No MLB team’s ballpark is farther away from a legal sportsbetting location than the Marlins’, but I know that won’t stop many of you from finding a way to get in on the action. While the Fish Stripes staff devotes most of our energy to analyzing the game from traditional angles, we are making it a higher priority this season to incorporate a gambling perspective, too.
Toward the end of spring training, Covers.com Publishing Editor Jason Wilson took the time to address several of my Marlins-related questions.
Fish Stripes: What are the current betting odds for the Marlins to make the 2022 playoffs and when is the last time that oddsmakers gave them such a realistic shot entering Opening Day?
Jason Wilson: Depending on where you look, the Marlins can be between +225 and +250 to make the playoffs, which means if you place a $100 bet you would stand to win $125 or $150 profit. Odds are longer for Miami to go any further as the Marlins will be mired in a fierce NL East battle, so they’re at +1,500 to +2,000 to win the division, +3,000 to +4,000 to win the NL pennant, and +7,000 to +8,000 to win the World Series.
The Marlins surprised everyone in 2020 when they reached the postseason in MLB’s abbreviated schedule by posting a 31-29 record to finish second in the NL East. They opened that year at +30,000 to win the Fall Classic, and while they came up short, they exceeded expectations.
And it hasn’t been an absurdly long time since oddsmakers were casting their lines in the Marlins’ direction. As recently as 2016 and 2017, Miami had preseason odds of +450 and +475, respectively, to play in October. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and J.T. Realmuto had formed a dynamic young core and José Fernández was one of baseball’s brightest stars prior to his tragic death in September 2016.
While the Marlins didn’t follow through, and ultimately tore everything down prior to 2018, the team came closer to .500 in those campaigns than they had in several years.
It’s worth noting that the path to the postseason is not going to be as arduous as in years past, which may be slimming the odds a bit. Each league will send six teams to October this year instead of the five that made it every year from 2012-2021 (ignoring the 16-team field in the pandemic-shortened schedule in 2020 when the Marlins qualified).
FS: The Marlins have never had an NL Cy Young winner, but Sandy Alcantara has special potential. Is there any value on betting him to win the 2022 award?
JW: Of Miami’s exciting rotation options, Alcantara currently boasts the shortest odds of winning the NL Cy Young at 30/1. He’s the most realistic option to contend for the hardware and isn’t a crazy longshot to pull it off. The problem is he’s got incredible competition in former winners Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer among other impressive names like Walker Buehler and Max Fried [editor’s note: the Mets recently announced that deGrom has been shut down from throwing due to a stress reaction of his right scapula]. Alcantara also has to contend with the ridiculous notion that win-loss records matter for a pitcher.
There is no doubt that Burnes deservedly won the NL Cy Young in 2021 and that runners-up Zack Wheeler and Scherzer had stronger overall seasons than Alcantara. But Cardinals right-hander Adam Wainwright received down-ballot votes where Sandy didn’t even though their numbers were markedly similar. The difference? Waino played for a playoff team and finished with a 17-7 record compared to Alcantara’s 9-15 mark. To this day, no starting pitcher has won the Cy Young with a losing record.
Of starters who made at least 15 starts in 2021, only three had worse run support than Alcantara, who saw his team plate 3.09 runs per game he played. So, it makes sense why he had a losing record despite a 3.19 ERA over 205 ⅔ innings (he was one of four pitchers to cross the 200-inning plateau a year ago. With the Marlins looking better offensively on paper (Jorge Soler, Avisail Garcia), there’s absolutely value in a Cy Young wager at 30/1, but it’s still far from a guarantee because he doesn’t blow hitters away and that 3.19 ERA is higher than any winner since CC Sabathia won AL honors in 2007 with a 3.21 mark. Still, his durability is appealing, and if he can pitch better on the road this year (2.41 home ERA vs. 4.01 away ERA in 2021), his chances will get stronger.
Another Marlins pitcher worthy of consideration, though, is lefty Trevor Rogers. After finishing second in Rookie of the Year voting last year—could have won if injuries [and a family emergency] didn’t derail the second half of his season—Rogers boasts better strikeout numbers than Alcantara and kept the ball in the park at an even better clip. He’s currently available at 50/1 odds and will help form a dynamite 1-2 punch atop this rotation.
FS: How much do sportsbooks account for the embarrassingly low attendance/lack of atmosphere at LoanDepot Park? Would the betting lines for Marlins home games change in any way if there was a meaningful increase in fan attendance?
JW: Honestly, I wouldn’t expect much. While the Marlins had far and away the worst attendance in 2021, averaging 7,934 fans, the cross-state Tampa Bay Rays didn’t fare much better with just over 9,000 per game. Like the Marlins, the Rays have had atrocious attendance numbers for years due to a horrendous ballpark and bad location. The Rays are set at -205 to reach the postseason.
Also, the Marlins were a decent home team in 2021 despite the lackluster atmosphere. In a sense, yes, betting lines would likely change if attendance improved because that would theoretically coincide with the team fielding a contender. As Kim Ng’s front office keeps improving the roster and the young stars come of age, you’d hope fans would show up, but that hasn’t exactly happened with the Rays to this point.
Any particular trends in recent years that bettors should have in mind when wagering on Marlins games (performance vs. certain teams/opposing starting pitchers, how they handle being huge underdogs or road favorites, etc.)?
JW: It’s dangerous to focus too much on trends from previous seasons considering the amount of roster churn from year to year. This Marlins team is very different from the one that took the field in, say, 2018.
If we look at last year, for example, the Marlins were an identical 42-39 straight up and against the spread in home games. Comparatively, they were an abysmal 25-56 away from home on the moneyline but were a more respectable 39-41 against the spread. This was due, in large part to playing in 50 one-run games.
The Marlins were atrocious in interleague games, going 3-17, but they were primarily matched up against a strong AL East and went a combined 1-15 against the Rays, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Yankees. This year, they’re paired with the AL West, so looking too much into those interleague results from last year would be a mistake.
Marlins starters on the whole were middle-of-the-road a year ago, as the rotation posted a 4.08 ERA—tied for 13th in MLB. On the offensive side, only the Pirates scored fewer total runs (the bane of Alcantara’s existence). As a result, they went 74-80-7 O/U. That’s not overwhelmingly in favor of the Under, but it serves as a reminder that banking on season-long trends is not the way to go about placing your bets.