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

Now that the 2022 MLB season is about to get underway we can reflect on the treacherous past couple of months, filled with uncertainty, lockouts, and negotiations as a mere bump in the road. This guide assists gamblers in the quest to fare far better than failing 7 out of 10 times.

How to Read MLB Game Odds

MLB Moneylines

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.

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 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 almost 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 two or more runs. For the Dodgers to cover, they would need to win the game outright or not lose by more than one run.

For bettors just learning how to bet on baseball, a money line 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 and 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 predicates 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 money line 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.  

MLB Totals: Runs, Forrest, Runs!

Chicks dig the long ball. Most everyone prefers 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 eight 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.

A good example for years to come should be such as Mets ace and arguably the best MLB pitcher Jacod deGromm vs. former teammate-turned rival Phillies ace Zack Wheeler. 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.

MLB Futures Betting: From Crystal Balls to Buying Crystals

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, arm angle, and as a result, sometimes seasons 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 alters 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. Last year, only 15 players achieved a .300 batting average, which has long been the benchmark for quality hitters. Ten seasons ago, that highly sought mark stood at 25. Albeit 20 seasons ago stood in the heart of the Steroid Era, 35 players hit .300 in the 2002 season.

Futures betting on baseball teams involves its own package of unpredictable risk. 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.

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 then 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 +632 odds and profit $316. 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?

More examples of MLB props can be found in our MLB Prop Betting Guide.

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.

MLB Betting Strategies

Betting Strategy Strike One: MLB Advanced Analytics

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 break.

Regardless of handiness, a batter’s historical performance against individual pitchers unveils what a bettable matchup might look like. ESPN honored Mike Trout as the best player to debut since Ken Griffey Jr (whose rookie season was 1989). Unheralded Royals pitcher Brad Peacock begs to differ. Trout bats just .130 with no home runs and eight strikeouts in his 23 at-bats against Peacock. Outliers like this prove their worth in daily fantasy leagues and prop bets. 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 Two: Don’t Forget Where Bets Park

The ball bounces the same on every NBA court. Ice doesn’t discriminate. Domes promote passing, Denver’s stadium makes kicking easier, and artificial turf terrorizes lower extremities, but NFL fields generally don’t matter until the temperature drops late in the season.

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 percent 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 Three: 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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