Divisions play a critical role in handicapping baseball betting in the MLB.
MLB teams can have a much easier or harder schedule depending on the division they play in. Compare this to KBO (Korean Baseball Organization) teams who all have essentially the same schedule.
Bettors must learn which divisions are strong or weak before making season win total bets or futures bets on division winners.
A strong division can stifle a great team and stop them dead in their tracks.
1 – Competitive AL East Affects Season Win Totals
Season win totals are a popular baseball bet. Unlike the KBO, where teams all play each other an even amount of times, the MLB has uneven schedules. This disparity can wreak havoc on bettors.
When betting on the MLB, bettors will look at a strong 25-man roster and declare a team a shoo-in to win 95 games.
Even though a team may have a talented enough roster to win the division, they’ll still have to win a lot of games against their rivals to come out on top.
A team that struggles to win at least half the games against their own division will have to play phenomenally against other opponents to have a chance at the postseason.
Remember to always look at a team’s division rivals before making season win total bets.
The Yankees have a dominant left-handed pitcher in James Paxton who can wreak havoc on a team of left-handed bats. Even the best of teams will have pitcher matchups they struggle against. This effect can be compounded when a team is weak against a team in their own division and must play them frequently.
Some divisions have consistently better teams than other divisions, giving some teams an unfair schedule in the regular season.
For years, the AL East has been one of the most competitive divisions in the MLB. A team like the Blue Jays that must face off against titans like the Yankees and Red Sox will be at a disadvantage year after year.
The AL East had 3 teams finish with 84 wins or more last season, a distinction also shared by the NL Central and the NL West. All 3 of these divisions were tight last year and hotly contested.
The Yankees had an incredible year, winning 103 games. Despite injuries ravaging their 25-man roster, the Yankees were able to win their way into the postseason.
They lost in the ALCS to the Houston Astros, but that’s nothing to scoff at. The Astros have been something of an MLB dynasty over the last three years, making the postseason from 2017 through 2019.
The Yankees got an unexpected standout performance from DJ LeMahieu. The longtime Rockies second baseman has had good seasons before, winning a batting title in 2016 with a .348 batting average, but no one saw his 2019 season coming.
The most home runs LeMahieu had hit in a season was 15 before last year. He hit 26 in ‘19. He also had a 136 OPS+, 8 points higher than his 2016 season. His unexpected great performance helped lead the team, who didn’t get as much out of Aaron Judge and Stanton as they expected.
While the Red Sox underperformed by their own lofty standards last year, they still ended the season with 84 wins. Even in a down year, they helped to provide stiff competition for the struggling Blue Jays and Orioles.
Since 2004, the Red Sox have won the World Series four times. That’s comparable to winning the World Series once every four seasons since 2004. The Red Sox, combined with the Yankees and budget-conscious Rays, have helped make the AL East a supremely competitive division.
If you’re handicapping season win totals in the MLB, it’s essential that you judge teams based on the division they’re in. While the Blue Jays have some great young players like Vladimir Guerrero Jr., they’ll likely win a lot fewer games in the AL East than they would in a weak division like the AL Central.
2 – Uneven Schedules Make Some Teams Lucky
Compared to the MLB’s schedule, the KBO’s is very simple:
- Each team plays 144 games.
- Each of the 10 teams play their nine opponents 16 times each.
MLB schedules are much more complicated:
- Each team plays 19 games against their four-division opponent for 76 in-division games.
- Each team plays six or seven games against the remaining 10 teams in their league for 66 in-league games.
- Each team plays 20 interleague games. The American League teams play the National League squads and vice-versa.
It’s much easier to handicap season win totals in the KBO than the MLB. Each KBO team plays the other nine KBO teams the same amount of games.
Theoretically, teams from the KBO like the NC Dinos will always have as difficult a schedule as the KT Wiz does.
Great teams don’t get the chance to beat up on weak teams, and average teams don’t get the chance to beat up on horrible teams—starkly contrasted by the MLB’s uneven schedule.
MLB handicapping is much more dependent on the division the team plays in. The Dodgers, playing in the NL West, will play almost half of their games against the Giants, Diamondbacks, Padres, and Rockies. The difficulty of the Dodgers season can fluctuate wildly depending on how good each of their division opponents are.
Bettors must evaluate each of the teams in the division, with extra focus placed on the team they’re betting on, to have a chance to make a value bet for MLB season win totals.
Handicapping KBO season win totals is much easier as bettors must only compare the team they’re betting on to the rest of the league, placing no extra emphasis on teams in the same division.
3 – AL East Gives Blue Jays and Rays Trouble
The onerous contract of Chris Davis has dragged the team down more than anything, but Baltimore has also suffered from trying to compete for too long.
The team kept trying to win it all, instead of rebuilding three or four years ago, when they still could have traded third baseman, Manny Machado.
While the Orioles would play poorly in any division, the Blue Jays are much more damaged by playing in the AL East. Toronto has some good, young players ready to step up and perform, but their tough division will present a great obstacle.
The Jay’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. struggled last year compared to the lofty expectations placed on the shoulders of the former top prospect. He hit like a league-average hitter, with a 106 OPS+. He’s expected to improve significantly as he matures and becomes a key part of the Blue Jays lineup.
Even with a mature Guerrero, the team may not have enough star power to overcome the dominant Yankees and the Rays. The Blue Jays will likely struggle again this year, so they may struggle to reach the season win total given by many sportsbooks.
Teams like the Blue Jays will always be adversely affected by their rigorous divisions, and good handicapping is essential if you want to make smart bets on any AL East team.
4 – NL East Is Loaded
The NL counterpart of the AL East is also experiencing a bounty of terrific teams right now.
The triumvirate of the Mets, Nationals, and Braves all represent excellent teams with both a record of success and the potential to excel for the next several seasons.
Joining them are the Phillies, who have enough pieces to make a surprising run at the NL East.
The Nationals are fresh off a World Series victory and have much of the cast returning. Their stellar starting rotation has returned, making them once again a force in the NL East. The NL Mets have a great rotation like the Nationals, joined by some exciting young talent.
Pete Alonso hit a rookie record of home runs last year for the Mets, smacking 53 home runs over 161 games for the squad.
The Braves don’t have the veteran pitching track record of the other two teams, but they’ve been a dominant force in the division. Atlanta has won the NL East but lost in the League Division Series the last two years in a row.
Lastly, the Phillies have Bryce Harper, who can hopefully finally lead them to a winning season to justify his massive contract.
While the NL East isn’t a traditionally powerful division like the AL East is, enough teams have improved at the same time to make this a very challenging division to bet on.
It’s challenging to determine which of the three teams will win the NL East this year, so making a bet on this division is much more difficult than the AL Central, where the Twins are expected to repeat.
Which division do you think will be the best this season? Let us know in the comments section below. Good luck on all of your MLB betting!