will be the team with the lower Moneyline, and they will be listed with plus money (ex: +140). A -150 Moneyline means you’d have to lay $15 for each $10 you’d like to win. If the underdog is +140 in that game, you would win $14 for every $10 you lay.

The Total refers to the number of runs scored Vegas predicts will be scored by both teams combined. Bettors can bet the over or under on that Total. Totals are useful in helping to identify which game environments are expected to have a high scoring output, and that’s usually driven by some combination of poor pitching, elite hitting, or park factors that produce more offense.

All this information can be found daily on the RotoGrinders Starting Lineups page. Even before diving into a slate, I always take a moment to take a high-level view of the slate by looking at the lineups page and identifying which games have the highest Totals, as those are likely going to be the games drawing the most ownership (we’ll touch on this shortly). You’ll also notice that next to each team’s Moneyline is an implied run total. An implied run total is simply the number of runs a team is expected to score based on the game’s Total in conjunction with the team’s Moneyline, which is their percentage to win the game. This is a way to easily estimate how much a team is expected to score where accounting for both variables.

Why Use Vegas Data Points?

I’m a firm believer that Vegas is sharper than I am, so why not leverage Vegas in my daily process? There are times, especially early in an MLB season, where I will minimize the impact of Vegas Moneylines and Totals in my research because there’s just so much we don’t know yet about a team and its players. As a season goes on, however, I am more willing to rely on Vegas data because Vegas is likely getting sharper and working with more data points. Vegas is not the end-all, be-all source, but I believe it’s smart to use it as a starting point.

How Do Implied Team Totals Impact Projected Ownership?

I believe the DFS community has become so reliant on using implied team totals for their DFS lineups that implied team totals are one of the most predictive data points in estimating ownership (price is likely the other). MLB tournaments have become a game of stacking, and I would argue that on most nights the highest owned stacks will consist of the teams with the highest implied team totals. I realize that’s a fairly general statement and there will be exceptions, especially when sites misprice players as that is likely the main driver on ownership, but when a team is playing in Coor’s Field and projected to score 6.5 runs that offense is going to stick out like a sore thumb and soak up a ton of ownership.

Because implied team totals tend to correlate well with projected ownership numbers, this can aid us in tournaments. There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should be fading that 30% owned team in Coor’s Field projected for 6.5 runs because it’s going to always be slate dependent (i.e. do you feel that implied team total projection is accurate, what other teams are on the slate, how many other teams are playing, etc.). Because I consider baseball as being a sport with high variance, I am more willing to target other team stacks on a slate with lower implied team totals if I believe I can get them at a fraction of the ownership. As a reminder, you can always find RotoGrinders projected ownership numbers in LineupHQ.

One caveat is that it’s easy to see an implied team total and mentally get stuck into believing this is exactly how much the team will score in this game, when in fact this is simply a calculation based on the Vegas Moneyline and Total. Always remember we are operating within a range of outcomes and be willing to embrace the variance in MLB DFS. I often see DFS players debating whether to stack Team A that’s implied for 4.2 runs versus Team B that’s implied for 4.0 runs. In reality, that 0.2 implied run difference is likely way less important in a tournament compared to what the ownership of those stacks will be.

Just to hammer home this point, let’s look at the Miami Marlins, who were one of the worst offenses in all of baseball during the 2019 season. They scored a total of 615 runs, which meant they averaged just 3.8 runs per game over the season. To put this into perspective, the best offense in the league was the New York Yankees, who scored 943 runs in 2019 and averaged 5.8 runs per game. Now, going back to the Marlins, there were a total of 10 games during their 2019 season that they scored double-digit runs. This included a game where they destroyed the Milwaukee Brewers 16-0 and another game where they demolished the Phillies 19-11. Even the worst teams are going to smash their implied team total and break a slate from time to time. These are obviously outlier performances, but being able to see the implied team total as an educated estimate rather than an absolute truth is a must for DFS.

What is Line Movement and What Does it Mean for Us As DFS players?

The RotoGrinders Starting Lineups page will update to reflect the latest odds, and I try to monitor the Moneyline and Totals throughout the day as news break. In some cases we may see line movement, which is when the Moneyline or Totals change from the time it opened. Line movement is typically the result of some kind of news or injury. In some cases, line movement could also be a sign sharp money is coming in. If I see the Moneyline of a pitcher who is heavily favored start to drop, my first instinct is to investigate why that’s happening. Perhaps news of a minor injury broke, or perhaps the opposing team’s starting lineup is stronger than expected.

How you handle this line movement from a DFS perspective likely depends on a few factors. First, if you believe it’s the result of sharp money coming in, do you want to side with the public or the sharp money? Secondly, your contest selection is going to be a big factor. In cash games, I’m still focused on making the most optimal plays factoring in ownership and point-per-dollar decisions. For those reasons, line movement is less likely to impact my cash game lineup than my tournament lineup if I don’t feel the movement is significant enough. In tournaments, there’s more merit to trying to leverage that line movement into better decisions where you may be able to exploit a situation that the public hasn’t identified yet.

What other resources does RotoGrinders offer in the MLB Betting Markets department?

For more information on MLB betting picks strategy, please visit this page.

Hello Grinders. The goal of this Betting Markets overview is to break down the components of MLB odds, discuss how they are useful for DFS purposes, and show how you can incorporate the betting materials here on RotoGrinders into your daily process. Let’s dive in!

The Key Betting Numbers: What Do They Mean?

In baseball, the two main betting numbers I focus on are the Moneyline (or Line) and Total. The Moneyline helps us identify who the favorite and underdog are in the game, as well as giving us the odds a bettor must lay to win their bet. The team listed with the higher Moneyline is the favorite, and they will be listed with minus money (ex: -150). In contrast, the underdog will be the team with the lower Moneyline, and they will be listed with plus money (ex: +140). A -150 Moneyline means you’d have to lay $15 for each $10 you’d like to win. If the underdog is +140 in that game, you would win $14 for every $10 you lay.

The Total refers to the number of runs scored Vegas predicts will be scored by both teams combined. Bettors can bet the over or under on that Total. Totals are useful in helping to identify which game environments are expected to have a high scoring output, and that’s usually driven by some combination of poor pitching, elite hitting, or park factors that produce more offense.

All this information can be found daily on the RotoGrinders Starting Lineups page. Even before diving into a slate, I always take a moment to take a high-level view of the slate by looking at the lineups page and identifying which games have the highest Totals, as those are likely going to be the games drawing the most ownership (we’ll touch on this shortly). You’ll also notice that next to each team’s Moneyline is an implied run total. An implied run total is simply the number of runs a team is expected to score based on the game’s Total in conjunction with the team’s Moneyline, which is their percentage to win the game. This is a way to easily estimate how much a team is expected to score where accounting for both variables.

Why Use Vegas Data Points?

I’m a firm believer that Vegas is sharper than I am, so why not leverage Vegas in my daily process? There are times, especially early in an MLB season, where I will minimize the impact of Vegas Moneylines and Totals in my research because there’s just so much we don’t know yet about a team and its players. As a season goes on, however, I am more willing to rely on Vegas data because Vegas is likely getting sharper and working with more data points. Vegas is not the end-all, be-all source, but I believe it’s smart to use it as a starting point.

How Do Implied Team Totals Impact Projected Ownership?

I believe the DFS community has become so reliant on using implied team totals for their DFS lineups that implied team totals are one of the most predictive data points in estimating ownership (price is likely the other). MLB tournaments have become a game of stacking, and I would argue that on most nights the highest owned stacks will consist of the teams with the highest implied team totals. I realize that’s a fairly general statement and there will be exceptions, especially when sites misprice players as that is likely the main driver on ownership, but when a team is playing in Coor’s Field and projected to score 6.5 runs that offense is going to stick out like a sore thumb and soak up a ton of ownership.

Because implied team totals tend to correlate well with projected ownership numbers, this can aid us in tournaments. There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should be fading that 30% owned team in Coor’s Field projected for 6.5 runs because it’s going to always be slate dependent (i.e. do you feel that implied team total projection is accurate, what other teams are on the slate, how many other teams are playing, etc.). Because I consider baseball as being a sport with high variance, I am more willing to target other team stacks on a slate with lower implied team totals if I believe I can get them at a fraction of the ownership. As a reminder, you can always find RotoGrinders projected ownership numbers in LineupHQ.

One caveat is that it’s easy to see an implied team total and mentally get stuck into believing this is exactly how much the team will score in this game, when in fact this is simply a calculation based on the Vegas Moneyline and Total. Always remember we are operating within a range of outcomes and be willing to embrace the variance in MLB DFS. I often see DFS players debating whether to stack Team A that’s implied for 4.2 runs versus Team B that’s implied for 4.0 runs. In reality, that 0.2 implied run difference is likely way less important in a tournament compared to what the ownership of those stacks will be.

Just to hammer home this point, let’s look at the Miami Marlins, who were one of the worst offenses in all of baseball during the 2019 season. They scored a total of 615 runs, which meant they averaged just 3.8 runs per game over the season. To put this into perspective, the best offense in the league was the New York Yankees, who scored 943 runs in 2019 and averaged 5.8 runs per game. Now, going back to the Marlins, there were a total of 10 games during their 2019 season that they scored double-digit runs. This included a game where they destroyed the Milwaukee Brewers 16-0 and another game where they demolished the Phillies 19-11. Even the worst teams are going to smash their implied team total and break a slate from time to time. These are obviously outlier performances, but being able to see the implied team total as an educated estimate rather than an absolute truth is a must for DFS.

What is Line Movement and What Does it Mean for Us As DFS players?

The RotoGrinders Starting Lineups page will update to reflect the latest odds, and I try to monitor the Moneyline and Totals throughout the day as news break. In some cases we may see line movement, which is when the Moneyline or Totals change from the time it opened. Line movement is typically the result of some kind of news or injury. In some cases, line movement could also be a sign sharp money is coming in. If I see the Moneyline of a pitcher who is heavily favored start to drop, my first instinct is to investigate why that’s happening. Perhaps news of a minor injury broke, or perhaps the opposing team’s starting lineup is stronger than expected.

How you handle this line movement from a DFS perspective likely depends on a few factors. First, if you believe it’s the result of sharp money coming in, do you want to side with the public or the sharp money? Secondly, your contest selection is going to be a big factor. In cash games, I’m still focused on making the most optimal plays factoring in ownership and point-per-dollar decisions. For those reasons, line movement is less likely to impact my cash game lineup than my tournament lineup if I don’t feel the movement is significant enough. In tournaments, there’s more merit to trying to leverage that line movement into better decisions where you may be able to exploit a situation that the public hasn’t identified yet.

What other resources does RotoGrinders offer in the MLB Betting Markets department?

For more information on MLB betting picks strategy, please visit this page.

About the Author

  • Allan Lem (fathalpert)

  • Allan Lem (aka “fathalpert”) began playing fantasy sports in high school and transitioned to DFS in 2015. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and lives in California with his wife and two kids. Allan got his break in the industry covering Preseason NBA content and has since helped with NBA, Summer League, MLB, and Preseason NFL content as well as overseeing the RotoGrinders blog program. He dreams of winning a big tournament so he can try cashing one of those giant cardboard checks at his local bank. You can follow Allan on Twitter @allanlemdfs.

Instructor

Allan Lem (aka “fathalpert”) began playing fantasy sports in high school and transitioned to DFS in 2015. He graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in Economics and lives in California with his wife and two kids. Allan got his break in the industry covering Preseason NBA content and has since helped with NBA, Summer League, MLB, and Preseason NFL content as well as overseeing the RotoGrinders blog program. He dreams of winning a big tournament so he can try cashing one of those giant cardboard checks at his local bank. You can follow Allan on Twitter @allanlemdfs.

RotoGrinders.com is the home of the daily fantasy sports community. Our content, rankings, member blogs, promotions and forum discussion all cater to the players that like to create a new fantasy team every day of the week.

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