Riding a hot team can be fun. But, ruthlessly fading is often far more entertaining (and profitable). When a team is overhyped or struggling, regularly betting against them is the way to go.
Diving deep into our betting database, I've found the five best season-long teams to fade in recent memory:
5) 2021 San Diego Padres (+27.49 Units)
The 2021 Padres entered the season third in World Series odds (+900) after acquiring an entire new rotation that winter. The Dads added You Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove to start, plus reliever Mark Melancon and infielder Ha-seong Kim.
After winning 61.7% of games the season before, expectations were title high in SoCal. Things started off well, with the Padres winning 66 of their first 115 games. But then, collapse: a 13-34 finish, sub-.500 record, and dugout fights between teammates. If you started fading the Padres during the final two months of the season, your wallet is sitting pretty right now.
Padres bench coach Bobby Dickerson, not Manny Machado, was the first to admonish Fernando Tatis Jr. in the widely circulated video, sources tell The Athletic.— The Athletic (@TheAthletic) September 19, 2021
Inside the confrontation and what it revealed about the Padres.
📚 https://t.co/cCDsS6JJgI pic.twitter.com/7TUmh5rSLs
4) 2002 Chicago Cubs (+28.24 Units)
The 2001 Chicago Cubs gave the North Side some hope. They'd just won 88 games. Sammy Sosa was slugging, Rondell White was a great secondary bat, and Kerry Wood had just broken out in a big way. That's what made the 67-95 record the next year all the more unexpected (and profitable for faders).
The Cubs went through three managers in '02 and GM Andy MacPhail (aptly named) stepped aside in July. The 2002 Cubs were bad, but pythagorean record (based off run differential) shows they were unlucky, too. The Cubs underperformed their expected record by nine wins.
3) 2023 Calgary Flames (+28.73 Units)
The 2022-23 offseason was a time of massive change for the Flames. After Johnny Gaudreau spurned them in NHL free agency and Matthew Tkachuk demanded a trade, GM Brad Treleving entirely overhauled the roster. In came Jonathan Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, and Nazem Kadri. Despite the team's two best players leaving, the additions seemed to make Calgary actually better on paper.
Key word: on paper. The new faces didn't mesh at all with their new teammates or Flames head coach Darryl Sutter. As the '23 Flames stumbled to a 38-27-17 record, Calgary fans watched Tkachuk lead the Florida Panthers to the Stanley Cup Final. By the end of the season, both the Flames GM and coach were fired and/or parted ways.
The Flames have fired head coach Darryl Sutter, according to multiple reports 🚨 pic.twitter.com/8DUqUIimsW— B/R Open Ice (@BR_OpenIce) May 1, 2023
2) 2018 Baltimore Orioles (+30.13 Units)
The beginning of the Orioles long rebuild was a great time for Baltimore haters. The Os had won at least 75 games in each of the last six years before fully committing to the teardown in 2018.
If you want an example of true and proper tanking, check out the 47-115 Orioles. They started Chris Davis 128 games despite a .168 batting average and .539 OPS. They started Dylan Bundy and Andrew Cashner 28+ times each despite ERAs in the mid fives.
These 2018 Orioles had no interest in winning baseball games, making them the perfect team to fade.
1) 2004 Arizona Diamondbacks (+37.90 units)
Man, I wish I had Biff Tannen's Sports Almanac so I could go back in time and bet against the '04 Diamondbacks every game. A whooping 38 units of profit?!
Just three years after winning the World Series, things went sideways in the desert. Aside from Randy Johnson (who pitched a perfect game in May) Arizona had easily the worst rotation in baseball in 2004. Casey Fossum, Steve Parks, Casey Daigle, and Edgar Gonzalez all started at least 10 games for the DBacks and all four posted ERAs of 6.00 or higher.
On offense, things weren't much better. Outfielder Luis Gonalzez was one of just three regular hitters who posted an 90 OPS+ (10% below average) or better.
All that suck combined for a 51-111 record and the best fade in recent sports history.
*Odds Shark's current betting database holds betting lines and results back to 1999 for MLB, 2000 for the NHL, 2015 for the NFL, and 2016 for the NBA.