In sports betting, we can gain some insight by looking at the normal range of win-loss records among the different sports. Sports isn’t like chess, where the top guys win 99% of their matches. There is a lot of variance between what is considered a top team in, for example, college basketball and Major League baseball.
In college basketball, a top team might only lose 3-4 games all season. That means they are winning over 90% of their games. In baseball, a team would have to win 114 games to have a winning clip of just 70%. Only 3 teams have ever won that many games in a baseball season. Therefore, the idea of what a favorite or underdog truly is varies from sport to sport quite significantly.
n boxing, a boxer who is 12-4 is a journeyman at best and in no way a contender. Take a 12-4 NFL team and you have a Super Bowl contender. Then again, in boxing you could have a fighter who is 30-5 and not really that great. Meanwhile, a baseball or NBA team that was 30-5 would be perceived as doing great.
Even within the same sports, there is great variance. In the NBA, a team that is 20-10 is in pretty good shape. They’re at the very least a serious playoff threat. In college hoops, a 20-10 team might be on the outside looking in to even make it into the tourney. A 9-4 college football team would be happy to make it into a mid-range bowl game–nothing special. In the NFL, a 9-4 team could very well be a Super Bowl contender.
If you’re a sports fan, you already know all this. The point is that we need to re-calibrate our understanding of favorites and underdogs as we shift from sport to sport. A top team in baseball can lose on any given day and no one would even bat an eyelash. But if the top fighter were to lose a fight in boxing or MMA, it would be a cataclysmic event. A number-one college football team loses and it’s a major event. Meanwhile, if a top NFL or NBA team lost, it would hardly make national waves.
You’ll hear guys walking out the sportsbook muttering how they can’t believe the Yankees lost to the Twins. Well, why not? It’s the middle of May, there are 162 games, and the Yanks are going to lose at least 60 of those even if they have a really good season. Or you’ll hear a guy swearing about how the Spurs lost to the Timberwolves. It doesn’t dawn on him that it’s early-December and there’s still a lot of basketball left to be played and nobody cares. The guy who lost laying -600 on Manny Pacquiao, who went 7 years without losing, is the one who has a right to complain. Otherwise, be prepared to deal with any kind of result.