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How to Bet on Baseball: 5 Tips and Strategies

by May 23, 2020
NRFI No Runs First Inning Odds Picks

Whether you’re new to sports betting or a betting pro, our How To Bet and Sports Betting Strategy and Advice pages are for you. You can get started with our How To Section — including How to Make a Moneyline Bet at a Sportsbook — or head to more advanced strategy — like Win Totals Strategy for Sports Betting — to learn more.

Baseball season is a sports bettor’s paradise. With 30 teams each playing 162 regular-season games, that provides 2,430 games worth of baseball to bet on.

However, it is not just the amount of action that is enticing for bettors. Baseball provides a great opportunity for sports bettors to make money, given the uniqueness of the odds available. As long as bettors avoid the common pitfalls associated with betting on baseball, it will optimize their chances for success.

In this article we provide five of the best tips and strategies to use to start your baseball betting season off on the right foot.

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Avoid Betting Big Favorites

In other professional sports like the NFL or NBA, the best teams often have tremendous winning percentages. There are always teams that go 13-3 (81.3%) or 12-4 (75%) in the NFL. In the NBA, the best teams typically win 70% of their games.

Since baseball plays twice the amount of games of the NBA and NHL and ten times more games than the NFL, the best teams naturally lose more often. In MLB, a team is heralded for winning 100 games. Thus, a baseball team that goes 100-62 would be considered one of the league’s best with a 61.7% winning percentage.

Baseball is a volatile sport where the hottest teams are routinely foiled by a great starting pitcher. However, when great teams like the Yankees and Dodgers meet inferior opponents, they are often moneyline favorites of -300 or greater. At that price, the favorite would have to win at least three of every four games against their opponent to be worth betting on.

Why is Betting Big Favorites Not Profitable in the Long Run?

Here are some numbers to back up why it is not profitable in the long run to consistently bet big moneyline favorites. In 2019, the Yankees won 103 games while their divisional rival Blue Jays won just 67. In all of their head-to-head meetings, the Yankees were sometimes favorites of greater than -300. For argument’s sake, let’s say the Yankees were on average -250 favorites in each meeting. Considering the Yankees went just 11-8 against the Blue Jays, bettors who wagered $100 on the Yankees moneyline in each contest would have lost $360.

The Yankees own a much better head-to-head record over the lowly Orioles. Over the last two seasons, the New York is 29-9 against Baltimore. However, most of these games came with a price tag of -300. If a bettor bets $100 on the Yankees on each of these contests, they would have only profited $66.67.

The bottom line is oddsmakers know how enticing it is to bet big favorites, but take all the long-term advantage away from bettors by massively inflating their odds.

When Betting the Runline, Only Bet Favorites

Since the scoring structure in baseball is vastly different than the other major sports, its spreads are different as well. Spreads are eschewed in favor of runlines, and favorites are always -1.5 run favorites over underdogs. Depending on how big of favorites they are, the “juice” will be adjusted accordingly.

Instead of betting a big favorite like the Yankees for odds of -300 on the moneyline, one should consider betting their runline of -1.5. You are likely to find their “vig” with such odds being in the range of -140 to -160. This is a much more affordable approach, though you do leave yourself susceptible to a loss if they win by exactly one run.

If you are interested in betting a runline, only bet favorites. The value one can find on underdogs is removed entirely if you take them getting +1.5 runs. Instead, only bet an underdog’s moneyline and root for them to win outright. Otherwise, there is no value left in the runline, and all it got you was insurance if your team loses by one run.

Do Not Lock In Too Early

Though baseball lines are often available the night before a game, do not be tempted to finalize a bet too early. Managers do not release their starting lineups until a couple of hours before the game. Would you be as comfortable betting on the Angels if Mike Trout was not in the lineup? Therefore, it is always better to wait until a starting lineup is publicized to make sure you feel comfortable with your bet.

In addition, weather forecasts can change between the time a line is posted to when a game starts. Be sure to also check your game’s umpiring crew, as some umpires have drastically different strike zones than others.

Take Note of Bullpen Statistics

Often times, baseball lines are heavily influenced by the starting pitching matchup. If Jacob deGrom is facing a struggling pitcher, it is likely the line will be heavily skewed in the Mets’ favor. However, in today’s era of baseball starting pitchers are being removed from games earlier and earlier. This places more of an emphasis on bullpens to record the final outs for their teams.

For even some of the best teams in the league, bullpen ERA is a major weakness. Many teams have a reliable closer, but struggle in middle relief.

The point is that a bettor should not overlook the importance of the starting pitching matchup in determining a game’s results, but it should not be the only factor. If a dominant starting pitcher only lasts five or six innings, 1/3 of the game is left in the hands of other pitchers. Thus, factor in a team’s ability to close games when determining if they are worth your bet.

Look at the Schedules

Baseball is an unrelenting sport schedule-wise with teams not getting many days off. It is common for teams to endure stretches where they play games for two weeks straight without an off day.

Suppose an east coast team is in the middle of a long west coast trip. The extra travel and fatigue is likely to have an impact on their play.

Did a team that played Sunday Night Baseball have a quick turnaround and travel to start another series on Monday? If so, that team likely arrived at their destination in the wee hours of the next morning.

Teams that are coming off a day’s rest have more rested bullpens than teams that are in the midst of consecutive games played. Thus, they are at more of a luxury to employ different strategies throughout the game.

Looking at teams’ schedules takes a matter of seconds. However, this practice can provide key advantages over the oddsmakers who may not have accounted for such circumstances.

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Mike Spector is a featured writer at BettingPros. For more from Mike, check out his archive and follow him @MikeSpector01.

Baseball, Betting 101, How-To