How to Bet on MLB

Types of MLB Bets

There are several main categories of MLB bets: moneylines, run lines, totals, player props, parlays and futures

Moneyline betting is most common because the bet is very simply just which team will win the game. 

Run lines are similar to point spreads, but in lower-scoring sports like baseball or hockey, the line is almost always set at -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog. 

Totals are the total over/under on runs scored in any given game.

Player props are bets that are based on how a specific player performs in a game. Common player props are home runs and total bases for hitters, and strikeouts for pitchers.

Parlays are combining any of these bets together for a potentially higher payout. Remember with a parlay, you lose all your stake if ANY of the legs of the parlay lose.

Futures are bets that will be settled as the season progresses, likely at the very end. Common future bets include National League/American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, NL/AL Cy Young Award winner, NL/AL Rookie of the Year, World Series Champion and total wins by a team in the season. 

How to Read MLB Moneylines

An MLB moneyline is simply betting on which team will win that game. It doesn’t matter the run differential or how it happens — if the team you bet on gets a win in the standings, it’s a win for your bankroll.

The favorite is listed with a (-) sign (so you need to risk more than you will win) and the underdog has a (+), meaning that a potential win would pay out more than your stake in purely winnings.

Of course you’d get back your stake as well. There are some times when it’s an even matchup that both teams will be slightly minus on the moneyline. For example, the “favorite” listed at -113 and the “underdog” at -107. 

Lines in baseball are often tighter than many other sports, with some books like WynnBet having just a 10-point differential in the odds. For example, if the San Francisco Giants are playing the St. Louis Cardinals, the Giants may be –114 on the moneyline. That would make the Cardinals +104 with the 10-point differential. 

Projected starting pitchers can make a massive difference in a moneyline from game to game, even within the same series. If Giants ace Carlos Rodón is pitching against the Cardinals on a given night, the Giants might be closer to -170.

Meanwhile, if the Giants don’t have a true starter lined up the next night and will be pitching a bullpen game, the Cardinals might even be favored despite the two teams and city they are playing in being exactly the same. 

How to Read MLB Run Lines (Point Spread)

In baseball, the point spread is referred to as a run line. Just like the point spread in any other sport, for your run line bet to win your team must “cover” the line.

Since MLB is so random and for the most part there’s not a huge separation between teams and the games are lower scoring than football or basketball, the run line is almost always set at -1.5 for the favorite and +1.5 for the underdog.

For example, if the New York Mets are playing the Atlanta Braves in New York, the Mets might be -1.5 favorites. Any bet on the Mets run line would win if the Mets win by 2 or more runs. On the other hand, a run line bet on the Braves at +1.5 would win if the Braves win the game OR lose by 1 run. 

Since not as many runs are scored in baseball as points in other sports, the 1.5 runline often comes with skewed odds. For example, maybe in that game the Mets are barely the favorites and it’s expected to be a tight game.

Mets -1.5 might be at +140 odds since any 1-run game is a loss. This would make Braves +1.5 around -160 odds since they can win OR lose by 1 run.

Just as with the moneyline, projected starting pitchers can have a big impact on the run line. If Max Scherzer is pitching this game for the Mets, New York -1.5 might be closer to -110. On the other hand if it’s a spot starter at the back end of the rotation, the Braves might be the favorites and have -1.5 as their run line instead. 

How to Read MLB Over/Unders or Totals

A total bet is simply if the amount of runs scored by both teams combined in the game are higher or lower than the line set. Totals are typically the second-most popular way to bet baseball behind the moneyline

In other sports, totals typically fall into a pretty tight range considering how scoring the sport is. For example NBA totals rarely fall short of 210 or exceed 230. In the NFL, most totals are somewhere in the 40s.

Considering how few runs are scored in baseball, MLB totals have a massive range depending on pitching matchups, ballparks, weather and now apparently the makeup of the baseball itself. This season appears to have a “dead” ball with fewer home runs being hit across the league. In prior years, a game at Coors Field in Denver could have a total as high as 13 or 14.

On the other hand, a matchup between aces like Max Scherzer and the Mets facing Walker Buehler and the Dodgers could see the total as low as 5.5 or 6.

Totals can also vary depending on the wind, especially at ballparks such as Wrigley Field in Chicago. If the wind is blowing strongly out, the total can become several runs higher than if it was blowing in toward home plate, making deep fly balls that could be home runs on another day routine plays for the outfielders.

How MLB Prop Bets Work

In addition to betting on team and total game outcomes, player props are another great way to bet and find positive expected value. Player props are solely dependent on that given player’s performance. The team winning or losing has no relevance to the bet.

For pitchers, player props can include total strikeouts, total outs recorded, total hits allowed, and total earned runs allowed. Each of those props has an over/under total set with odds that can be as simple as -110 on both sides or significantly favored in one direction.

For hitters, it’s a little more complicated. Two of the most common player props are choosing a player to hit a home run, and the total bases for a given player.

Betting on a player to hit a home run will always be the underdog bet, or listed at plus money. No hitter could homer often enough to have their yes odds to hit a home run listed at minus odds. For total bases, the odds are almost always either 0.5 or 1.5.

The more contact-oriented players at the bottom of the lineup typically have their total at 0.5, with plus money on the under and the over being the favorite.

Sluggers near the top of the order usually have their total at 1.5. It’s important to remember that only hits count toward total bases. Walks, a hit-by-pitch and reaching on an error or fielder’s choice do not count.

If the total is 1.5, for instance, a player can cash the over by either getting any hit greater than a single (double, triple, home run), or multiple singles. 

How MLB Parlays Work

MLB parlays are combining multiple bets into one that pay out at a higher rate than straight bets. In order for a parlay to win, none of the legs in it can lose.

If one pushes (baseball totals are often whole numbers like 8.0 as opposed to 7.5 or 8.5), that leg of the parlay is eliminated and it reverts to a parlay with one fewer leg.

For example, if you have a four-leg parlay and three win while one pushes, you get paid out as if it was a three-leg parlay. Click here to learn more about parlays in general.

Baseball parlays are incredibly popular but also very tough. Any team can and will beat any other on any given night, which makes winning a baseball parlay difficult. 

Same-game parlays are also very popular in baseball, as are parlays within the same game. It’s possible to choose combinations from main markets as well as alternate lines and player props.

For example, in a Yankees-Red Sox matchup with Gerritt Cole pitching, a same-game parlay might be:

  • 1st Leg: Yankees To Win
  • 2nd Leg: Gerritt Cole Over 6.5 Strikeouts
  • 3rd Leg: Aaron Judge To Hit a Home Run

To get paid out, all three of those things must happen. Of course, it’s possible to put together a safer parlay at lower odds, for instance:

  • 1st Leg: Yankees +2.5
  • 2nd Leg: Gerritt Cole Over 3.5 Strikeouts
  • 3rd Leg: Aaron Judge To Get a Hit

MLB Futures

In baseball, common future bets include National League/American League Most Valuable Player Award winner, NL/AL Cy Young Award winner, NL/AL Rookie of the Year, World Series Champion and total wins by a team in the season. 

For the individual awards, if you’re placing a bet early in the season there will be a gigantic list of players to choose from ranging from the superstars to solid players who could have a surprising breakout year at longer odds.

With all awards, it’s important to consider a player’s track record with injuries.

For example, Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom is arguably the most dominant pitcher in the sport and is a major threat to win the Cy Young Award year after year. But he has a history of arm injuries that can keep him sidelined for much of the season.

MLB Betting Strategies:

We’ve gone over the basics of each type of MLB bet, so now let’s go over strategies. 

  • Starting pitchers/lineups
    • As mentioned in nearly every category, starting pitchers have a huge impact on the performance of the team on the day that they are pitching, and therefore the odds. Within the same series with all other circumstances the exact same, there can be a huge odds shift from game to game if a team goes from their fifth spot in the rotation one day to the ace the next day. Be sure to do your research on the pitching matchups — don’t just blindly bet the teams.
    • With the exception of strange circumstances like doubleheaders or late injuries, MLB managers announce their lineups several hours before first pitch. These announcements can shift lines slightly depending on if it’s a day off for one or multiple star players. There’s risk and reward to betting early in the day before lineups are announced, but value can be found if prior to the announcement you believe that a team isn’t going to put out its best nine players that day.
  • Weather
    • Some teams like the Blue Jays play in a dome and others like the Diamondbacks play in a stadium with a retractable roof. But, for the most part, baseball is an outdoor sport that can be influenced by the weather — especially the wind. If a pitcher with a flyball tendency is playing at Wrigley Field when the wind is blowing out, that could end up in a much worse performance than statistically projected.
  • Recent tendencies and bullpen performance
    • Hitters in baseball tend to be a streaky bunch, so it can be just as informative to look at a player’s or team’s performance in the last five to 10 games as it can be to look at season statistics.
    • On the pitching side, taking a look back at the games the previous couple days can give a bettor an edge over the casual square bettor. Has a team used its best relief pitchers on back-to-back days? If so, it’s probably unlikely that those pitchers will take the mound three days in a row. 

OddsJam Betting Guidelines for MLB

MLB Expert Picks

Here at OddsJam, our team has daily articles breaking down the best bets around baseball for that day. We have you covered on everything from NRFIs (no runs first inning) to home run props and more.

MLB Public Betting Data

In addition to finding value in the odds using the OddsJam Perfect Line, another way to identify value in baseball is by identifying where the public money is.

Public money means the percentage of bettors on one side of a bet. For example, the Yankees have a large fanbase and are consistently hammered by the public, which often forces the odds to shift to a worse price.

That means their opponent for the day may end up at a far better price than the opening line, and therefore could present value. 

The percentage of bettors on one team is just one side of the equation. The other is the percentage of actual money staked on the teams. If the Yankees have 80% of the bets, but the money is split 50/50, that means that big money is coming in from the 20% of people betting against the Yankees.

This suggests sharp action on the opposing team because the sharps have identified value and risked larger amounts than the typical public bettor. 

There are many different sites and tools to get access to these percentage breakdowns that can be very helpful for finding value.

MLB Projections

To find the implied probability of your bet winning based on the odds, head over to the No-Vig fair odds calculator right here on OddsJam. Let’s say that the Cardinals are -145 against the Cubs, who are listed as the underdog at +125. 

Plugging those odds in gives us this:

As you can see when you remove the juice from the line, the fair odds on the Cardinals are -133.16 which gives an implied win probability of 57.11% on a Cardinals bet. For more on implied probability, visit our article: How to Calculate Implied Probability.

MLB Betting Data

For a comprehensive look at every market for MLB games just go to the MLB tab and click on the game you’re interested in.

You’ll be able to compare odds from every market including moneyline, total, team total, yes/no runs first inning, player homers, total bases, strikeouts and much more.

Within the main markets like spreads and totals, you’ll also see alternate lines at the books that offer them as well as the OddsJam Perfect Line depending on your subscription tier. 

You can also use all of our tools to help decide if the bet is worth placing. The expected value calculator can determine your expected value in relation to the win probability from the OddsJam Perfect Line. The No-Vig fair odds calculator can also help by showing you the true no-juice odds of the bet at the sportsbook. 

OddsJam’s parlay calculator can also show you the total payout from a series of wagers you are thinking of combining into a parlay.

Where to bet on MLB?

Now that we’ve gone over the most popular ways to bet baseball, here are our favorite sportsbooks to place our MLB bets:

How to read MLB odds?

MLB odds are similar to other sports, but are often highly specific numbers on the moneyline. Instead of rounding to increments of five or 10 like football and basketball, it’s common to see a moneyline of say -127 instead of -125 or -130.

As always, a (-) sign next to the odds means that you have to risk more than your potential winnings, while a (+) sign means that the winnings would be more than your stake.

What are the most popular MLB teams?

The most popular MLB teams are big market brand names like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs.

Frequently Asked Questions

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