Published on April 9th, 2021 | by Bibhuranjan


A Guide to Betting Major League Baseball

Patience is a virtue.

I believe that to be true in all aspects of life. Patience allows you to get through tough times with calmness and an understanding that not everything can go your way as quickly as you like it to. So, what does that have to do with baseball, you ask? Well, I truly believe that in order to be a respectable and perhaps more importantly a profitable baseball bettor, you have to take your patience to an all-time high.

With the exception of the 2020 COVID-shortened season, baseball is a 162-game marathon to the postseason. It is not a sprint to the postseason like the NFL, nor is it as short as an NBA or NHL season. Baseball spans seven months total, from April to October, and there are 2,430 regular-season games to wager on. If you think about how many options each game has – money line, run line, totals, first five innings, player props, etc. – and times that by 2,430, you’d get an astronomical number that not one person can handle.

The point I’m trying to make is that you don’t have to make a wager every single day just because there is a baseball game available to wager on. There will be spots for you to hit hard, and there will be days where you need to lay off because you’re either going through a slump or there just isn’t any value on the board to bet into.

Over the next 1000+ words or so, I will walk you through what covers MLB betting and I’ll break down a few strategies that I employ myself, including the places I get help with my MLB picks, like Docs here for example. The more articles and information you read the better off you will be with all of your MLB predictions.

The MLB Moneyline Bet

This is the easiest wager to understand, no matter what sport you are betting on. The moneyline betting option allows you to place a bet on the team you think is simply going to win the game. Extra innings are included in the outcome of the bet.

Example: Los Angeles Dodgers (-200) at Boston Red Sox (+140), Monday at 7:08 pmIn the above example, you can see that the Los Angeles Dodgers are taking on the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Monday. First pitch is schedule for 7:08 p.m. EST.

The Dodgers are listed at -200, which indicates they are favored to win the game, with a 66.68 percent probability to do so. The Boston Red Sox are listed as +140 underdogs, which gives them a 41.67 percent chance of winning the game. Note** The probability does not add up to 100 because of the implied vig (the sportsbooks cut for taking your bet) baked into the line.

In this case, if you are a bettor that properly manages your bankroll, you’d likely have a unit system in place for wagering amounts. Let’s say one unit for you is $100. If you wanted to bet the Dodgers to win the game, you would have to bet $200 to win $100. If you wanted to take the underdog Red Sox, you would risk $100 to return a profit of $140.

Betting the Runline

Like football, baseball utilizes a spread system to add alternative wagering options for bettors. If we look at the above example of LA -200 vs Boston +140, the runline would look something like this:

Los Angeles -1.5 (+120) or Boston +1.5 (-200)

This option gives you the chance to take the favorite (LA) and get plus-money value on them. The catch to this is that the Dodgers must now win by two or more runs in order for your ticket to cash. If you think Boston has a chance to win, but don’t trust them, you can grab them at +1.5 runs, but you will have to lay high juice in order to secure a security run. If the Red Sox win the game or lose by exactly one run, you win your bet.

Pro Tip No.1:

When betting on MLB money lines, I suggest staying away from extremely high-priced favorites. The best teams in the league lose at least 50 games each season. And if you are consistently laying over -150 to bet public teams like the Yankees, Dodgers or Cubs, you will end up in the negative. Since 2005, teams that are favored at -150 or higher have won just 63 percent of the games. If you bet them blindly each game, you’d be down -310 units, despite having a positive winning percentage.

Pro Tip No.2:

The contrary holds true when betting on baseball underdogs. When underdogs lose, you only lose what you risk. When they win, you enjoy a plus-money return. It’s possible to finish with a sub-.500 win/loss record on the season and end up turning a profit by betting teams that are offering plus money on the money line.

Pro Tip No.3:

Vegas wasn’t built in a day, but it was built with the betting public’s money. Fading the public is a strategy as old as time, but it holds true especially in baseball. I’d rather side with Vegas than the betting public as recency bias oftentimes plays a major role in who the betting public likes. In order to properly “fade the public,” a team must be getting 65 percent or higher of the money line action.

MLB Total Bets

This betting option is another straightforward concept as sportsbooks will offer an “over/under” for every game that’s on the board for the night. I’ve seen totals as low as 6.5 for games featuring two high-caliber pitchers, and totals as high as 12.5 in games featuring pitchers that are not very good or based on the weather forecast.

If we look at an example, you will see this on your respective sportsbook:

Los Angeles Dodgers/Boston Red Sox – “Over” 9.5 -110 or “Under” 9.5 -110

If you think both teams are going to combine to score at 10 or more runs, you will take the over and you would need to bet $110 to win $100. If you think the pitching will reign supreme, you can take the “under” and hope for nine or fewer runs to be scored. Similarly, you’d have to risk $110 to win $100.

The odd time you will see sportsbooks hang totals such as 8.0. That means that if the total combined score lands on exactly eight runs, your bet will push, and you will get your wager back.

Pro Tip No.1:

Fade the backend of the rotation. It’s very rare that a Major League team has five all-star caliber pitchers. Usually, the No. 4 or No. 5 pitcher is someone the team is hoping they can sneak by and pick up a win every once in a while. If you can find a spot where the total is relatively reasonable (8.5 or 9.5), and you are getting a chance to bet against both team’s No.5 starters, you have to take the over because it might be the best bet on the board.

Pro Tip No.2:

The weather forecast should be your best friend during baseball season. Take Wrigley Field in Chicago for example. When the wind is blowing out, sportsbooks adjust and offer up totals of 10.5 or higher. When the wind is blowing in, the total drops to 7.5 or 8.5. Understand the elements the game is being played in and adjust accordingly.

Pro Tip No.3:

Speaking of adjusting, you’d be dumb not to take into account who is umping the game. Certain umps have strike zones the size of Russia, and that typically forces more swings and misses. Other umps have a very small strike zone, which typically allows for more walks, which could turn into big innings. Knowing who is calling balls and strikes can go a long way in betting MLB totals.

Futures Bets

If you are someone who doesn’t enjoy having their money tied up for the duration of the season, then this betting option is not the one for you. If you can afford to have money tied up for seven months, or just wanted to get down a few bucks on your favorite team to do well this year, then you can find some big odds on the betting board. There are about five different kinds of futures bets you can make in terms of MLB betting.

No.1: Who will win the World Series?

This is pretty straightforward. You must pick a team that you believe is going to win the World Series in October. The best teams like the Dodgers and Yankees will have lower odds like +650 or +700 to start the year. The worst teams like the Tigers or Royals will have odds of +15000. As you can see, one is more likely to happen than the other. These odds are subject to change as the season progresses, but once you place your wager, those odds are locked in for you.

No.2: Who will win the American League or National League?

This betting option stops one step short of the World Series. You simply have to bet on which team will make the World Series from their respective leagues. The odds won’t be as good, but there is still value to be had.

No.3: Division Winners?

This bet is as it sounds. You are picking the team you believe will win their respective division.

Pro Tip No.1:

As easy as it seems to just pick the best teams in the league, it’s not always that simple. The best teams don’t always win the World Series. I suggest looking for a team that you believe is built for postseason success and one that has a steady balance of hitting and pitching. Remember, injuries happen to every team, so I’d also look for a team that can best overcome an injury to a key guy – although it’s not an ideal situation to think about.

Pro Tip No.2:

These bets last the entire season. Seven months. Two hundred and thirteen days from April 1 to October 31. Don’t tie up your entire bankroll by betting futures. Unless you are throwing a few bucks on your favorite team to win it all, then fine. But if you want to bet on a daily basis, having too much exposure on futures bets is a very bad idea. Chances of them hitting are slim, and that will only take away from any profits you do turn betting the daily baseball card.

Photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash

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Editorial Officer, I'm an avid tech enthusiast at heart. I like to mug up on new and exciting developments on science and tech and have a deep love for PC gaming. Other hobbies include writing blog posts, music and DIY projects.

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