When I first started betting on baseball, there were only two options – Money Line and Totals. Now, bettors have numerous options from first five innings, strikeout/home run props, team totals, futures markets, and in-game wagering.
Baseball wagering is a completely different animal vs. other sports, such as football and basketball, because there is no point spread. It can be very confusing to the recreational bettor. But with tutorials like this and the wealth of information online, you can get up to speed on baseball very quickly. The positive thing about having multiple options is that you can find value in softer lines with alternative bets.
I am going to breakdown the most popular types of wagering on baseball and the pros/cons of each.
The moneyline is the most popular way of betting baseball. Bettors are familiar with moneylines in other sports, but they are not the main option. The moneyline is where you just have to bet on the team who you think will win without a point spread. The moneyline acts as a point spread in that if you want to bet the favorite, it will cost you more versus taking the underdog.
An example of a moneyline in baseball is the Minnesota Twins are -210 at home against the Baltimore Orioles:
- MINNESOTA TWINS -210
- BALTIMORE ORIOLES +190
This means you have to bet $210 to win $100. If you think the Orioles are going to win, you can bet them on the moneyline at $100 to win $190.
The risk of betting the moneyline is you can not profit long term betting on the favorites because of the amount you are having to lay. I personally draw the line at -175 as the highest moneyline I will play. If you lose a -210 moneyline bet, you have to win two games just to get back to even, which is 67% and not realistic.
Finding underdogs is not easy, but two scenarios are worth looking at. Look for good starting pitchers that are small dogs on the road. Another is taking a home dog in the +110-+150 range. Much like not going beyond -175 as a home favorite, it is difficult to win taking dogs +175 or higher. Having a balance of favorites and underdogs will help you stay profitable.
Betting MLB totals is the same as betting over/unders in football or basketball. Bookmakers set a number for the total number of runs in the same.
A typical total for a baseball game would be:
- OAKLAND/BOSTON Over 9.0 -115; Under 9.0 -105
If you want to bet the over, you are paying $115 to win $100; if you want to bet the under, you are paying $105 to win $100. The juice is worked into the side that you want to bet.
Totals can also be with 0.5 incremental. The posted total for a game could be 8.5, which means the game has to have 9 or more runs to hit the over or eight or fewer runs to hit on the under. If a total is 9, and the game finishes with 9 runs, it is considered a PUSH.
Much like the NFL or College football, you can find more value in playing totals vs. moneylines/point spreads. Totals are softer lines and if you work the whole board, you can find them and take advantage.
This is another relatively new way to bet on baseball and a lot like the first five innings, I found myself betting team totals about 3:1 versus game totals. The team totals are only on each team versus the game total. You only have to worry about one teams’ performance instead of both.
The game total on ASTROS/TWINS is 8.5, but the team totals are ASTROS 5.0 and TWINS 3.5.
You can bet the Astros under in which they need to score 4 or less. If they score 5 runs, it is a PUSH. You can bet the Astros over in which they need to score 6 or more. If you bet the TWINS over, they need to score 4 runs, under they need to be 3 runs or less.
The scenario in which I play team totals is when there is one very good pitcher favored against a very weak pitcher. Instead of having exposure on a very high moneyline with the Astros, I can play on the Astros over or on the Twins under.
This is similar to the puck line for hockey, but also the point spread in football or basketball. The run line is -1.5 or +1.5.
An example of a run line would be:
- TWINS -1.5 (-110)
- ORIOLES +1.5 (-110)
If you want the Twins, you are laying 1.5 runs, so they have to win by 2 or more. If you want the Orioles, they have to lose by 1 or win the game outright.
Comparing the moneyline odds, the game would be this:
- TWINS -214
- ORIOLES +194
In this case, instead of paying $214 to win $100, you are laying 1.5 runs instead. This is a way to avoid paying the high juice on the moneyline, but there is risk involved as 1 run games happen about 30% of the time. If the game is a low total in the 6-7 range, I will usually avoid the run line because 1.5 runs in a 7 total game means a lot more vs. 1.5 runs in an 8.5 or 9 run total game.
Betting totals is my favorite play in MLB baseball. I have found the lines to be the most exploitable as they are often more based on historical data vs current data. An example of that would be the Mets early on in 2019. The Mets lineup was not good in 2018 and they play in a pitchers’ park. But they acquired several hitters this year and their pitching has gotten shelled. Their totals were in the 6.5-7.5 range in April, but most of their games were going way over the total.
Futures is a very popular form of wagering baseball. There are several ways to bet on futures with the team total number of wins being the most popular. Every team has a number of wins posted and you can bet over or under the number of wins for the season.
An example would be:
- YANKEES O/U 95 wins
You can also wager on who will win each division, pennant, and World Series. These odds will change during the season and are adjusted based on the team’s performance.
Another futures option is betting on the MVP, Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and Home Run Leader. These bets favor those looking for longshots as the chalk is very heavy at the top of the board. So many things can happen during the course of a season that finding a player with huge odds but a legit chance to win is the way to go.
The one drawback with futures is your money is tied up until the end of the season, but it is a way to have action going all season long.
- FIRST FIVE INNINGS
The first five innings have become a very popular way of betting baseball because it relies heavily on the starting pitcher performance versus having nine innings and relying on the bullpen. You can bet on the moneyline, run line, and total but they are adjusted down. I’m a big fan of betting the first five innings and have diversified my portfolio as such.
Examples of first five-inning odds:
- ASTROS -0.5 (-120)
- TWINS +0.5 (-110)
- OVER 4.5 (-120)
- UNDER 4.5 (-110)
The nine-inning line on the Astros is -170; Twins +140. So, you can either get the lower price on the Astros and lay 0.5 or get the Twins with 0.5. This is a great way to get exposure to large favorites without having the risk of laying a huge moneyline.
The nine-inning total is 8.5 runs, so through five innings, it is 4.5. There are a number of different ways to play this for the first five innings. If there are two strong pitchers going, they would go through the batting order just two times. Statistics show that most pitchers that go through the lineup on the third time see a significant drop in performance. Betting the first five innings insulates you from third time through the order, but also dealing with bullpens.
One of the newer bets you can make on baseball is the total number of strikeouts for each starting pitcher. These are riskier bets because of the way starting pitchers are handled now. The best starting pitchers averaged only seven innings per start, with most landing in the five range now. That does not offer a lot of room to bet the overs, but it does give value on the under. On the flip side, batters are striking out at a record pace in 2019.
An example of a strikeout prop:
- JUSTIN VERLANDER – 8.5
- JAKE ODORIZZI – 4.5
You can bet on Verlander over 8.5 strikeouts or under 8.5; Odorizzi needs to be over 4.5 or under 4.5.
I have found the strikeout prop lines to be tight or a tad inflated, especially on the top pitchers. The value in betting them is when the starting lineups come up. I look for left-handed strikeout pitchers facing a lineup that has several left-handed hitters. Another way to take advantage of strikeout props is when a team rests some of their star players. This happens a lot on day games after a night game or on Sundays. Managers will usually give veteran players a day off under those circumstances. That means you are getting a weaker lineup versus the lineup they posted the odds on.
ALTERNATE RUN LINES
You can lay runs from +5.5 to -5.5 depending on the game total. This is a very high-risk bet in that you are laying several runs in exchange for odds on the moneyline.
An example is:
- -3.5 +500
- -2.5 +340
- -1.5 +210
- +2.5 -250
- +3.5 -425
- +5.5 -1400
+1.5 -150 is the traditional run line posted on the game. I only play -2.5 in one scenario and it is similar to the team totals. I look for an ace starting pitcher against a very weak offensive team/opposing pitcher. Justin Verlander at home against the Tigers is a perfect example. I don’t want to lay -250, and I don’t want to go under the game total because the Astros could score 10 runs.
These are posted a few hours before opening pitch and offer several additional offerings. I personally stay away from them as they are very high risk/high reward types of wagers.
- First inning run line
- Team to score first in the game
- Extra innings: Yes or No?
- Odd/Even Total Runs
- Total Hits, Runs, Errors for the Game
- Total Hits, Runs, Errors by Hitter
- Individual Hitter to hit a Home Run
- Individual Hitter over 2.0 or 2.5 Hits/Runs/RBIs
Betting on baseball can be intimidating because of the different lines and multiple options, but they also provide value once you research the board. Oddsmakers cannot keep up with all of the offerings in this digital expansion so stay clear of the exotic bets. Look for the bets in which they only rely on one team (like the individual team totals) or rely on the starting pitcher (first five innings).