Baseball's Best-to-Worst Teams on the Moneyline in 2021

Baseball May 20, 2021

Three weeks ago, we examined the data during the first month of the 2021 Major League Baseball regular season.


We were determined to find out which teams early in the season had been the best moneyline performers and which were the worst bets of the season.  Then, we wanted to see if those teams would continue their early-season patterns.

At the time, the Seattle Mariners were the best return-on-investment in the majors.  The Cincinnati Reds were posting huge offensive numbers.  The Chicago White Sox were one of baseball's biggest disappointments.  You see where this is headed, don't you?

Well, what a huge difference three recents weeks has made to our early perceptions.  Seattle has crashed back to earth.  Cincinnati's bats have gone silent.  And the White Sox are suddenly the hottest team in the majors.  Now, we have much more data, including 22 additional days worth of games to be added to our statistical vault.

In today's report, we're updating the best-to-worst teams in the majors ranked according to their ROI.  In other words, had you wagered $100 on every team in each game, how would all of the teams fare according to the investment?  Note that a losing team can actually be a very good ROI for bettors, and a winning team can lose money for its backers.  So much depends on teams either exceeding or falling short of oddsmakers' and public expectation.

Many websites exists which provide reliable analytics.  Here's the latest data from a site called EV Analytics:

Based on what's above, here are a few main takeaways, keeping in mind these comments are based on data seven weeks into the season.  Results could (and probably will) change significantly:

(1)  Few teams stand out as huge moneymakers this season – Due in part of no dominant teams breaking out so far in 2021 and lots of league parity, only a few teams have really performed really well for their backers, overall.  Only four teams have returned more than +10 percent in profit betting them in every game – Oakland, Toronto, St. Louis, and San Francisco.  Also note that only 12 out of 32 – slightly more than a third of all teams – earned a profit.  That number will likely decline as the season goes along.  Meanhile, more teams have been dreadful bets.  Seven teams have lost more than -10 percent ROI, so far.

(2)  Biggest surprise – the San Francisco Giants are the best return-on-investment team in the entire majors season.  Betting on the Giants returned nearly +16 percent.  Perhaps that's no surprise since San Francisco is 27-16 and in first place in the NL West.  But no one expected the Giants to be this good, and certainly no one thought they'd be competitive along with the Dodgers and Padres.  The Giants have been underdogs in two-thirds of their games and don't seem to be getting enough respect, yet.  Many analysts think the Giants will fade later in the season, which means we might continue getting very favourable prices on games involving San Francisco.  

(3)  The Oakland A's are the best return-on-investment among all teams in the American League, this season.  After starting the season in the worst possible way, losing six straight, Oakland has been the best team in the majors.  They're now in first place at 28-16 and widely-acknowledged as a legitimate contender to not only win the AL West, but be a team to be feared in the post-season.  Oakland still has value, as evidenced by their +13.52 percent ROI so far in 2021.

(4)  The most-popular teams are usually bad investments, and this year is no different.  The Yankees, Mets, and Dodgers all have winning records.  That might lead many baseball gamblers to assume they've been moneymakers for those who bet them in most games.  To the contrary, these three perennial public favourites have stunk when it comes to making a profit.  Moreover, it's doubtful any of them will produce positive results over the course of the season.  The NY Yankees have a ROI of -12 percent.  The NY Mets have a ROI of -5 percent.  The world champion LA Dodgers have an ROI of -10 percent.  Even Boston, which is another "public" team, is in first place but has only returned +2.8 percent overall.

(5)  So-called "bad" teams can still make us money.  Most losing teams get extra value in the betting line (i.e., moneyline).  That's because most gamblers don't want to bet on them.  So, oddsmakers sweeten the pot.  Consider the cases of the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates and Texas Rangers – both in last place.  Combined, these two cellar-dwellers are 15 games under .500 which normally would lead us to think they've been disastrous as teams to bet on.  Yet, strangely enough, both the Pirates and Rangers have earned a small profit for their backers this season.  Because Pittsburgh and Texas often get high prices as underdogs, they win enough games to stay in the black.  This is an important concept to keep in mind going forward and looking at "bad" teams like the Twins, Orioles, Rockies, and certainly the Pirates and Rangers.