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How Stats Can be Misleading

MLB Betting: How Stats Can Be Misleading

By Loot, MLB Handicapper,

This is a game of stats. Baseball is wrapped up in more numbers that any other sport and that’s saying a lot. Other sports have an overwhelming amount of statistics, but baseball takes it to another level. The job of the betting man is to filter out what is important and what is not. Let’s look at a few different things and see if we shouldn’t be looking at it a different way.

Individual stats can lead us down the wrong path. In baseball, individual offensive stats are applied to a singular game a bit differently. When you see a basketball player averages a certain number of points per game, it means something. You can apply it. Looking at a running back’s statistics will offer at least a glimpse of what to expect in the game. It doesn’t really work like that in baseball.


A baseball player can have awesome offensive stats, but it won’t surface in all games. Those shiny stats you see are season totals--numbers compiled over 162 games. A large number of those games saw him do nothing. He could be a .340 hitter, lead the league in homers--it doesn’t matter. That productivity is not an indicator of what you can expect on a given day. There’s a good chance the game you are betting won’t be affected by it.

This doesn’t mean to blow off the importance of having big hitters in a lineup. It’s just a reminder to not get too much of a warm and comfortable feeling because you are betting on a team with big-stat hitters. In baseball, you can’t have the expectation of a certain type of performance that you can rely more on in other sports.

So instead of salivating over a .330 average, don’t forget to focus on the .670--the percentage of times he doesn’t get a hit. Don’t get all warm and fuzzy with two guys in the lineup with 35 homers each. The odds say they won’t hit a home run in the specific game you are betting. The numbers are a bit skewed in baseball, the only sport where 30% success looks good or a home run a week can earn you millions.

The idea of having a good lineup with big hitters is so that over time, the additional octane will lead to better season results. Notice the terms “over time” and “season results.” That means you can’t expect to just drop in on a team on a random day in June and expect to see all these good things manifest.

That’s just one way that season totals can potentially mislead the betting man. We also need to remember to be more specific with the stats we use. How a hitter did against every single pitcher he faced on all the different teams tells us what exactly? We need to hone in on the situation. A batter’s numbers can possess discrepancies over many different lines.

One of the main ones in the left vs. right-handed pitchers. Hitters obviously like facing pitchers of the opposite hand, with righties preferring left-handed throwers and left-handed hitters seeing the ball better when coming from a right-handed hurler. The hitter also avoids having to face breaking stuff coming at home, making him more confident. Then you have a lot of guys who switch-hit and you have to figure how all that applies to the specific game you are betting.

There can be a lot of variance in a hitter’s stats from daytime games to night-games. The same applies to pitchers, as well as at home versus on the road. In other words, take all the elements of the game you are wagering and see how players do in those particular conditions. The season stats on a player are just a compilation of all these different situations. There is no excuse to not at least try to boil down stats more to the scenario upon which we are wagering.

If you had a son who was going to college, you naturally would want to know he’s going to a good school. Beyond that, however, you would want to see that his specific field of study was championed at this institution or the idea of the school’s overall excellence would be rendered less important. In other words, baseball wagering calls for us to use the statistics that will actually help us in the situation that we’re dealing with. With the stats, let’s forget the overall picture and see if we can’t refine it more to our very specific purposes.

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