Las Vegas Finally Believes in the Orioles. So What Does This Mean?

As of Sunday May 21, DraftKings Sportsbook is giving the Orioles better than a coin flip's chance of making the playoffs now with a -125 to make it and +105 to miss. In case you're unaware, that means if you bet $10 on the Orioles to make the playoffs right now, you would make net $8.00 if successful. To begin the year, you could bet $10 to make $39 if the Orioles got a trip to the dance and had a projected win total of just 77.5 games. That's a huge change!

You might be thinking, yes, and? After being counted out, the Orioles have the 2nd best record in baseball, are 5.5 games ahead of the Angels who are the first team outside looking in on the Wild Card, and took 5/6 from the Blue Jays and Yankees on the road. They've proven they're a great team and rightfully should be favored to make the postseason, right?

I agree, but believe it or not Fangraphs is still only giving the Orioles a 46.5% chance of making the playoffs, and a projected win total of just 85.8 games despite being on pace for 104.8 wins. Haters gonna hate I guess...we hope.

There's a lot at play here. Las Vegas sportsbooks and Fangraphs go purely off of statistics to our knowledge, and account for an infinitely large number of factors the human brain couldn't begin to process alone. That's why no matter how much knowledge you have about a sport, the house is always going to win over time. You're information is never going to be better than theirs unless you have special tools, which again, isn't going off of gut or intuition from your brain.

Even if you spent hours and hours mapping out all the different probabilities from expected hit rate, expected ERA, fielding ratings etc. there are still tons of factors you're almost certainly not going to be able to measure like wind, how a hitter will matchup against certain pitchers, among an again, near infinite amount of factors.

You might think I was droning on a bit, but it's an important point to establish that as fans we have a bias, and even if you've been watching all the games, you can't go purely off the eye test if you want to make accurate predictions. So if we can't go off the eye test or try to calculate the probabilities ourselves, what do we make of the discrepancy between Fangraphs and DraftKings?

It's important to remember DraftKings creates betting odds, not straight predictions, meaning they're trying to make money. Fangraphs doesn't seemingly have any motivation for putting out the odds that they do other than being as accurate as possible. Just like how more people like to bet the over on sports games because it's more fun, we'd expect more people bet on teams to make the playoffs than to miss the playoffs. Therefore, DraftKings might adjust the lines based on where people are betting rather than purely off of what their predicted probability is. At the same time DraftKings has much more money at stake if their odds are bad because someone using special tools can make a lot of money betting on a bad line. All to say, they have different functions and probably use different factors so it makes sense their odds wouldn't be the same.

At the same time if you've been watching the Orioles, you'd still think Las Vegas sportsbooks aren't giving the Orioles enough credit. The Orioles were underdogs in every single game against the Blue Jays and Yankees and were one bad pitch away from a sweep. They've also been underdogs in most of their games against the Red Sox and all their games against the Rays. How can a team be underdogs this often and keep winning?

We've already mentioned at the beginning of the year they predicted the Orioles to finish below .500 and while I don't think they'll continue a pace of 104.8 wins, I do think they will solidly finish above symmetry. Clearly neither Las Vegas sportsbooks or Fangraphs are perfect.

So, we've established Las Vegas sportsbooks and Fangraphs are more accurate than the human eye, but also not infalliable. We also know the Orioles are exceeding expectations and show little sign of slowing down, but has it all been a fluke where we're just in a 2005 time loop?

As much as I believe in trusting the sportsbooks, you simply can't deny what the Orioles are doing right now. They scored 8 runs in an inning starting with Nasty Nestor! Sure, they've won a lot of close games, but you can argue that's a result of the bullpen. I worry the bullpen could get worse if relievers are overpitched, but we also have so much offensive talent that hasn't stepped up yet from Gunnar Henderson and Ryan Mountcastle.

The Orioles seem to have an X-factor whether it be from the culture, coaches or clutch factor sportsbooks and Fangraphs haven't caught up to. I'm voting with my heart over my head. I believe in the Orioles to make the postseason and I don't think any projected metric should stop us from believing what we already know: This is a fantastic team.

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