We always say that division rivalry games in baseball are tight for some of the following reasons.
Scouting reports on both sides are the best.
Rivalry games bring out the best effort from both teams.
Rivalry games are the games the fans enjoy the most and generally propel a home dog to victory.
We know that taking the underdog in a division rivalry game is a good bet but is it really because the games are so tight or because the oddsmakers have not clearly adjusted for whatever reason.
We conditioned on a team winning for the following scenarios to try and get a feeling for how tight some of the games are by looking at the average margin of victory. We found a striking similarity.
Division Rivalry Games: 3.57
Non Division Rivalry Games: 3.55
It seems as though when teams win, they win by the same average margin of victory regardless of type of game. We expected to see the advantage from division rivalry games to be much smaller to indicate that the games were closer.
Now we conditioned our analysis on winning home dogs to see the average margins of victory.
Division Rivalry Games: 3.24
Non Division Rivalry Games: 3.18
A significant 0.06 run improvement for home underdogs in division rivalry games. Although spread across all games, the advantage in a division rivalry / non-division rivalry game is identical, this is due to the fact that home underdogs in division rivalry games perform much better. That is why these are the underdogs that we like to focus on.
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