Baseball handicapping presents some unique challenges to prospective and experienced gamblers alike. Many factors make MLB betting a much different animal than things like football and basketball, forcing bettors to adjust to the long season and the variance that goes with it.

Even a good baseball handicapper can go through slumps over the course of a long year, so patience is at a premium and it pays to understand sample sizing. A 162-game season means there’s plenty of room for variance, but that doesn’t mean it can’t go in a positive way for your bankroll.

With that in mind, what are some things to know about baseball handicapping? What must people understand when they sit down to look at a betting board or a score sheet?

Baseball Handicapping Based Upon Listed Pitchers

When you look at a betting board, you will see lots of information. Starting pitchers are listed in prominent fashion beside the team name and this is a clear indication of their importance. They are so important that players can choose to select a game and require that either or both starting pitchers makes the start.

Baseball handicapping, then, becomes a game of pitcher analysis. Handicappers are always looking for hot pitchers and guys that they can rely on. The core of any good baseball handicapping strategy is predicting starting pitcher performance on that day, since he has the power to take over a game or lose it on his own.

Run lines vs. Money Lines

Baseball handicapping provides two different ways for players to bet on a given team. For those who just want to bet on a team to win a game, moneylines are the perfect choice. The problem with that is that most players don’t want to lay the juice required to bet on big favorites.

When that’s the case, they will often opt for run line betting. There are some things to keep in mind when betting run lines, most having to do with betting home favorites. Betting small home favorites on the run line can be dangerous, since the game can and will end when those teams are up by one run.

Contributing Factors in Baseball Handicapping

When a handicapper is assessing a game, he looks at plenty of different things if he is smart. Not all handicappers take a comprehensive approach, but the successful ones almost always consider every little thing that might impact a game’s outcome.

The following factors should be considered by those who want to take a successful baseball handicapping approach:

– Game day weather, specifically accounting for wind strength and direction.

– Umpire’s strike zone tendencies (large or small?).

– Does a team play well at home?

– How well does a team hit right handed and left handed pitching?

– Injuries (including those that haven’t been disclosed).

– Though deciding whether to bet the moneyline, run line, or total is important and analyzing pitchers makes up a huge part of the process, players must also consider various matchups, fatigue factors, ballpark effects, and even the umpires. Unlike with other sports, the venues and umpiring tendencies in baseball can vary and have a distinct impact on the score.

Other Variables to Consider when Handicapping Games

There are a ton of variables to look at when you’re betting baseball, especially MLB and NCAA games. From looking at streaking pitchers and teams to factoring in rookie starters versus veterans there are definitely a lot of things to look at carefully before making your plays. Here are just a few of them:

Avoid “Mirage” Pitchers

Some pitchers put together dazzling starts to the season or piece together a string of great outings. Some of these guys are living on the edge, walking batters and giving up warning track fly balls. If you don’t put in the research and do your homework, you might think that these lucky pitchers have made some adjustments.

Perhaps you’ll think they’ve turned the corner. In reality, some pitchers are just getting lucky for a while and their numbers are bound to regress to the mean. Instead of falling for a mirage pitcher based upon his ERA, consider these factors to understand how he’s really performing:

– Strikeout to walk ratio

– Ground ball to fly ball ratio

– Home runs surrendered per 9 innings

– Swinging strike percentage

Look for those pitchers who can consistently miss bats and keep the ball within the strike zone. You don’t want to get caught with your money on a mirage pitcher on the day he comes back to the mean. You’d rather avoid those guys who are living on the knife’s edge.

Avoid Laying Huge Juice

When making baseball betting picks, it is almost always a terrible idea to lay -300 or higher on a game. When you are paying -360 on a baseball game, you will need to win a very high percentage to be profitable. More times than not, these are sucker bets and the book is raking based upon the huge juice that players lay on these matchups.

Though it might seem like a sure thing and easy money in your pocket, losing one or two of these big moneyline favorites can set you and your bankroll back immensely.

Playing the “Over” when the Home Team is Favored

If you encounter a situation where a home team is favored heavily and you want to bet the over, think again. Many players don’t realize that these are losing baseball betting picks more often than not. The reasoning is quite simple.

In those situations, the home team is going to win the game more times than not. That creates many situations where handicappers are betting the over in a 8.5 inning game. If you are on the over, you will want the full 9 innings to help make your number.