Have Totals Adjusted In Major League Baseball To The Dead Ball?

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on May 12, 2022
dead ball

Offense has taken a nosedive in 2022 baseball stats. The dead ball has been a hot topic of discussion as fans endure 2-1 snoozers. Have MLB totals adjusted to what seems like a low-offense environment for the 2022 MLB season?

Let’s take a look at why offense has dropped, whether MLB totals have dropped in kind, and how bettors should be adjusting. We’ll also get the perspective of a bookmaker, as TheLines’ Eli Hershkovich spoke to WynnBET Senior Lead Trader Matt Lindeman.

Has MLB Scoring Dropped?

Yes, it has. Numerous media sources have covered this phenomenon, and we’ll sum up some of the key points. Despite the addition of the universal DH, MLB teams scored 4.0 runs per game in April. That was a drop of 0.26 runs per game from last year, according to ESPN.

Much of the blame has been traced to the lack of home runs. And much of that blame, in turn, has led fingers to point at the dead baseball. How do we know MLB has rolled out deadened baseballs to the players? Several different sources have used unique approaches to highlight this.

A simple approach by Mike Podhorzer at FanGraphs shows that despite a 92.1 average exit velocity on fly balls — in line with each of the previous few seasons — the home run per fly ball rate has plummeted from 13.6% last year to 10.2% this year. That’s a year-over-year drop of 25%, which is massive. Sure, cold April weather plays a role, but it can’t explain that entire difference.

Eno Sarris and Ken Rosenthal took a distance-oriented approach at The Athletic. Barreled baseballs flew eight feet shorter in April 2022 compared to April 2021. The difference increased to 10 feet for parks with newly installed humidors.

Think about how many baseballs you see caught at the warning track. An extra 10 feet of carry would send many of these over the fence.

Have MLB Totals Adjusted?

Some bettors who adjusted quickly could print money by blanket firing unders on MLB totals.

However, sportsbooks and the market have adjusted to the new reality of the dead ball. In the early weeks of the season, you’d have been surprised to find the number seven on the board when scrolling through the totals. Now, sevens are all over the place and you don’t blink if you see a six.

Here’s a look at how MLB totals have adjusted after an under-heavy opening few weeks. TheLines examined the first week of MLB games in early April and compared them to a week of games in early May.

Time FrameAverage MLB TotalOversUnders
April 7-138.643148
May 3-97.514542

Games in Coors have been omitted since those totals skew the market a bit. Despite ostensibly moving into warmer weather, which should result in more scoring, the average total has dropped by more than a full run.

It appears the adjustment has worked. After blanket-betting unders went +13.9 units in the first week, that strategy would have “produced” -7.5 units in a week in early May. Furthermore, betting overs would have also produced a loss to the vig, which suggests the market has settled in an ideal spot for the books.

Basically, the market is no longer offering free money on these inflated totals. The market has reacted to the dead baseball and probably settled in the right spot.

The Sportsbook Response To Low-Scoring MLB Season

Lindeman said it’s not unusual for his April numbers to skew a bit high. He cited cold weather and starting pitchers being pulled early as teams stretch them out. But, he said, the recent dynamic of a changing baseball has brought a new challenge.

“Every year it’s different,” he said. “Some years the ball’s jumping off the bat. Sometimes you’ve got a dead ball situation like this. You really just have to wait and see.”

During the final week of April, Lindeman said he aggressively shifted the MLB totals his books offered.

“Up until then we were probably getting beaten pretty badly on the unders,” he admitted. “Now, we’ve made the necessary adjustments and we’re picking our spots where we want to take under money.”

Lindeman hinted better things were coming for MLB offenses. After several seasons in which batters could happily swing for the fences, he expected adjustments to happen. He added bettors would soon fall back into their normal pattern: leaning to overs.

Perhaps he’s onto something. On May 11, overs crushed to the tune of a 9-3 record.

But, bettors and bookmakers alike must remain alert. After all, MLB admitted two different baseballs circulated through the league in 2021. At any moment, a change could happen. If it does, the quickest to react will once again have an edge, as they did in early April betting under on MLB totals.

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Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

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