PLL MVP Futures Guide with Billy Costigan

PLL MVP Futures Guide with Billy Costigan

Editor’s Note: This recurring series is written by Billy Costigan.

Welcome back for another bonus article to help get you through the Premier Lacrosse League All Star Break. This time we’ll be focusing on 2022 PLL Jim Brown Most Valuable Player Award odds.

Last week we went over many basic betting principles that a bettor could use when approaching futures. Much of that information will also apply here as we take a look at MVP odds here instead of championship winner lines.

Before diving into picking an MVP winner, I recommend checking out last week’s piece if you are new to this type of betting and haven’t got a chance to read it yet, need a refresher on futures, or are just looking for more helpful information for making your futures picks.

If you don't know, Jim Brown was an outstanding player for both Syracuse lacrosse and football, who also had a successful career in the National Football league. He’s widely regarded as one of the greatest lacrosse players of all time. So it’s only fitting that the MVP award was named after such an accomplished legend, who was beyond valuable to the teams he was on.

Who’ll make the biggest impact for their team and take home the Jim Brown MVP Award this season? 

While no one can answer 100% for sure this far out, using the strategies from last week’s piece and this one, should help you be able to feel more confident in sorting through the choices. 

One thing is for certain in this parity filled league, there are definitely cases to be made for multiple candidates, which also means there’s potential value to be found on the betting board!

MVP Awards Traditionally & Position Bias?

Technically the MVP award can be awarded to any position. However, we all know that in most sports and leagues these types of awards tend to go to offensive players. This is understandable as offensive stars have the most easily quantifiable statistics with more easily defined impacts.

It’s unfortunately a lot easier to point to a specific number of goals (maybe some that decided games) when evaluating players, than contributions a defensive player makes that may not show up in the box score. 

Goals are more easily measurable, how many times a defender played well and made his assignment pass instead of dodging is not as easily recorded. While amazing defense can be just as valuable, it inherently has a greater possibility for contributions that don’t make the stat sheet.

Think of how much quarterbacks dominate the NFL MVP or Heisman awards, with occasionally a different, but still offensive, position (wide receiver or running back) taking the trophy. Only in the rarest occasion has a defensive player taken those awards in recent times.

Since 2001 college lacrosse’s MVP award (the Tewaaraton) for men has been awarded to attackers 17 times and midfielders 4 times. For women in that time it’s gone to 6 attackers and 13 midfielders compared to just 1 defender and 1 goalie.

In the PLL’s predecessor, Major League Lacrosse, from 2001-2020 attack dominated the MVP award winning 13 times with midfielders also winning 6 times. Only once did a goalie win, when in 2002 Greg Cattrano took home the honors. The award also went to a face off specialist once for Greg Gurenlianin’s spectacular 2015 season.

Now I’m not saying the MVP is automatically going to be an attackman or offensive midfielder every year. It’s very possible for any position to win it, especially in a smaller, newer league that's filled with parity like the PLL.

I’m sure there have even been cases where a non-offensive player has actually been more valuable but still not won. There’ve been times where I personally felt a faceoff specialist was most worthy of an MVP award but they lost. That belief by me would not have chased any tickets when the voters decided elsewise.

That’s an important distinction to consider when betting futures, especially bets on awards that are voted on and not based solely on a statistical leader. What you as a bettor think should happen with a voted on award, based on your evaluation of play, isn’t always what will happen based on voter’s opinions.

You need to also take into consideration what voters will think. Bias or narratives can play a role in this. We’ll get more into that angle in a bit, but remember sometimes when betting awards the best bet isn’t always who you personally think is most deserving, you must try to decide who voters will think should win.

PLL MVP History

There have been three MVP winners so far in the PLL. Let’s take a brief look at each of the winners so far.

In the inaugural season (2019) Whipsnakes’ attacker Matt Rambo was MVP as Whipsnakes took home the first ever PLL title. In ten regular season games Rambo had 42 points while shooting 29%. In the postseason he added 7 more points in two games shooting 36% in those contests. He beat out other finalists Connor Fields and two-time MLL MVP Tom Schreiber.

Due to the pandemic, 2020 was a shortened group play tournament (in a bubble in Utah). This means that there were far less games so some statistics from this season looked very different and could be considered by some as outliers.

However they still had to pick who of that tournament contributed most to their team. That someone was another Whipsnakes attacker, en route to their 2nd championship, Zed Williams. In six games Williams had 23 points while shooting 34%. Williams no doubt made his contributions known and his presence felt throughout the bubble tournament.

Last year in 2021 the MVP was given out not to another attacker, but to Chaos goalie Blaze Riorden as Chaos won their first championship. In nine regular season games Riorden saved 61% of shots faced while accumulating 149 saves, an 11.5 scores against average, 1 point, 7 caused turnovers, and 23 ground balls. In three postseason games he had an even better save percentage of 63% with 45 saves, 2 points, 1 caused turnover, and 13 ground balls.

It was obvious by Riorden’s play in 2021 that he was an easy choice for MVP. Just like in hockey, in lacrosse a hot goalie really can “steal” any game. It doesn’t really always matter how good all the other aspects of an opponent are, if the goalie they're facing simply won’t let any goals in. Riorden was that hot goalie and took over games, especially down the stretch, by simply denying the opposition the points they needed.

So while it tends to be more common for offensive stars to win an award like MVP, it’s also possible for other positions. 

I would say that a close defender is probably least likely to get enough attention and quantifiable statistics to win MVP, even though some may be deserving. Perhaps a long stick midfielder who puts up some more offensive numbers might have a shot to sway voters though.

Faceoff specialists might have more of a shot, given more chances to generate offense or be the player deciding an absolutely key moment like a needed late draw. Plus they tend to accumulate quite a few ground balls, often leading their team.

Goaltenders also can make a bid at MVP due to, like we just spoke about with Riorden, the possibility of a goalie taking over a game. There are statistics to measure like saves or save percentage plus the occasional ground ball or offensive point helps as well. It’s very noticeable when a great offense is shut down by a goalie playing out of his mind and that kinda thing does have a good shot of hanging around in voter’s heads.

Like everything with sports betting there are multiple factors you must consider. You shouldn’t forget the reality that these awards tend to go to offensive stars who put up numbers. Yet it’s also important to know that other positions have a shot as well.

You’ll have to keep both those facts in mind while looking to see who this year has a shot at taking home MVP, based on what we know about the players this season and maybe any future factors one could see influencing the outcome.

Futures Betting Basics

As I mentioned earlier, the betting practices from my futures betting piece last week, will also be helpful to you when deciding your MVP Wagers. If any terms or concepts we discuss here seem confusing, you can check back in my previous futures betting piece for further explanation.

Like most futures there’s plenty of names on the betting board with large prices, so there could be profitable opportunities to be found!

Any futures bet is about trying to find where your research tells you oddsmakers are wrong about who’s more likely to win or when a price is so advantageous, it’s worth considering a wager. Converting moneyline odds into True No Vig odds helps more easily compare your numbers with sportsbooks’, to find discrepancies that can be profitable.

Just like with PLL Championship odds, you’ll want to keep a good awareness of the MVP odds as well as when and how they change. Trying to decide why the odds changed (public or sharp liability, gameplay / news and speculation, and / or recency bias) often leads to useful information or angles for deciding your wagers.

Remember timing your futures bets properly to get the best price possible can be key in making your futures portfolio profitable or not. Staying on top of line movement and league news, line shopping, as well as being prepared with your research about what bets you want to target can help you be ready when the best price pops up.

Keeping a “buy low, sell high” mentality can also help guide you to the best price. Using whatever resources you find best, if you can get the news as early as possible and be just one step ahead of the sportsbooks it will most likely pay off.

You’ll also want to spend some time prepping a plan for your bets and playing out all the different profit scenarios based on which bets cash. While you can be successful sometimes varying your unit size with futures, remember the more you risk, the more you stand to lose. 

It’s very important with futures to choose your bet sizes in a way that can lead you to the most possible / profitable scenarios. Bettors do sometimes decide to hedge away just a portion of a bet. But especially when laying the base to work off of with your first few bets on a future, you may find it helpful to make sure any of those bets winning will cover the losses of the others. You don’t want to wait months to find out your big winning ticket was actually a net loss overall.

Lastly for this section remember, you shouldn’t be afraid or embarrassed to hedge or cash out, instead be proud and excited to lock in a profit. Don’t let any other bettors or friends / family peer pressure you into “letting it ride”, if that doesn’t seem like the likeliest route to profit for you. Are they going to pay you winnings when that ticket loses and you end up with nothing instead?

A situation later in the season or playoffs, where because of a ticket already in your pocket, you can hedge with the other side and lock in a profit, should be a bettors dream. 

Thanks to larger odds often available and timing your bets as successfully as possible, futures are often where an opportunity for a guaranteed profit may arise.

Futures On Awards  - Deciding Awards, Statistics vs Votes

There are usually two ways an award you might be betting a future on is decided, either based on a statistical leader or by votes.

The first is straight forward, when an award is decided based on a statistical leader. If you bet a player to lead the NFL in touchdown passes or the MLB in home runs, that would be a statistic based award. Whoever has the most touchdown passes or homeruns wins that award automatically without need for debate.

What we are dealing with here though, the PLL MVP, and other awards like Rookie or Defensive Player of The Year in a league, are awards that are voted upon to determine the winner. This is a very important distinction to make. Now there are matters of opinions and human elements coming into play that you must consider before placing a wager.

Awards Decided By Vote

WIth awards decided by vote it’s not just a matter of deciding if someone physically can or can’t get enough touchdown passes or home runs and if they have time to do it, like when looking at an award decided by a statistic. 

For vote based awards often, if you can, you have to try and handicap the voters views as much as play on the field. No matter how good of a case you might see for a player to win an award, that means absolutely nothing if the voters' minds get set on a different player.

Since it’s all about cashing tickets in sports betting, you’d rather be right about the voters choice (even if you think they made the wrong one) and cash your wager, than be “right” about who you think should win and end up with a loss because voters didn’t agree. Any information you find that you feel will help show which way voters will lean, could be very valuable betting these types of awards.

Some other important aspects of betting futures on awards decided by vote are: who votes, when they vote, and factors that may influence their decisions. So let’s take a look at some of those factors to help you build up some more skills and angles to pick a winning future.

Who Votes?

You’ll want to do everything you can to familiarize yourself with the structure of how picking an award is done. A big part of this is knowing who gets a vote on the award, which each league usually has their own criteria for. 

Most often this is media members getting to vote but it could also be people that work for the league or former alumni. If possible it can also help to know how many of each different type of person gets to vote. 

For instance, is it a collection of media the league has selected over the years with different amounts of voters from different areas or did they make sure to pick an equal amount of voters from each city a team is in? 

Ideally regional ties wouldn’t influence a voter who would professionally discard any local ties and make an unbiased decision. While I’m not trying to bash any professional media members who have no doubt worked hard and been successful enough to get a vote in the first place, the reality is they are human. Even slight biases for / against a team or maybe just a willingness to more easily jump aboard a narrative train for certain players could affect a voter’s decision, sometimes maybe even subconsciously without them completely knowing.

With the case of a new league like the PLL, sometimes not all the information I’m describing here or in the next few sections will be as available as with say the NBA or NFL. That’s okay though, as a bettor you’ve got to play the cards dealt and work with what you have.

For PLL end of season awards we may not know every single voter’s name and twitter handle. However the league does provide us with some information on who gets votes. 

Per the PLL, first round voting to determine nominees / finalists is done by PLL players and coaches followed by a second round of voting (now on just the nominees from the first round) done by Media, PLL Front Office, and the PLL Lacrosse Advisory Board.

I’m sure as time goes on and the PLL grows even more, perhaps one day we'll know as much about the voters as other older leagues. This could be very useful for a bettor if it does happen. If you know the specific voter, you can try to keep an eye on their Twitter or work throughout the season to help gauge which way they are leaning with their vote.

You could even begin today to start compiling a list of voters to watch for the PLL. While it’s not the entire group of voters, the PLL Advisory board does get votes in the second round. Who is a member of the PLL board should be information you could find online.

When Do They Vote?

Timing of when an award is voted on is also important to be aware of when considering wagers. You’ve got to know what parts of the season are included when they’re deciding an award in order to make a proper assessment on where to place your bets.

The main distinction to know is whether or not the award is decided on just the regular season, just the postseason, or both. You don’t want to be counting on an expected big postseason performance for a player you bet on to put them over the edge in voters' minds, if votes are submitted before the playoffs start and based on only regular season play. 

On the other hand, an award based solely on the postseason can create some advantageous opportunities for a bettor as well. If you end up betting postseason awards just before or during the postseason, you may only have to wait a month or even just a few weeks to cash your futures bet.

Another way to use postseason awards to your advantage is if you may think a team is going to win their league, but don’t love their odds to take home the title. However you may also be very confident that if that team wins the championship, a certain player on that team will most likely be, say, the postseason or finals MVP. If that player has better odds on them to win the award, one approach is to bet that player to win, say the finals MVP rather than betting their team to win the championship at a worse price. Using this approach to postseason awards is a wager you might even place much further out than the start of the postseason to get a really good price on it.

To the best of my knowledge the MVP and other end of year awards in the PLL are regular season awards. While the MVP may often be announced before the championship game, it’s voted on further before that.

This means while a struggling team may make the playoffs, get hot, and have a title run in them, you can’t count on that playoff performance to win you an MVP bet. A player will need to have put up good enough numbers and made a strong enough case to convince voters during the regular season games only.

Things That Can Influence Voters - Biases

Again no slight to the people who do get votes for awards in different leagues, but they’re human beings who can be influenced (consciously or subconsciously) through a number of ways. We simply wouldn’t be doing a good job as bettors if we didn’t at least consider every possible factor we can, no matter how large or small the effect it could have on the outcome.

In any type of betting you want to be aware of / avoid weighing too heavily on recency bias. It can be very easy to allow a single game or few, that were very dramatic and maybe impressive to weigh on your mind. But remember that we always want to consider all factors when betting.

Perhaps lack of rest, travel, or some other scenario in the past heavily contributed to the recent results and isn’t actually likely to repeat. Future factors like a tougher schedule coming up, a star / key player who’s prone to injury potentially getting hurt again, or a player set to return from injury could also cause different outcomes ahead.

A buy low, sell high mentality will help you here. You’re always going to want to try to be as early as possible about deciding correctly, which teams / players are really going up and which are on a downward trajectory. Trying to appropriately weigh any information you find will serve you well too.

Also things like where a voter is from or past experiences with a team / player could potentially have a subconscious effect on a voter. Maybe they don’t intentionally make up their mind one way or another, but a past experience may actually slightly make them more open to agreeing with a narrative that may be positive or not. Hopefully these types of personal bias don’t come into play often but it is something to be aware of.

Things That Can Influence Voters - Narratives

One last important aspect of betting awards that (that hopefully voters don’t overweigh) are narratives. This can be somewhat similar to recency bias as well as based on a general public or professional consensus. Sometimes just hearing something a certain number of times can make it weigh heavier on a person's mind. Basically as more people start to breathe life into a narrative, and for longer, the more that case may grow whether it's accurate or not.

One type of narrative that may be more likely to be accurate actually, is one based on game play on the field. If a player is actually out performing everyone else the narrative can gain momentum that they are going to run away with the award. 

This may be an accurate assessment but it may also be from false public consensus, recency bias, or other overly hyped narratives. It’s important to do your digging to be sure how much of a closed case that player really is for an award and consider if others still have a shot.

Narratives can also be built upon news. How much a past injury is affecting a player, trade speculation, potential team locker room / chemistry issues, or uncertain timing about return from an injury can also start to snowball story lines. 

This is another spot though where if you can find a real mistake with the national narrative building up (that’s maybe been causing people to bet and thus lines to move) then you may be able to find a price with some good value.

Then there are narratives that tend to get a lot of media attention, but how much they really affect voters' decisions is something bettors must decide. These types of narratives are often based around much more off the field factors, which can also sometimes be linked to actual gameplay.

Sometimes a story will take root that a recent and / or serious personal event is affecting a player's performance. This could be something like the birth of a child or relationship being argued as motivation and improving a player’s performance. However it’s also often something such as a breakup or loss of a loved one being viewed as possibly negatively affecting a player.

Other personal ventures such as a new side business are also often brought up frequently when discussing players and can gain steam as well. Some may argue that a player is too “distracted” by what they’re focusing on outside of the sport. The story might even be something to do with a player just simply being unhappy where or with who they are playing.

It’s also heard being argued a lot that a player is acting too much with a certain mindset because of past issues or successes. Perhaps that they are being too cocky and trying too much or maybe the argument is they aren’t being confident enough.

Whatever reasons affecting a player, especially personal ones, aren’t for us to judge. These guys are human beings too with their own feelings as well. In betting though, every single piece of information or any angle at all you can find may go a long way. 

So it’s our job not to get caught up in the drama some may create around these storylines and to stay focused on how any of these types of situations will actually affect who will win the award and thus cash bets or not.

One last narrative worth discussing is when a player’s actions that may or may not be related to the sport at all, weigh heavily enough to potentially cause voters to rule them out completely. The situations I’m referring to here are things like suspensions, off field actions / statements, or even events that did take place during a game. 

Now I’m not here to argue whether these last kinds of narratives I’m mentioning should or shouldn’t affect voters’ decisions, or to judge the actions that lead to the narratives existing. My objective here is simply to help you enjoy lacrosse and betting more, while hopefully becoming a more successful bettor at the same time. But we wouldn’t be good bettors if we didn’t consider and be aware of as much information as possible.

A player may be suspended, serve their suspension, and return to play, yet the action that led to suspension may not leave voters’ minds anytime soon. Similarly whether disciplinary action is issued or not, an action or repeated ones during gameplay that are being argued as very “dirty” play that has “no place in the game” may leave a bad taste in a voters mouth.

Also sometimes things players do that may have nothing to do with their sport may very heavily affect some voters’ opinions. This may be a personal legal matter either criminal or civil. It can also simply be statements a player makes. 

Regardless of your opinions on the issue, it is a fact that after certain statements Aaron Rodgers made last year regarding the pandemic, there was a voter who said they weren’t even going to consider Rodgers anymore. The voter I heard make these comments did say it wasn’t that comment alone that influenced him to rule out Rodgers before the season was over. However that comment combined with other drama about Rodgers returning or not and his attitude were enough to convince at least one voter that despite Rodger’s play on the field, he was actually hurting his team some and thus not worthy of a vote for being the most valuable.

You don’t hear of situations like that one with Rodgers super often, but just the possibility of it happening makes it worth being aware of.

You can debate all you want about what should or shouldn’t affect final results, or about who you believe deserved to win. Most likely though you’re not going to personally change that outcome or the opinions or those deciding it. 

It’s more useful to focus on what the outcome is actually going to be (regardless of if you agree with the results) because figuring that out is what's going to lead to a winning bet. Using all the tools and strategies we’ve discussed should go a long way in helping you sort through all the noise and find the real answers.

Closing Remarks

Who's going to win the MVP this year?

Will we see Riorden make history and repeat MVP awards as a goalie? Perhaps a different goalie will steal the award such as Bernlor who's been playing well.

While previous winner's positions would say it's unlikely to see another goalie any given year, many things about the PLL have been different so it's definitely a possibility.

Could we see a face off specialist take home MVP this year? Baptiste has been making a case for himself having an amazing season so far.

Baptiste is winning an insane percentage of face offs while also making contributions on offense. He did appear to get injured in Week 5 so we'll see how he bounces back from that in the second half of the season. It also doesn't help Baptiste to have another serious MVP candidate on his team in Teat.

There is always the possibility an offensive star closer up at the top of the odds board will take the award. Teat, Thompson, and Manny are all up there and rightfully so based on their amazing skills and many contributions on the field. 

Given that the PLL is such a parity filled league with far more talented players than roster spots available one could argue that some of the players with longer odds may be decent bets as well.

Even Sowers isn’t that far down the odds board as well but still at a decent plus price. He’s been showing good signs lately but he’ll have to stay healthy to have a shot. However it is worth noting you could have gotten him at an even bigger plus price earlier in the year.

Nichtern also looks great this season and still has long odds. Despite his team's poor results, Heninburg has definitely been the definition of valuable to the Redwoods. Whipsnakes’ Rambo looks solid as well. Perhaps Dylan Molloy could make some more noise the second half of the season. These players are available right now in the +1500 to +4000 range.

Even rookies like Wisnauskas, Gray, and Nolting are having great debut seasons. They’re still available in the +1200 to +3000 range as well.

Unfortunately no one can ever say with 100% certainty who’s going to win. There is no such thing as an absolute lock or a guarantee. What we can do though is stay disciplined and determined while using good betting principles to take our best shot. That’s hopefully what these articles are doing for you, giving you the tools needed in order to choose the best possible wagers to actually bet.

No single piece of advice or betting angle is going to be a magic solution for every wager you ever look at. Though a combination of the information from my articles along with any other good betting strategies you learn, should go a long way in helping you make more confident and educated picks.

Sports betting is very complex and figuring out what's going to actually happen is no easy task. You must often figure out what is happening, why it’s happening, and then how much it actually matters. So it's usually going to be a combination of your knowledge along with evaluating as many factors as possible (using the methods we discussed) to find the right wager.

I hope you’re all as excited as I am to watch many of these potential MVP candidates play in the All Star Game Saturday night! I feel extremely lucky that the ASG is in my neck of the woods down at Gillette Stadium and that I will be attending the game in person.

Be sure to check out my Twitter for any more PLL betting updates and as always my DM’s are open with any questions you may have about lacrosse or sports betting @bCostigan84.

Maybe I’ll even see some of you at Gillette Stadium. Best of luck and let’s cash some bets!

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