Winners and Losers in April Baseball

Biggest MLB Money Makers and Money Losers One Month Into the Season

We're about one month into the 2018 Major League Baseball season, which makes this a great time to check in on the biggest market surprises. Several teams have performed much better than expected, including a couple who were thought to have little chance to compete for their divisions. We've had some surprising collapses as well, with one projected World Championship contender costing its fans a fortune in Las Vegas.

Let's start with the good news. Here's a list of the biggest money makers so far as we head into the first weekend of May (oh, good luck in Saturday's Kentucky Derby!)

Biggest Money Makers
Arizona +13 units
Atlanta +12 units
Boston +7.5 units
Seattle +7 units
LA Angels +6.5 units
Milwaukee +6.5 units
NY Yankees +5.5 units

I can't say it's a surprise that Arizona has started the season well. The Diamondbacks were a playoff team last year and have a lot of high quality talent. Atlanta?! Where did the Braves come from? Even if you thought the team would improve in 2018, you weren't expecting a 19-11 record through the first 30 games and a four-game advantage over perennial NL East power Washington.

Seattle is another team that's come from off-the-radar to compete in its division. Sure, it will still be tough to outlast the defending World Champion Houston Astros in the AL West. You see the LA Angels from the same division on that list too. That could turn into quite a race.

Of the projected "superpowers" with "Regular Season Win" propositions showing more than 90 victories, only Boston and the NY Yankees have managed to earn a profit. Cleveland, Houston, Washington, the Chicago Cubs, and one other team you're about to see are all minus units one month into 2018. It's an expensive season to back the major market media darlings.

Biggest Money Burners
Cincinnati -16 units
LA Dodgers -15 units
Baltimore -14 units
Kansas City -11 units
Chicago White Sox -10 units
Minnesota -8 units

Cincinnati started so poorly it had to fire its manager. The defending NL Champion Dodgers are second worst in the majors so far in profit/loss, thanks to injuries and a disappointing offense. Frankly, it's hard to lose that many betting units in only one month of baseball! This has been felt very painfully by locals here in Nevada. The Dodgers have a big betting constituency here. Squares (the general public) love parlaying big favorites too, which has been really costly with the Dodgers. Honestly, few squares are going to bet a bad team like Cincinnati anyway. The DODGERS losing so often has been poison for bettors, a boon for sportsbooks.

Baltimore and Kansas City weren't supposed to be this bad. The market has been pricing them like they'd be slightly under .500 over a full season. Instead, Baltimore is 8-23 while Kansas City is 9-22. I personally think KC is the worst of those two teams. They play in the weak AL Central, where every team is minus units one month into the season. You can see on the list above that the last three teams listed are all from the AL Central. The Royals are just 2-10 this season when playing outside the division.

Should bettors keep betting the above trends, on the assumption that winners will keep winning and losers will keep losing? History says it's actually the opposite, if anything. Hot April teams often cool off. They were hot because they were playing over their heads. Cold teams make adjustments to weed out the worst-performing players and bring in hungry replacements. As always, you should handicap each game as it comes, evaluating line value as you see it.

Personally, I do have my eye on at least one team per list who will keep heading in the same direction. One money maker that is still being underpriced on a regular basis...and one money loser who's still being overrated. See if you can spot those teams (or others) that the market has misunderstood.

To this point, the preseason perception that there would be huge differences between a group of "have's" and a group of "have not's" hasn't really held up. We have "surprise" division leaders in every National League Division (Atlanta, Milwaukee, and Arizona), and all of the following projected non-contenders are within two games of first place in their divisions entering the weekend (NY Mets, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, LA Angels, and Seattle).

Maybe it will still be Washington/Cubs/Dodgers/Boston/Yankees/Cleveland/Houston come playoff time. For now, it's been a very interesting season that's offered profit opportunities to analysts willing to do the hard handicapping work.