Before jumping too much into the breakdown you are about to receive, the information in this article generally transcends well across all major sporting events. However, being full swing in MLB’s season, there is no better time than the present to illustrate a point.
Common amongst experienced investors but often ignored to the novice, is the fact that market influence plays a strong part, if not the strongest part in line creation. In this day and age, the media presence is stronger than ever before. With Glogs, Blogs, streaming commentary and more by the professional newscasters and amateur sportswriters alike, there is a wealth of information at your fingertips.
Though knowledge of the game, insider information and all the latest stats and trends are helpful when handicapping your next sports investment, none hold a candle to understanding the market behind each investment possibility. In fact, if you only have time to delve into one area, are new and don’t know where to begin, or have compiled all your data and need a tie-breaker, understanding media markets and the subsequent frenzy they produce is key to profiting off sporting events.
As an example of this, we will take 2 MLB games, both from June 06, 2007. The first is Florida Marlins (+129) @ Atlanta Braves (-139). The second game is Chicago Cubs (+101) @ Milwaukee Brewers (-111). These lines were taken right from Bodog and Sportsbook, 2 of the largest USA serving sportsbooks available online.
Let’s start with the first game. The Marlins are considered a smaller revenue team than the Braves, we all know that. In addition, 9/10 average fans will tell you the Braves are perennial favorites on any given night. Often living off the fat of their 90’s dominance and their continued strong play in this decade. However, in the last 10 years, the Marlins have won 2 world series compared to the Brave 0. But fan base and history aside, let’s focus on this year for a moment. At the time of writing, only a 4 game difference separated the 2 teams. However, when looking at the line, the Braves are a clear favorite. Why is that? Is it because Florida has a better road record than Atlanta’s home record? Obviously not. Is it because Florida was on a longer winning streak at the time? Obviously not. Is it because Florida had the edge in overall team speed, power and starting pitching? Obviously not.
The Marlins were the underdogs because of the media surrounding both teams. How many powerhouse stories do you read on Sportsline, ESPN or MLB about the Marlins? How many times do you read about the fact that despite the pedigree of the Amazing Braves, the Marlins have not only won 2 more championships in the last 10 years, but even as recent as last year, young team and all, were only 1 game behind the Braves.
This is not a flash in the pan people. The Marlins have consistently outpaced the Braves when and where it matters for 10 years. And from a bettor’s perspective, have won more underdog wagers for investors than the Braves by a landslide. Why is that? Is has little to do with talent, streaks, or pride. It has to do with public perception created by the media.
Nearly everyone with a cable or satellite TV can catch the Braves on TV. It has been that way for nearly 20 years. But the Marlins? Outside of a Florida market, they get little play. The media shapes these lines.
Let’s go a step further though. Maybe you are thinking, the lines aren’t ‘that’ different. Well, at some sportsbooks the Braves were favored at a clip of (-145), and the largest underdog line for the Marlins was (+129). That is a huge difference for a team that in addition to all the reasons listed above, also has beat the moneyline at a rate of 12-8 over the Braves. Those 4 games may seem like just a narrow margin, but you are talking underdog lines of +225, +200, +119, +104 and more! Seeing as how 2 of those lines are over 200, the profit generated from those 4 extra wins is huge.
So, if the Marlins have won 2 world series to the Braves 0 in the last 10 years, were only 1 game behind the Braves last year, only 4 games behind this year with a better starting staff, team speed and power, and were 12-8 against the Braves in 2006-2007 combined with nearly every win an underdog win, why the large line? Because no one ever wagers on the Marlins. They are a small market team. They are not on TV almost every day. They are not the sexy team for internet writers to talk about. They don’t get a single weekend warrior bet outside of southern Florida. The Braves are a media monster, and as such, that information can make you profit.
Now, arming yourself with the knowledge above is only half of understanding the media’s influence on wagering markets. Let’s take a look at the other game outlined above, the Chicago Cubs versus the Milwaukee Brewers.
This game was not picked by accident. The Cubs have the distinction of being the other media market team also televised on cable nearly every day. Any baseball fan under the age of 35 grew up watching either the Cubs or Braves on TV. However, while the Braves benefit from the positive media image (and as outlined above an overinflated media image), the Cubs receive the opposite effect.
How many of you have heard Cubs referred to as the Loveable Losers? Just about anyone who is even a cursory baseball fan or even knows someone who is such a fan likely raised their hand. We all know it’s been forever and a day since the Cubs have won a world series. We all laugh at their ineptitude of injuries, managerial blunders and even recently, the fisticuffs between battery mates. The bottom line is, the Cubs are available to us every day as MLB’s version of the Jerry Springer Show. We get to watch them implode day after day, year after year. Or at least, that is what the media shows us.
Fighting goes on in major league clubhouses often, yet it rarely, if ever, hits the media in smaller market teams. Detroit last year had a series of blunders in last year’s World Series, the biggest baseball stage in the world, yet less Tigers jerseys are sold than Cubs jerseys, so the story gets buried beneath the media muck and mire.
In the Cubs versus Brewers game, the best underdog line for the Cubs was (+105), where the lowest favorite line for the Brewers was (-120). Now, that may seem insignificant, but 60% of the bettor’s money ended up being placed on the Brewers. Even though the Cubs ranked higher in team starting pitching, hitting, defense and bench prowess. In addition, the Cubs were throwing out their ace, Carlos Zambrano who after the previously mentioned fisticuffs, had a great deal to prove. For those lucky enough to watch Zambrano play over the last 5 years, it is common knowledge he thrives on emotion. Yet, 60% of investors bet against him.
And the Cubs negative media is not the only part to this story. Check through the archives on your favorite sports website this season. Take your pick; it will be the same at all. Compare the last 2 months, and count how many pro-Brewer articles there have been versus anti-Cubs articles. The Brewers are having a fantastic season, and it is a great story. But that is the point of this article. The stories being written are what shape the reader’s opinions. And when these opinions hit the sportsbook, the obvious happens, lines shift. Your weekend warrior will bet the Cubs to lose. Your ‘informed’ investor will bet the Brewers to win. Both opinions formed by the media.
So, how did the games turn out? Florida cashed in their underdog line, winning 7-4 and the Cubs cashed in their underdog line winning 6-2.
So next time you are thinking of placing an investment, take a look at the media markets surrounding your options. Which team is getting the most media play? Which team receives the most exposure? Is that exposure warranted? What is the public perception of that team? If you take the media presence into account, you will improve your accuracy more than 10% overall AND cash in more underdog investments.