Maybe it’s a good thing that legal mobile sports betting hasn’t launched in Ohio just yet. If it had, and if any Cincinnati Reds fans had decided to bet with their hearts and support their team with their wagering wallet, they’d have dug themselves a deep hole over the first month of the 2022 MLB season.
The Reds aren’t just bad. They’re historically bad. Through 29 games, they’ve won six times. That’s a .207 success rate. Cincy’s run differential of minus-74 is the worst in the majors by a margin of 30 runs.
It would appear unlikely that the Reds will bump from the history books another Ohio team, the 1899 Cleveland Spiders with their worst-ever record of 20-134. That translates to a .130 win rate that left them 84 games back in the pennant race. But this year’s Reds have a shot at spectacular futility just the same.
The worst record in the last 60 years was the 2003 Detroit Tigers’ 43-119 (.265), and that’s well within these Reds’ reach. They may even be able to claim the title of worst team since World War II if they can finish worse than the 1962 New York Mets, who went 40-120 (.250) in their debut season. And it’s not impossible that the 2022 Reds can be the worst team post-1900, a title currently held by the 1916 Philadelphia Athletics, who went 36-117 (.235).
But it’s one thing to lose all the damn time. It’s another thing to lose and fail to cover while getting 1.5 runs all the damn time, and the Reds are doing that too.
Run line or ruin line?
The “run line,” for those new to baseball betting, is somewhat like the point spread you see in football or basketball, but it’s almost always the same number. Whereas NFL spreads can be 3 points or 7.5 points or 12 points or any other whole or half number imaginable, the MLB run line is typically 1.5 — and what varies is the juice.
For example, for the Reds’ home game Tuesday night against the Milwaukee Brewers, FanDuel Sportsbook has the run line at Brewers -1.5, with juice of -115 if a bettor takes Milwaukee to cover (win by 2 or more) and juice of -104 on the Reds +1.5. So the Brewers are not just the favorites to win the game, they’re also slight favorites to win by at least 2.
Which makes sense given Cincinnati’s atrocious track record this season at beating the run line.
Their 9-20 run line record is the worst in MLB this season by, appropriately, a margin of 2. In between their encouraging season-opening four-game split vs. the Atlanta Braves and their recent “hot streak” that saw them take two of three from the Pittsburgh Pirates and then upset the Brewers on Monday, the Reds posted a 1-20 record across 21 games, and 19 of those 20 losses were by 2 runs or more! If a sports gambler went against them on the run line in all of those games, that gambler won 19 of 21 without having to pay anywhere near as much juice as would be the case betting against the Reds on the moneyline every night.
And some gamblers have been doing exactly that. “Fade the Reds” is a thing.
I'm gonna try and get in on this fade the Reds thing everyone keeps talking about:
MIL -1.5 (-120)
— Julian Edlow (@julianedlow) May 5, 2022
Every day I say to myself:
“Don’t fade the Reds today on the run line! The second YOU start betting it, the trend will die”
… and Every day I regret saying that.
— Chelsa Messinger (@ChelsaMessinger) May 5, 2022
There’s even a new Twitter account called “Fade the Reds,” which exists solely to track how much a savvy bettor would be winning by consistently betting on the Reds’ opponents. That’s when you know you’re doing something special. It’s like when suddenly a hundred new Twitter accounts sprung up at once claiming to be the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head.
‘Lopsided action against the Reds’
Sure, the Reds turned it around a bit starting with the weekend series with the Pirates … but it’s the Pirates. Most sharps were warning heading into that series that “Fade the Reds” would be less of a sure thing against a team as inept as the Bucs, the second-worst team in the NL by run differential. Monday’s 10-5 win over Milwaukee, which gave the Reds their first winning streak of the season, was more of a pure upset.
Prior to these last four games, though, bettors were cleaning up during the incredible 1-20 (and 2-19 run line) stretch.
“In over 80 percent of those games,” PointsBet Media Analytics Manager Wyatt Yearout informed OH Bets, “there was lopsided action against the Reds.” He noted that when facing the Padres and Brewers specifically, every game saw lopsided moneyline action against Cincinnati at PointsBet.
“In this cold stretch, the ‘Fade the Reds’ train was certainly a viable strategy for bettors,” Yearout added.
A couple of notable examples: Last Wednesday, May 4, the Brewers opened at -244 on the moneyline and moved all the way to -305 as action barreled in, with 95% of the bets and 88% of the handle on the Milwaukee side. Against the Padres on April 19, San Diego opened at -196 and moved to -216 on the moneyline and drew 94% of the bets and 95% of the money.
The one-sided action was every bit as striking at DraftKings. On May 4, the Brewers attracted 95% of the moneyline bets and 94% of the handle. On that day’s run line, Milwaukee -1.5 got 92% of the bets and a whopping 97% of the handle.
For their most recent game, on Monday, the Reds +1.5 at home got 13% of the bets and a mere 2% of the handle at DraftKings, while the Reds at +145 on the moneyline drew 8% of the bets and 14% of the handle, as customers instead loaded up on Brewers -165. The sportsbooks certainly welcomed the Reds’ three-homer effort in pitcher Luis Castillo’s season debut.
No big deal, just a 6.51 team ERA
Expectations for the Reds weren’t high heading into the season after management traded away top players such as Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, and Sonny Gray. But they weren’t this low. Still, some bettors sniffed out that the team would be worse than expected.
At PointsBet, the Reds opened on March 15 with a win total line of 76.5, which the sportsbook dropped all the way to 72.5 on March 21. At last check, 81% of the bets and 82% of the handle were on the under for that season-long prop.
Not too many bettors were taking a shot on the Reds at 125/1 to win the World Series. At PointsBet, Cincy received about 1% of bets and less than 1% of handle in the World Series market. At DraftKings, just 1% of the pre-Opening Day handle for NL Central division-winning bets was on the Reds at +1600.
Still, this wasn’t supposed to be a team that would win just four of its first 27 games. As a team they’re batting just .211 this season — and that’s after Monday’s 14-hit explosion vs. the Brewers. The team’s star first baseman, Joey Votto, who hit 36 homers in a resurgent 2021, is having a nightmare season and was placed on the injured list last week. The career .300 hitter is hitting .122 with zero home runs and 29 strikeouts in 74 at-bats, and either there’s something very wrong with him physically or he’s suddenly hit the wall at age 38.
But it’s the pitching woes that have really enabled this Cincinnati squad to flirt with history. The team ERA of 6.51 is more than a run and a half higher than that of the next-worst staff. Cincy pitchers have allowed the most home runs in the majors (41), surrendered the most walks (133), and posted the highest WHIP (1.62). Their opponents are slugging .474 — the next worst is the Colorado Rockies staff at .422.
Maybe these last four games are the start of the Reds turning it around. But if not, well, you might soon start having real trouble finding opportunities to bet their opponents at -1.5 runs.
Reds are so bad that some books are posting 2.5 run lines instead of 1.5
— Joe Ostrowski (@JoeOstrowski) May 4, 2022