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How to Bet on Baseball – MLB Betting Guide and Betting Strategies

Looking for a complete breakdown on how to bet on baseball? OddsJam has you covered. Our MLB betting expert dives into reading MLB odds, different types of baseball betting and how you can become a successful MLB sports bettor.

No matter what sport you’re betting on, OddsJam is your one-stop shop for placing mathematically profitable bets. Use the OddsJam Positive Expected Value tool to find clear outliers in the sportsbook markets, and the OddsJam Fantasy Optimizer to create the best DFS entries on apps like PrizePicks and Underdog Fantasy.

How to Read MLB Game Odds

You can’t hit a baseball you can’t see and you can’t knock the money ball out of the park if you can’t view betting lines properly.  In sports betting, whether it’s betting on baseball, hockey, basketball or football, a moneyline bet involves you picking a team to win the game outright. Moneyline odds replicate the same look for favorites and underdogs.

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Consider a game between arguably the game’s most iconic rivals for example:

  • Boston Red Sox -200
  • New York Yankees  +170

In this scenario, Boston is the favorite, while New York is the underdog. Sportsbooks denote the favorites with a minus sign (-) and underdogs with the plus sign (+)

What do the numbers following the signs mean? A bettor wagering $100 on the Red Sox earn a payout of $150. The original money is returned in full, in addition to a profit of $50. Betting on the underdog always pays better, because those brave enough to do so hypothetically take a greater risk to lose.

In this case, a $100 wager on the Yankees earns $270 – the $100 returns alongside $170 welcomed with open arms and wallets. 

Run Line Baseball Betting

The run line is Major League Baseball’s version of the point spread. Before the game, one team is given the advantage of 1.5 runs to create a more even betting field. The reason the number of runs scored is always set at 1.5 is that baseball is generally a low-scoring sport. 

Run line odds appear as follows:

  • San Francisco Giants -1.5
  • Los Angeles Dodgers +1.5

For the Giants to cover the run line, they would need to win by 2 or more runs. For the Dodgers to cover, they would need to win the game outright or not lose by more than 1 run. For bettors just learning how to bet on baseball, a moneyline bet is often the safest way to ease yourself into the wagering scene, but a run line bet allows you to get more specific with your bets.

With a 1.5-run line, you will be able to place a wager on the favored team to win by 2 runs or more, or the underdog team to lose by 1 run or to win the game. The line would be set on the favorites at -1.5, which essentially means the team must win by 2 or more runs, or “cover” the 1.5 run line.

First Five Innings: A Time & Money-Saving Alternative

Some groan at baseball’s notorious game duration. America’s pastime degenerates into “past my bedtime” frequently, even though maligned Commissioner Rob Manfred implemented drastic measures to speed the game up.

As such, it behooves those lacking patience to bet on the first five innings of the game. A more sound fundamental rationale exists from a strategic standpoint. The baseball season takes far more time to settle into than other sports. Success is predicated on mechanics that take time to consistently executive.

Pitchers’ arms need to be stretched out, hitters need to find the optimal stance and see how an offseason of new game tape and rapidly developing analytics dictates the shifting defensive alignments designed to exploit hitting weaknesses. Managers develop a feel for the best lineups and pitching rotations to balance success and rest for nine-figure investments that pay off in September and October. Early slumps surprise everyone, including sportsbooks. This is where the first five innings betting comes in.

F5 bets mirror moneyline bets, but only for the first five innings of a game. To make this wager, bettors only need to handicap starting pitchers and consider performance over five innings. There’s less risk with F5 bets since bettors don’t have to deal with the running of the bullpen, just the starters and maybe one reliever.

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MLB Totals in Baseball Betting

Most people prefer the thunderous crack of the baseball bat that rains down an upper-deck home run over a technical pitching and defensive clinic that just breaks bats in half.

Baseball betting presents the chance to score big on the score itself with run total betting. Consider the following example:

  • Over 7.5 runs
  • Under 7.5 runs

All a bettor has to do here to win is determine whether the combined runs from both teams will be more or less than the oddsmaker’s set number. Those predicting at least 8 runs take the over. Those anticipating a lower score take the under.

The considerations behind the numbers outsmart the seemingly simple game betting on runs creates. The pitching matchup influences the line. For instance, a game featuring two premium pitchers that are familiar with the opposing lineup lowers the anticipated score, since it’s pitchers with an already-apt ability to produce outs boosted by extensive experience on batter tendencies, adjustments and reactions to personal pitching sequences.

On the other hand, a matchup between two lineups designed around home runs going against a pitcher known to surrender more than usual forecasts a high-scoring contest. This guide explores more specific strategies later.

Futures Betting: From Crystal Balls to Buying Crystals When Baseball Betting

Futures odds are available on pennant races, the World Series and the major baseball awards that are subject to wagers before the regular season starts and throughout the year. Most contrarian risk-takers prefer to bet on futures. Underdog odds reach the equilibrium of being high enough to attract great value on return if the team or player shocks the sports world, yet since no team has played yet, there is no clear picture formed on any favorite.

Fear of the unknown trumps fear of missing out for risk-averse bettors. Unexpected injuries derail seasons. Pitchers in particular are prone to unforeseen wear and tear on arms that can give out after just one overly demanding outing. The average MLB fastball blazes faster than ever at almost 93 miles per hour and curveballs are en vogue at an earlier age.

Evolution places more wear on pitching arms that need to produce faster pitches to miss hitters with quicker bat speed than ever. Otherwise, taxing trickery bewilders hitters with changes in velocity and arm angle. As a result, sometimes seasons end from sudden throwing injuries.

Obstacles blockade hitters from getting into the swing of the season too. Team building depends on advanced analytics that point hitters in a relatively new direction of pure power-hitting, to the point that on-base percentage outweighs batting average in perceived importance.

The launch angle and exit velocity required to launch baseballs into gleeful stands alter the swing and overall approach of many hitters that adapt to new environments after decades of opposite principles ruling baseball basics. The last two seasons garnered the lowest league batting average since 1972.

Futures betting on baseball teams involves its own package of unpredictable risks. Baseball success leans on the entirety of the 26-man roster more than arguably any other sport. Keep in mind that nobody other than Shohei Ohtani duals as a regular pitcher and hitter.

Every hitter gets a similar amount of plate appearances per game in a series of individual matchups, unlike hockey or basketball where players play both ways and coaches design where the ball goes, or football where, in addition to plays, the quarterback touches the ball on every play.  Even MLB’s all-time home run hitter with the most MVP trophies Barry Bonds failed to add a World Series ring to his astounding accolades.


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MLB Parlays: Swinging for Financial Fences

Parlays mimic the all-or-nothing offensive style most teams deploy. Parlays connect for moonshot levels of money or make gamblers grimace if they get caught looking at what could’ve been. Parlay action moves wilder than a Bugs Bunny changeup.

Parlay players welcome the luck a rabbit’s foot brings. The more wagers added to the parlay, the higher the potential payout becomes.  Parlay payouts continue to increase with more wagers added in. To win a parlay, all bets need to succeed. The entire payoff strikes out if even just one leg of ten fails. 

For example, look at a three-leg parlay on the Yankees -150, Dodgers +115 and Braves -135. The initial $50 would be bet on the Yankees -150, if that wins, the bettor moves up to $83.33. That $83.33 would then be bet on the Dodgers +115, if that wins, earnings would be up to $179.16. Again, the $179.16 would then be placed on Braves -135, if that wins, the bet pays off and the wager victor enjoys the spoils of $311.87.

It doesn’t matter what order the bets are placed in, as long as all three cash, the winnings will be the same. Bettors don’t need to crunch numbers themselves. OddsJam’s parlay calculator calculates everything in seconds!

MLB Prop Bets

Prop betting allows you to wager on very specific instances, especially during the playoffs. Props are bets on a particular player or team milestones that may not directly influence the outcome of the game. Here are some common examples:

  •  How many RBIs will Player X have?
  •  How many bases will Player Y steal?
  •  How many home runs will Player Z have?
  •  How many strikeouts will Pitcher A have?

In-Play Odds: Live Betting on Baseball Games

In-play betting covers results that are happening in real-time. This unique style of betting adds flavor to an otherwise mundane game. It can also be a sneaky option for profit if bettors notice a pattern developing throughout what they’re watching.

For example, perhaps a team is narrowly winning, but the starting pitcher looks tired and his team feels the effects of frequent use lately. On the positive side, a pitcher bringing his best stuff to the mound translates to more strikeouts, fewer runs, and longer outings resulting in a win. All of these ongoing developments can be bet on through most sportsbooks.

Click here to shop for the best MLB odds with OddsJam’s odds comparison tool.

Betting Strategy Strike 1: Strength in Numbers

Football is a game of inches. Baseball is a game of integers. Statistics paint a more vivid picture of a professional baseball game’s likely outlook than other sports. Advanced analytics like sabermetrics are daunting, but a trove of simpler numbers locate value bets.

 Many hitters’ lefty/righty splits reveal exploitable weaknesses. most batters hit better against opposite-handed pitching than against same-handed pitching. One major reason is that batters have an easier time seeing the ball when it’s thrown from the opposite hand.

Another important reason is that breaking balls generally break away from same-handed batters and in toward opposite-handed batters. Most batters have an easier time adjusting to inward than outward breaks.

Regardless of handiness, a batter’s historical performance against individual pitchers unveils what a bettable matchup might look like. Leading fantasy sports site RotoWire houses easily searchable MLB matchup data.

There are too many statistics that serve as helpful baseball betting tools to completely mention. Baseball-Reference explains how they are used. Sabermetrics pioneer Bill James’ baseball writings and discussions expand any blooming bettors’ statistical toolbox.

Betting Strategy Strike 2: Don’t Forget Where Bets Take Place

The ball bounces the same on every NBA court. Ice doesn’t discriminate.

Baseball strays from athletic tradition by having each park etch a unique, indelible mark on every game. Short porches render today’s Yankee Stadium a Bronx bandbox. Sea breezes flowing from the opposite side of the map suppress home runs at San Diego’s Petco Park.

Chicago’s iconic Wrigley Field resides in the middle figuratively and literally, depending on how the wind behaves. Keep this in mind when betting on games and individual players. Colorado Rockies players experience a particularly stark contrast on the road. Coors Field guzzles pitchers suffering from diminished stamina resulting from the park’s highest altitude in baseball while balls travel 5% further due to the reduced Magnus Force.

Analytics address this via park factor. Park factor is a formulaic calculation that seeks to show how much players on a particular team were helped by playing in their home park for half the games each season.

Betting Strategy Strike 3: Umpires Matter

A growing number of non-traditionalists support artificial intelligence replacing umpires in baseball to finally achieve an objective, uniform strike zone. Unions protect umpire jobs from robotic replacement. Until science fiction becomes reality, baseball relies on the flawed, aged eyes of umpires who impact the game with their judgmental idiosyncrasies.

The strike zone covers the home plate from between a batter’s shoulders and the top of the uniform pants. Some umpires stretch these official parameters to quicken the game. Others narrow the strike zone, helping batters reach base. Individual strike zones occasionally vary based on player history.

Accomplished pitchers receive generous strike zones from many umpires out of respect. Those who complain from either side of the plate might have trouble receiving the benefit of borderline calls. As such, knowing an umpire’s tendencies increases bettors’ chances of winning on singular game wagers.


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