Every time we lose a bet on a one run MLB game, it’s disheartening to say the least. Personally, I’d rather get blown out and lose by five runs than have a game won and have the bullpen give up a one-run loss late or trail by a run throughout the game and be unable to push across that winning marker.
Even worse is when you know a team has a bad record in one-run games, you make a play on them and they drop another one-run decision. And the reason they drop that one-run decision, more often than not, is due to something the manager did or didn’t do.
Think about it. When does a manager figure to have the greatest impact: in a blowout game or in a one-run contest? The players don’t need him when they’re winning by eight runs, nor is there anything he can do when they’re down by ten. It’s when the game is close or tied in the late innings, or when the team has a chance to play for one run early, or go for the big inning. It’s also that decisions have to be made on when to go to the bullpen that the manager can have his greatest impact.
Unfortunately, a lot of them have impacts that are decidedly negative. There’s a long list of teams that play worse in one run games than they do in games decided by two runs or more, and a lot of the blame for that has to be laid at the managers’ feet. Conversely, for those teams that have played better in one-run games than they have in games decided by two runs or more, the manager deserves the credit.
Knowing this percentage can help you when handicapping baseball games. It really comes into play when you are betting on the -1.5 or +1.5 run lines. While you can save a lot of juice by taking a favorite on the -1.5 run line, you know that you are for sure losing at least 29% of the time. That doesn’t even account for how many times the underdog wins by more than one run.
A lot of one-run losses have to do with luck, too. I believe that when you spot a team that loses a ton of games by one run in the first half of the season, you can get some value in backing them in the second half. I also believe that this works from season to season.
For example, entering the 2015 season, I know that the Cincinnati Reds had the most one-run losses (38) in baseball in 2014. I also know that they won 90-plus games three of the four years prior to only winning 77 last year. The oddsmakers have set their win total at 77.5, and it’s no surprise that Cincinnati is my favorite OVER bet heading into the 2015 season.