America’s Pastime offers gamblers more opportunities to make a wager than any other sport. With over 2,430 games played across six months, there’s always another bet to be laid on the MLB.
Baseball betting at your sportsbook doesn’t offer the most possible bets per game, but there are more than enough to find a betting angle you like. (But don’t forget: discipline is always crucial to being successful in the long run.) Between the moneyline, runline, game total, and tons of props, here are some of the most basic ways to put a bet down on the old ballgame.
MLB Baseball Moneyline Betting
The moneyline is the most popular way to bet on a game by game basis. However, you won’t have much time to consider your bets ahead of time. MLB moneylines are only released after the teams involved are done playing the day before. This means that lines will usually be up for less than 24 hours.
When it comes to placing a bet, a typical MLB moneyline looks like this.
As we showed you earlier in our guide to all things odds related, American odds are written relative to a $100 wager, so you would need to put $220 on the Dodgers to win $100 back. If you staked $100 on the Brewers, you would win $190 should they pull off the upset.
Not only will each MLB moneyline list the teams playing, but it will also include the day’s starting pitchers with the line. Odds can vary significantly between the same teams over the course of 48 hours based on who’s pitching. The Dodgers will almost always be heavy favorites when Clayton Kershaw is on the mound (like in the above example). The next day when, say, Rich Hill takes the bump, their moneyline will be a lot closer to +100. Of course, this would depend on who the Brewers counter with.
The Importance of Pitchers in MLB Baseball Betting
In fact, starting pitching is such a big part of handicapping baseball that sportsbooks offer a betting option called “listed pitcher.” Selecting a listed pitcher bet means that, if one of the projected starters for that day doesn’t throw the first pitch of the ballgame, then the bet is deemed no action and the wager is returned in full. They also have “one pitcher” options, where bettors select just one pitcher that has to start to have action.
It’s a useful protection to have; betting the Dodgers at -220 with Kershaw on the mound is often a sound decision, despite the short odds. Betting the Dodgers at -220 with a reliever making a spot start is tantamount to a charity donation.
In this age of instant information, “listed pitcher” is only protection against sickness or a freak accident in warmups. This is because if there are any injury concerns around a pitcher, you’d hear about it long before. However, if you love the Dodgers to win, and you don’t care if Kershaw is throwing, you can select “action” on a moneyline bet, and no matter who steps to the mound to start the game, your wager will count.
MLB Series Betting
As you likely know, the baseball schedule is broken up into series, which see the same teams play each other for two, three, or four straight days. The vast majority of series are three-game sets, and many sportsbooks will post lines for those series, as a whole, allowing you to wager on which team will win (at least) two of the three games. Think of it as a moneyline bet for a weekend. Just bet on a team, and if they take at least two of three games in a series, you’ll win. However, series bets come with a few stipulations. For example, games can be ruled no action if a game is postponed or suspended. You also can’t bet two-game series.
Betting on the Runline
Beyond picking straight winners on the moneyline, the MLB also has its own spread option, called the “runline,” though it is different than the fluctuating lines of basketball and football.
The runline is always set at -1.5 for the favorite, meaning that team must win by two or more runs to cash. If the underdog loses by one run or wins, they cover the bet.
Because the spread is always the same, the odds will shift around the runline. Of course, this based on the quality of the favorite. A dominant team like the Dodgers with Kershaw on the mount might be listed at -130 to cover the runline (as in the example above.) In contrast, a lesser favorite could be listed at +170 or higher to win its game by two runs or more.
Just like the moneyline, the runline will come with a listed pitcher and one pitcher options.
Betting Baseball Game Totals in the MLB
Again, just as with football and basketball, baseball games come with game totals (a.k.a. over/under), which we explained in detail here. In the MLB, game totals typically range from 7 to 10 runs, and often land on half-run increments, like 8.5.
Much like the moneyline and the runline, the game total will be heavily influenced by the quality of the starting pitchers. When someone like Clayton Kershaw is matched up with another ace, for instance, Max Scherzer of the Nationals, you’re apt to see a rare sub-seven total. When a team with a high-powered offense is facing a Triple A call-up late in the year, the total could creep into the double-digits.
Let’s go back to our Dodgers/Brewers example to see what this will look like in practice.
The total in this game is eight runs. If you want to bet the over, you select the “O 8.” If nine or more runs are scored in the game, you win the bet. If exactly eight runs are scored, it’s a push (i.e. a tie) and your wager will be returned. Since the over is deemed the more likely outcome in this instance (as evidenced by the -120 payout attached thereto), you have to wager $120 to make $100. The under is at even money, meaning you only need to wager $100 to win $100.
Over/under may also have a listed pitcher option depending on what sportsbook you’re using.
MLB Baseball Proposition (Prop) Betting
Each MLB game will be accompanied by prop bets as well. Some will be tied to team performance; others will be tied to individual players. Our Dodgers/Brewers game could feature props like the following:
If the odds on the moneyline or runline aren’t big enough for your taste, MLB props are where you can find longer odds on a daily basis. As you can see, the more specific a prediction, the bigger the potential payout. However, the overround on props (which considers the implied probability of the options go well beyond 100-percent) tends to be larger than for moneyline, runline, and total bets. That’s why both options for the “total strikeouts” prop is less than even money.
In a perfectly fair world, if the over were at -125, the under would be at +125. Why?
A -125 payout equates to an implied probability of 55.6%, meaning there has to be a 55.6% chance of Kershaw striking out nine or more batters in order for the wager to make sense for bettors. The -105 payout attached to the under equates to an implied probability of 51.2%, meaning there has to be a 51.2% of Kershaw striking out eight or fewer batters for that wager to make sense for bettors. Obviously, both of those implied probabilities cannot be true at the same time. If there’s a greater than 50% chance that Kershaw will strikeout nine or more batters, then there is necessarily a less than 50% chance that he won’t, since it’s a binary proposition.
Moneyline and game total bets are also available for five-inning lines. This means whichever team is leading after the fifth inning wins the bet, and the total is settled using the total runs scored to that point.
Betting on MLB Futures
As for long-term bets, the MLB has the usual futures you find for all major North American leagues: championship odds and division winners. The quickest sportsbooks will post odds immediately after the previous season’s World Series. Likely, they will be available over the course of the entire season, with teams only getting taken off the board when mathematically eliminated from contention. You can also place bets for individual awards like MVP or Cy Young.
Win totals are released every spring for all 30 MLB teams for betting over or under. The totals will be taken down at the start of the season, though, so you only have a small window to bet on them.
Winning these bets is straight-forward. If you bet on the Cubs’ over in the example above, you would need them to win 96 games or more. If you bet on the White Sox’ over, they only need to win 70.
Keys to a Successful MLB Betting Strategy
If you want to be successful in the long-term then you to implement a defined strategy and stick with it. It takes discipline to stick with a strategy when you are having a bad run, but just remember there is a reason you developed this strategy in the first place. Long-term success is always the goal with any betting strategy.
Here are three points that you should consider adding as part of your MLB betting strategy.
Betting on Underdogs
Betting on underdogs in MLB obviously means a potentially greater payout, but with improved odds comes greater risk of losing each bet. When is a good time to take advantage and why is betting the underdog so appealing?
- Why? You can win less often yet still profit more. If, on average, your underdog line was +130, which isn’t a big underdog, you would have to only win 44% of your bets to be profitable. Betting at standard -110 odds (like most NFL point spreads) requires a 52.5% win rate to stay in the black.
- Early-Season Games – At the beginning of each season, a lot of experts will have predictions on how the year will play out and sportsbooks listen to the ones they respect while setting odds. If you can find a couple of supposedly weak teams playing well early on, you can take advantage of them before the markets adjust. Since early lines are based on preseason predictions, those teams will remain underdogs despite playing quality baseball as the public continues to bet the presumed favorites.
Betting With or Against The Public
“Betting with the public” means taking the favorite. Whereas going “against the public”, means taking the underdog. Betting with the public will have less of a return on investment so you’ll need to get more of those correct to be successful long-term.
Additionally, depending which side you are betting will determine how soon (or how late) you should place your bet. Remember, public teams (like the Yankees and Dodgers) tend to become bigger favorites and while many small-market teams and/or weak team (we won’t name names) tend to become bigger underdogs. That being the case, betting early when you’re wagering on the favorite and delaying when you’re betting on the underdog is great bankroll management.
Every dollar saved or earned goes a long way towards maintaining your survival.
MLB Reverse Line Movement
Have you ever monitored a line and seen a favorite go from -200 to -230 then down to -160? The usual cause for this not uncommon occurrence is that the public backs the favorite early one, but then a “sharp” bettor (one who bets for a living) places a large bet on the underdog. Sportsbooks then respond by making the favorite more appealing to the public to attract bets on that side.
Sportsbooks are hoping this will balance out the money on each side. This should be alarming to you as a bettor and make you question what the “sharps” know. Betting against the sharps in this scenario consistently is not a good strategy. Sharps do this for a living and are successful; going against them a lot could send you out of the game.
Betting on the World Series
Futures bets on the World Series always attracts tons of interest. It’s one of the few baseball bets that can yield huge returns. As with all futures bets, the downside is that your money is tied up for a significant length of time.
World Series odds are first generated immediately after the conclusion of a season. These odds then fluctuate until a team is crowned champion. Offseason signings and trades, midseason trades, injuries to star players, and team performance throughout the season all contribute to the odds changing.
Bettors can make a futures wager all year long. But if you end up waiting until e.g. the playoffs start to place a futures bet, you’ll notice the odds will generally offer less value for the remaining teams. As the best teams show themselves and the postseason field becomes solidified, sportsbooks will adjust the odds, and they won’t be adjusting them in a way that benefits you.
Influences on MLB Betting
Baseball has a wide range of influences on each and every game. Knowing what they are and how to take advantage of them are key. Let’s have a look at some of the key factors that can be used as part of your betting strategy.
1. Starting Pitchers
Before placing a bet, you better glance at the stats for the starting pitchers. A matchup of ace pitchers could mean a low-scoring game. On the flip-side, pitchers with bad stats could mean a high-scoring game, especially in the first five innings. Or maybe there is a lop-sided pitching matchup which could mean taking a moneyline bet. What about a fly-ball pitcher against a home run-hitting team? Take the Over in that scenario!
Some of the main stats to concern yourself with are; ERA, WHIP, OBP, AVG, RUNS. Look for discrepancies and bet accordingly. A few discrepancies to look for are: (A) WHIP vs OBP – Finding a matchup with a high WHIP vs high OBP is an indicator that the offensive team should be successful in getting on base often resulting in runs scored. Same for low WHIP vs low OBP being a successful indicator for the pitcher.
(B) ERA vs RUNS – A matchup of a high scoring offense against a pitcher with a high ERA would suggest the offense should have the advantage.
(C) Fly Balls vs Home Runs – Finding a pitcher with a high fly-ball rate against a team with a high rate of hitting home runs would again suggest the offense having an advantage in scoring runs. This would assist with an OVER/UNDER bet.
The runline in baseball is the equivalent of a point spread in other sports. In baseball, the standard runline is always -1.5 and +1.5, meaning your team either needs to win by 2+ or lose by only 1 to win. Runline bets are a way to improve your odds when betting on favorites.
For example, a moneyline favorite of -280 often have a runline of -135 when playing at home. Taking the runline will have a greater return and, over the long haul, you also won’t need to win as many runline bets as moneyline bets to be profitable due to the return on the bet.
Note that the discrepancy between moneyline and runline odds is always greater when the favorite is the home team. That’s because, if the home team is winning by one in the ninth, they won’t have that extra opportunity to score. Also, in extra innings, the game will end immediately if the home team goes up by a single run.
Rain shouldn’t impact your thinking as the game will likely be delayed or postponed until clear skies return. Hot temperatures also shouldn’t matter; while that yields higher-scoring games, sportsbooks have already accounted for this element. The one main advantage you can get from weather is the wind. Is the wind blowing out or in? Meaning, if the wind is blowing out, then the ball is likely to travel further generating more homeruns. Blowing in would have the opposite effect. The wind should impact your decision on placing an Over/Under bet. Wind direction is somewhat predictable, but much less so than temperature. Look for changes in direction and speed right before first pitch and you may be able to gain an informational advantage on the oddsmakers.
Until MLB has an electronic strike zone, umpires will always have a large influence on the game. A quick Google search for “Pitcher-Friendly Umpires” will show you which umpires are likely to have a large strike zone that favor the pitchers. Games involving these umpires tend to be lower scoring, making them a more attractive Under bet. Change your Google search to “Hitting-Friendly Umpires” and you’ll see which umpires have a tight strike zone favoring the hitter. These games usually have more runs, potentially adding value to Over bets.
Much like umpires, the size of the stadiums can influence the Over/Under. Another Google search will reveal which stadiums cater towards hitters and pitchers, respectively. Use this information combined with a team that either hits or doesn’t hit a lot of home runs, to figure out when the stars are aligning for high-scoring and low-scoring games.
7. Line Shopping and Bankroll Management
These are influences on all sports, so make sure you read our full in-depth guides on line shopping and bankroll management. Incorporating both of these fundamental strategies will yield long-term success.
Baseball is a sport that should really enhance your profitability. With so many games, you’ll find plenty of bets to take advantage of. Make sure the key strategies in this guide are a baseline for your betting endeavors. When not betting baseball. make sure you read our other sports-betting guides so you can be successful in those sports too!