National League - American League Betting Dynamics


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Aside from the designated hitter, baseball is played identically in both leagues. There are no differences in the rules either so how can the astute bettor gain an edge over the bookies?

Let’s first get some background information about the two leagues over the past 6 seasons, including this year.

Average Total Runs Scored
American League: 9.98 runs/game
National League: 9.37 runs/game

We expected the obvious: AL games are higher scoring. Our goal, however, was to quantify “by how much”.

Once National League games start using their relievers, pinch hitters start becoming embedded within the fabric of the game everytime the #9 hitter is due up. This is comparative to the DH in the AL where you have a real hitter in the #9 slot at all times.

This shows us that the DH difference and the 0.6 runs/game delta that we see between the two leagues is almost exclusively attributed to the starting pitchers. Analysis was done on last year’s statistics of pitchers moving from the AL to the NL and vice versa. What they found was that pitchers heading to the NL saw their ERA’s drop a full point while those traveling to the AL saw their ERA rise a full point.

Since the spread is based almost entirely on the starting pitchers, the fact that we see a disparity on the impact starting pitchers have on the game in both leagues is a clear cut sign of something intriguing to come.

Before generating any systems, I fathomed what kind of an impact these things would make and I came to the conclusion that good starting pitching will be every bit more dominant in the NL where they expect to face an easy out in the #9 hitter two-three times per game. This would mean that the impact of great starting pitching in the AL will not have as much bearing on a game as we would like to believe.

Based on this theory, AL underdogs and NL favorites perform much better.

I have always told people to take the underdog in a division rivalry game. Both teams put out their best efforts in these games. Blindly betting on the underdog in a division rivalry game would yield +129 units over the past 7 years. National League underdogs in a division rivalry game, however, are only +15 units over the past 7 years, the remaining +115 units coming from AL Underdogs.

NL favorites greater than -200 with a lefty on the mound going up against a non-division rival are 93-28 +24 units while AL favorites in the same situation are 101-41 but -0.6 units.

This is why I try to focusing on finding profitable AL dogs and NL favorites.

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