Baseball Betting Explained
Although dubbed as the national pastime of Americans, the number of baseball fans is shockingly low than what one might expect. As of 2014, there are only around 500 million baseball fans around the world. By comparison, ice and field hockey boasts approximately 2 million fans all over the world.
Before understanding how baseball betting works, it is a good idea to first understand the basics of baseball - the rules, the terms used in the game, how scores are determined, and how a team can ultimately win the game.
The main objective of baseball is to score as many runs as possible. The team with the most runs by the end of the game will be declared the winner. The main idea to gain a significant advantage over the other is to for the batter to try to hit the ball thrown by the pitcher as far as they can before they start to go for the four bases to complete one run.
There are two teams in a baseball game, ideally composed of nine players each. These two teams then take trunks playing both the side of the defense and the offense. The offense is about batting and baserunning, and the defense is about pitching and fielding.
In order to play baseball, three pieces of equipment are required: the ball, the bat, and the glove mitt.
First, there is the ball itself. The ball is around 9 inches (23 centimeters) in circumference. It usually has a rubber center, made out of yarn and covered in leather, and sewn together with red thread. Next is the bat. It is usually wood, although other materials like fiberglass are now used, too. It is about 2.5 inches (6.4 centimeters) in diameter near the hitting end and gets narrow up to the handle. It is around 34 inches (86 centimeters) long but not longer than 42 inches (106 centimeters). Finally, the glove mitt is a padded leather glove that is used by the catcher to catch the ball should the batter fail to hit it.
When a team is on offense, they assign one batter to try to hit the ball the pitcher would throw. The batter is sent to the field and positioned on the plate. The pitcher then throws the ball from the pitcher's mound. If the batter hits the ball, the bat is dropped and the batter runs as fast as possible to the first base. They then try to run to as many bases as they can before getting an "out."
Should the batter fail to hit the ball, it is called a strike. The batter gets three strikes before getting an out from the field.
The line score, or also sometimes mistaken as the box score, is a chart in baseball that is used to show the total runs of each team by inning, the absolute total runs, the total hits, and the total errors on both lines.
Usually, the team on the top is the visiting team, while the one on the bottom line is the home team. This is sometimes called by punters of the sport as the top and bottom of the inning. To better understand this, take a look at the line score for the match between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Giants, in a pennant-winning game on October 3, 1951.
Bookmaking is what makes sports betting possible, such as in baseball. Bookmakers, often fondly referred to as the bookies, are people or companies that predict the probability of an outcome happening, such as who would win the game over the other.
From there, bookies would collect bets from both sides of the lines from punters. Sometimes, if more players are betting on one side, they might tip the odds a little to attract more players to bet on the other side.
In-play baseball betting, or also more commonly called live baseball betting, is betting in baseball as the game is played. This is a popular way to bet on major games (e.g., Major Baseball League). In live betting, the line often changes in between innings and it continues to change as the game progresses.
In-play betting can be an excellent way to spot value bets as betting lines move, especially if you know the sport very well already and if you have familiarized yourself with the most common betting markets and how average punters react to specific game actions.
Listed vs Action bets
A listed or action bet is about the starting pitcher of the game. It is usually one of the most important factors as it can influence the movement of the betting lines.
When you bet on the action side, it means you wager on a squad winning, regardless of whom will stand on the mound. Betting on the listed, on the other hand, means you wager to win as long as the pitcher listed on the odds opens the game as planned.
There are several ways to measure certain aspects of baseball. Here are some of them:
Fielding Independent Pitching - FIP is the stat pertaining to the events that a pitcher has more control over. This includes strikeouts, unintentional walks, hit-by-pitches, and home runs. A similar stat to this is the earned run average or ERA.
Weighted Runs Created - wRC+ is the number of Runs Created and adds to account other important factors like ballpark or the ERA.
Pythagorean Wins - This formula calculates the number of games a team should have won based on many factors - like the total number of runs scored parallel to the number of runs allowed.
How To Read Baseball Odds
In baseball, moneyline odds are the most used type of odds. You don't get to see odds in decimal or fractional format and even if you do it is not that common.
Thus, the usual moneyline odd is what you get. To recall, a moneyline odd is divided into two categories:
- the favorite (with the minus sign), and
- the underdog (with the plus sign).
Regardless of the sign, the odds tell you how much you need to bet on the team to make a $100 profit.
Thus, as an example, a favorite's odds of -150 means you need to wager $150 to win a profit of $100. If you want to make a profit of at least $200, you need to make a winning wager with at least $300 on it.
Markets: Types of Baseball Bets
If you are new to baseball betting, having an understanding of the widely available baseball betting markets is key. Beyond that, you want to know how each bet type works and how you can profit from each market.
There are plenty of ways to bet on baseball, and all of them can help you gain huge profit, as long as you palace a strategic wager and get lucky on it. Remember to only wager money you can afford to lose as you will inevitably lose.
Here are the most popular types of bets available on baseball sportsbooks. Being familiar with more than one is highly recommended.
In a moneyline bet, you simply predict who you think would win the game. As simple as that - no other conditions that need to be met, just the win itself is enough to win the wager.
As with almost all sports you can bet on, there is the moneyline bet. Bookies always include this as newbies love settling for this and squares love going for it, too.
A moneyline is an easy and simple bet, but if you really want to make money in sports betting, it is better to learn to explore other betting markets, as well as parlay, acca, and multiple bets.
Example - In a game between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves, you bet that the Yankees would win. If they do, you win the wager and take your profit based on the odds - it's that simple.
Run lines are probably the closest thing to a spread when it comes to baseball. The standard run line in the sport is 1.5, which is the margin of win or loss that the team you wager on should have by the end of the game.
On the other hand, the underdog would only need to win the game outright or lose by only one point.
In baseball, run lines betting is also essentially the same as handicap betting in some other sports.
Example - In a game between the Philadelphia Phillies +1.5 (-140) and the New York Mets -1.5 (+130), the Mets must win by 2 points or more for you to win the bet.
The home run bet is more of a prop bet if anything. You will predict one or many home run statistics, such as:
- who will score the first home run, or
- how many home runs will be scored in the game in total, or
- when the first home run will be scored.
Because home runs are such a core part of baseball, many people cannot help themselves and wager massive amounts on home runs bets.
Example - Based on the odds of the bookies, the San Francisco Giants will make the first home run, and that the game will have a total of 5 home runs, with the first one taking place in the first inning. You can bet on one or all of these.
A totals bet in baseball is similar to an over-under bet for other sports. In this type of bet, the bookies will set a number of runs scored by both teams in total, and you get to bet if you think the actual total runs would be over or under the prediction set by the bookies.
In a totals bet, runs scored in extra innings are always counted to the totals, so always put that into consideration, too.
Example - In a game between Philadelphia and New York, the bookies may propose an odds of +/-8, with overs at -120 and unders at +100. This means that the game should have a total inning of either lower or higher than 8.
In a futures bet, you wager on the team that will win the given tournament. It is usually about who will win the World Series, but futures betting can sometimes be open for division and pennant winners, too.
A future bet as some people have described it is the type of bet where you can get the biggest bang for your buck. If you are patient and are willing to play the long game for the possibility of making a huge profit, then betting on futures might be your thing.
Do take note, however, that making a futures bet means that your money would be "locked" for at least seven months. Betting on futures comes with a considerable amount of risk, but it can also be hugely rewarding if you manage to hit the nail on your bet.
If you are a risk-loving person, then this one is for you.
Example - You palace your money on the New York Yankees winning the World Series for this season.
Also called prop bets, this bet will have you predict a specific outcome of any statistic or fact in-game. And not necessarily about who will win in the end.
A prop bet can be about anything - who will have the first home run, how many strikeouts a pitcher can have, how many home runs a player can have, and many more.
Example - You may wager that the first pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels will have four strikeouts. Your bookie will offer an odds for this prop bet and you place your money on whatever side you prefer.
Parlays in Baseball
Just like in other sports you can bet on, you can also do a parlay bet in baseball. To those still unfamiliar with parlays, it is a type of bet where you combine two or more bets. To win the entire parlay, all conditions within it must be met. It is important to note that you cannot include wagers from one game. This is only possible if a baseball match qualifies for a same-game parlay promotion.
A parlay has a wider margin for profit. However, the catch is that it can be harder to win since you need to accurately predict all parts of the bet.
An example of a simple parlay is a hypothetical game between the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals, and that between the Detroit Tigers and the New York Yankees. You could make a parlay bet for $100 that the Cubas and the Yankees will each win their games.
To win, both of them should win. However, should only one of them win, you lose the entire bet.
Baseball Competitions You Can Bet On
There are not many leagues of baseball that you can bet on, but that is not to say that you have a shortage of betting options. As a punter, you have the option to bet on the big league or to bet on smaller competitions.
Here are some of the baseball competitions you can bet on. For a more accurate availability per location or per app, it is always a good idea to check in with your bookie for more information.
Major League Baseball (MLB)
The MLB is the biggest baseball league in the US and Canada and is also the older professional sports league from the two countries. Founded 118 years ago in 1903, the MLB currently has 30 teams under its umbrella - 30 of which are from the US, and one team from Canada.
In a year, there are usually three stages to MLB games. There is the Spring training where exhibition games and practice games are held. Then comes the regular season, where all teams compete to qualify for the playoffs later that year.
After only a few days of rest from the regular season is the All-Star Games. Finally, what comes next is the postseason playoffs where everyone who qualified from the regular season will compete to be hailed as the champion of the season.
While not all bookies cover college baseball betting, a lot of still offer it under their apps or sites-you just have to find the right bookie.
What makes NCAA college baseball betting a fun option to explore is that it has a lot of games you can wager on compared to the more professional MLB. There are at least 300 Division I teams in the United States.
However, due to the fact that college baseball has significantly lower viewership than the MLB, bookies may not open odds and lines for every college baseball game.
World Series of Baseball
The World Series is still part of the MLB but is played separately from the regular season and its playoff. This league is participated by the winning teams from the American League (AL) and the National League (NL). From there, a seven-game playoff is held determining the eventual champion between the two teams.
Since 2017, the World Series has been officially sponsored by YouTube TV.
World Baseball Classic
The World Baseball Classic (WBC) is an international baseball tournament that is sanctioned by the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) and the MLB and is modeled after the FIFA World Cup.
Although the World Baseball Classic is an international competition, the interest for it within the betting industry is not that big, so not many bookies open their odds for it.
Premier12 World Championships
Officially known as the WBSC Premier12, this is an international tournament that is organized by the WBSC. The 12 in the name comes from their game system - the tournament involves the 12 highest-ranking baseball teams in the world.
Currently, Japan and South Korea hold the most number of titles in the league.
Baseball Betting Strategies That Works
Now that you know the type of bets you can make with baseball, as well as the leagues that you can wager your money on, the time has come to make that first bet.
However, knowing how to place a bet on baseball and knowing how to place a good baseball bet are two entirely different things. To bet, you only need your money and a bookie. To make a good and strategic bet, you need both of those mentioned, plus a sound baseball betting strategy that is data-driven rather than gut-driven.
Here are some of the top baseball betting strategies you can apply to your next wagers.
Follow the reverse line movement
In baseball betting, settling for the moneylines is the easiest way to just get a betting fix. However, if you really want to make money out of this, you have to practice becoming a sharp punter, too.
Most professional bettors follow what is called the reverse Line Movement. This refers to the instance when the betting lines start moving toward the opposite direction of the betting percentages.
Take this instance as an example: the Phillies start with an odds of -150 against the Yankees at +130. Although the Phillies are getting the majority of the bets, then you notice that they start to lose on the odds and fall at -135 while the Yankees start to gain at +145.
Why does this happen? This is because the bookies know that the Yankees is the sharp choice so even if they get less of the bets, the lines have moved as the sharp action is one their side.
Start simple, avoid parlay and teaser bets
Although the real profit is in parlay betting and teaser bets, there is nothing wrong with starting simple with just a straightforward moneyline bet. Start simple, and take your time learning the more complex things before you "move up," so to speak.
The more you get the hang of reading sports betting odds, learning to follow the reverse line movement, the more you will be able to handle yourself better when you finally start to make a parlay or teaser bets, or even more complicated types of bets.
Lastly, with simpler outright winner bets, calculating your profit is easier than with parlay payouts which can get extremely complicated.
Bet a little but often thanks to MLB volume betting
For some, betting on baseball is different from other sports in the way that there are fewer games played and thus fewer chances of betting. While that is true, you can use that fact to your advantage - this is where volume betting comes in.
In volume betting, you only limit your wages to the most valuable games, as opposed to betting on as many games as possible. At first glance, it may appear that focusing on valuable games may offer smaller ROI but in the long run, staying on this consistent pattern always proves to be a profitable strategy.
Default to betting against the public
The "public" refers to the obvious and biggest popular choices in a bet. This can be the team that appears to be the most popular choice across bookies or a team that is a heavy favorite for the bookies and for fans, too.
However, the public bet is not a good bet as it loses a lot of times. Additionally, the public bet is prone to what is called the recency bias (or, the availability heuristics). A team that recently did well is sure to be a huge favorite - but that doesn't mean that they will surely win.
Bookies will also try to take advantage of this fact. Since they know that the public will side with the recent winner, they will try to tip the odds to encourage more people to be on the favorite. If they would be able to play this enough and make sure that the house is still at the advantage, they are in for a huge profit at the end of the game.
Implement strict bankroll management and betting limits per play
Your bankroll is the heart and soul of your betting "career." Learning how to properly manage it is a huge factor in your long-term success. There are several ways you can manage it properly, and one way is to limit your bet amount per play. In essence, you should choose to bet using smaller amounts rather than fewer yet larger bets.
Through this, you get to increase your potential of winning while significantly decreasing the risks you take in every wager you make. Additionally, by betting more often with smaller amounts, you can learn a lot quicker and experiment more!
Be careful with divisional underdogs
Divison players are more familiar with each other since they play with each other a lot compared to the bigger leagues like that of the MLB.
Statistically speaking, as of 2005, underdogs in divisional games have lost 72.1 units, while dogs in games outside the division have lost an astounding 645.7 units. This means that an underdog in a divisional game is not in the same position as that of underdogs outside of division games. They are bound to win more, and some even say that being an underdog in a division does not matter much compared to being an underdog on, say, MLB.
So, if you are thinking of ignoring the underdog on a division game and settling for the favorites, think again - the sharp bet might be a bet on the underdog, after all.
Niche down your baseball betting expertise
Although baseball is not as big as other sports like football, there are still several leagues, players, teams, and markets that you can bet on. While betting on all markets and niches may sound like expanding your potential for profit, it is in fact as bad as chasing two rabbits at once - you might end up losing them both.
In this sense, trying to be a jack-of-all-trades in baseball betting may result in you just taking more losses than profits.
So, choose a league you will focus on, choose a type of bet you will master, and stick to it. Master that choice and make it your craftsman, and you will eventually notice how you eventually become more profitable through time.
Shop around for the best value lines
There is no point in just settling in one bookie. Shop around for the best odds and lines - after all, it is as easy as getting a new app and looking at what that new sportsbook has to offer!
Baseball Betting: FAQ
Answers to the most common questions about betting on baseball.
How do baseball betting lines work?
Baseball betting lines are usually only presented in moneyline format - making it easier to read. There are favorites and underdogs
How often do favorites win in baseball?
Statistically speaking, at least 6 out of 10 MLB favorites win. The New York Yankees are the most successful home favorite and the LA Dodgers are the top road favorite in winning games.
What is the difference between action and listed bets in baseball?
An action bet is a bet for the team to win regardless of the player who will take the mound. A listed bet is a bet that the team will win, but their pitcher must be consistent with the one that the odds listed before the games started.
Do baseball pitchers influence the odds a lot?
Since pitchers are in control of the most critical part of the game - the ball, and the throwing of the ball - the person taking the mound affects the odds as it can tip the balance of the game.
What is the money line in baseball?
The moneyline is the most straightforward and simplest way you can bet on baseball. Simply predict which team you think would win, and place your money on it.
What is the run line in baseball betting?
Run line betting is the closest thing to a spread bet or a handicap bet when it comes to baseball.
How to make money betting on baseball?
There are several ways, but the two things that could increase your odds of making it big long-term are learning proper and effective bankroll management and mastering the betting market that works best for you.