Major League Baseball is thriving these days, after losing fans in the 2000s thanks to a major performance-enhancing drug scandal. A recent Harris poll showed that, as of this writing, pro baseball is bigger than every major US sport besides the National Football League.
This means baseball has finally wrestled second-place in popularity away from NCAA football. Baseball is back, in the United States, and wagers on baseball are increasing as a result. We break down the basics to betting MLB below, but we also have a ton of individual guides you can check out as well – enjoy!
Pros & Cons of Baseball Betting
The biggest challenge to pro baseball bettors is the length of the season combined with frequently-played games. Each team plays 162 games over the course of a seven-month season. The amount of perspective required of MLB bettors is considerable, as even the best handicapper will undoubtedly hit losing streaks over such a long period of betting.
A big draw for sports bettors who choose to wager on pro baseball is the variety of wagers available. Because baseball is America’s “national pastime,” and because it attracts a lot of wagers, online sportsbooks have developed a few extra ways for fans to lay bets.
Gamblers who are fans of using statistical research are drawn to MLB wagering because of the wealth of numbers available for study. In the 1990s, the introduction of advanced statistics beyond those provided by the league (known as Sabermetrics) increased the amount and kinds of numbers handicappers can use to make their picks. Sabermetrics was invented for Major League Baseball, but has since been expanded to improve research for all major sports.
How to Bet on Major League Baseball
To clear up some of the most basic questions right out of the gate, here is a breakdown of the most popular types of baseball wagers available from sportsbooks.
Moneyline Betting – Wagering on one team to win outright.
A straight moneyline wager requires a bet on one of two sides in a baseball game. Obviously, the team that a book favors will pay out a smaller amount for a win than an underdog that pulls off an upset. The moneyline indicates which team is expected to win as well as information about payouts.
Run Line Betting – Wagering on a team to win by two or more runs.
The run line is set for each game, along with a set of odds for a team’s likelihood of winning by multiple runs. The reason a bettor would select the run line over the moneyline is the larger payout available from a successful run line wager. Bettors read the run line just like they would a moneyline, meaning it indicates the favored team, the underdog, and the payout details for a winning wager on both sides.
Game Total Betting – Wagering on the total number of runs scored by both sides.
Most-commonly referred to as “Over/Under” betting, wagering on game totals means betting whether the total number of runs scored by both teams will be “over” or “under” the number set by different oddsmakers.
A common look to a totals bet would look like this: New York Yankees vs. Minnesota Twins O/U 7.5 (-110). This means, if you feel the Yankees and Twins will score a combined total of less than 7, bet the under. If you think they will score more than 7.5, bet the “over”. In this case, both the over and the under paid out the same.
Parlay Betting – Wagering on several teams to win in a single bet.
Major League Baseball parlays work just like those for the NFL or any other sport. A parlay is an option for combining several wagers onto a single outlay. Bettors can choose between numbers of outcomes to wager on, with the payout increasing as more bets are added to the card. Every team selected to win on a bettor’s parlay sheet must win outright or the bet is unsuccessful. This is a high-risk / high-reward wager that some even consider a prop bet rather than a traditional MLB wager.
Baseball Futures Bets – Wagering in advance on team performance.
Futures betting is exactly what it sounds like – bettors take an early shot at selecting the outcome of the next season’s World Series. Oddsmakers offer their numbers based on preliminary handicapping, but since so much can change in the course of a season, bettors sometimes find good value opportunities during the early betting season.
Futures odds change during the early season based on their performance; a smart bettor with decent inside information about an underdog can profit by wagering early on a good set of futures odds for that team. It always comes down to doing your homework – so research away baby!
Must-Bet MLB Games
Because the season is unusually long for a professional sports league, some gamblers place MLB bets more casually. For punters looking for just a few decent times to wager during a baseball season should pay attention to these three events in particular.
1. MLB All-Star Game
Known as “The Summer Classic,” the league’s All-Star Weekend is a time for MLB to show off its best and brightest. There are more options for betting during All-Star Weekend than just the game itself, including lots of prop action during the Homerun Derby and other All-Star events.
This series of events is also a chance to wager on something that’s just plain fun – which of two groups of the sports’ best players will win out. To those who say All-Star games are meaningless, Major League Baseball now awards home-field advantage in the World Series based on this game’s winner.
The MLB All-Star Game is a legit event of interest to sports betting fans for those two reasons, and because the game’s usually a lot of fun to watch, unlike the NFL’s infamously-bad All-Star contest.
2. The World Series
Major League Baseball’s seasonal championship is decided during a best-of-7 game known as the World Series. This is the final event of the baseball season, pitting the two best teams in the league against one another to name an overall champion. The various storylines that play out depending on the World Series matchup, and the overall popularity of the Series itself, makes wagering during MLB’s championship more entertaining than betting any old game of the season.
3. Major Rivalry Games
Baseball is played in series of games, between two and four. This means that when two rivals meet, they’ll often play three games or more all in a row. Imagine the Cowboys and Redskins playing two or three weekends in a row in pro football.
Rivalries increase the excitement of what can be a dull regular season and increase bettor interest and action in the games. That means the lines are likely to move more when the Yankees play the Red Sox or the Cubs battle the Cardinals. Besides practical reasons, the spectacle of two historical rivals going head-to-head is more fun to watch than some random series in early June.
Baseball Betting Strategy
If NBA betting is a marathon as opposed to a sprint, then pro baseball bets are a double-marathon. A given day’s MLB game schedule is incredibly crowded – the sheer number of games played in the league makes regularly laying bets on the pro game difficult.
These tips will help a novice bettor establish a decent MLB betting strategy and give casual bettors some insight into how to approach wagers on this classic American sport.
- Develop a Statistical Approach
The already-discussed wealth of stats in baseball means it is a bit easier to research a pick – stat geeks regularly compile numbers like “weighted park factor” and even the tendencies of different umpires, all of which should help any bettor improve their chances of making a wise pick.
- Pay Attention to Pitchers
The standard line on MLB wagering is that it is a game of pitching. It is true that the name listed on the roster at starting pitcher can impact the potential outcome as well as the Vegas line – developing a working knowledge of the league’s pitchers is a good idea if you want to become an expert baseball handicapper.
- . . . But Not Too Much
Too often, pro sports are broken down into their simplest elements. We hear that a good offense in the NBA can beat a good defense or that “defense wins football games.” Too-often, it’s also saiad that MLB games are all about head-to-head pitching battles. Concentrating too much on any one position or statistic is a recipe for disaster. Picking games on starting pitchers alone is a bad strategy.
- Research Injury Reports Regularly
Baseball teams have more freedom with their injury lists than other pro sports teams in different leagues. Teams often place payer on their disabled list for a day, or leave injured players off until the last minute, all as part of their overall strategy. Be sure you watch to make sure a key team piece is not suddenly disabled by a team just before game time.
Major League Baseball betting is difficult because bettors are forced to make a pick in the extreme short-term of a very long season. But the variety of bets available, the ease of statistical research, and the choice of up to 16 games a night to wager on for 200 nights a year means bettors with a high baseball IQ stand to profit over the long run.