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Like with most things in life, betting on baseball requires a plan. Diving headfirst without preparation is a surefire way to lose money and spoil the enjoyment of watching MLB games. Don’t worry – learning how to bet on baseball is no complicated affair, but there are different bet types, betting trends, baseball odds, and betting strategies you need to familiarize yourself with first.
We’ve prepared a thorough beginner’s guide to prepare you for your first baseball bet, including useful baseball betting tips that will help you keep your win percentage above average.
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Major League Baseball 2023 Season
The Major League Baseball 2023 season is set to begin on March 30. However, this MLB season brings some significant changes to the schedule, with teams no longer being predominantly skewed to play against their division opponents. Instead, we can expect to see more variety with teams expected to play against all other teams at least once.
This change to the schedule of MLB games will definitely impact baseball wagering, as the whole pace and dynamic of the league will shift noticeably. While the schedule won’t be truly balanced, as the teams will still play more series against division opponents, the increased variety will be a welcome sight for viewers and sports bettors alike.
Still, we can expect the basics of how to bet on baseball to remain the same, so let’s get right to the nitty-gritty of it all.
Baseball Odds Explained
Reading MLB odds works exactly the same as it does with all other US sports betting markets. Baseball odds are represented in three-digit numbers, with one team having a plus (+) sign and the other one a minus sign (-) in front of their odds. This represents the underdog and the favorite respectively, with potential payouts for betting on the underdog being boosted to their lower chance of winning, while the payouts for betting on the favorite being handicapped, as it’s a significantly safer bet.
Types of Baseball Bets
Probably the first thing prospective baseball bettors need to get a grip on are the different types of baseball bets available on a sports betting site. If you’ve had any experience with sports betting, you’ll notice that the bet types available for any baseball game don’t differ much from those we see in football or basketball.
However, moneyline bets do take precedence more than they do in other sports, but that doesn’t mean that things like baseball parlays, totals, and futures aren’t both popular and lucrative. Let’s take a look at the available bet types in more detail.
A moneyline bet is one of the most popular bet types when it comes to betting on baseball. Betting the Moneyline for a game is the simplest way to bet on sports. The bettor chooses a player or team to win the match. If the bettor backs the winning side, the sportsbook will pay the bettor an agreed fixed amount. It is really that simple.
What Does a Moneyline Bet Look Like?
Applying this to a baseball example of the Chicago Cubs playing the Toronto Blue Jays, the cubs might be -220 favorites to win the game. The minus sign indicates the favored team and means that you must risk $220 for every $100 you wish to win. That is because the Cubs are considered to have a better lineup, among other reasons. In this example, the Blue Jays are +180 underdogs, which means that if you risk $100 on Toronto, you win $180 if they upset the Cubs.
If you are just starting out in the betting world, this type of baseball bet may be the best betting option for you as it isn’t complicated and all baseball betting sites will offer moneyline wagers.
Run Line Bet
Have you ever heard of a run line and thought what are they talking about? Well, the run line bet is baseball’s equivalent of point spread betting and allows the player to bet on whether the favorites will beat the underdog by more than one run or whether the underdog will keep the game within one run. The run line is almost always -1.5 and +1.5, whereas it can be higher in more one-sided affairs.
What Does A Run Line Bet Look Like?
Using the above game as an example, the Cubs could be -1.5, -160. That means the Cubs not only have to win the game, but they must win by at least two runs for your bet to win. Plus, you are laying odds by risking $160 for every $100 you want to win. Sportsbooks provide the player an option of making Chicago’s win more difficult (margin of victory of at least three runs) instead of laying a larger Moneyline bet.
Total Betting is one of the best ways to bet on baseball. But what is it? Like football and basketball, baseball also offers an over/under or total bet. This is an amazingly simple concept; it reflects the total runs scored. The sportsbook proposes a total amount of runs to be scored by both teams in the game, and you can bet on whether you think there will be than the proposed number.
What Does A Total Bet Look Like?
So, if that Cubs-Blue Jays game has a total of 8.5, you can bet over or under. If the Cubs win 9-0, the over bet cashes out. If they win 8-0, the under bets payout. It is simply adding the total amount of runs scored by both teams, regardless of the winner of the match.
First 5 Innings Line Betting
First 5 Inning Line Betting is growing in popularity. Betting the “First 5” line is also an option. This line means you are solely wagering on the outcome of the match’s first five innings. This bet is usually placed if you wish to isolate a starting pitching matchup or prefer to avoid bullpens. Unlike a regular game bet, the first five innings Moneyline bet can tie, or “push.” If a draw is to occur, your bet is fully refunded. The odds for the first five innings are remarkably like the odds of the full game.
What Does First 5 Inning Line Betting Look Like?
To reference the baseball example from above, the Cubs could be -250 on the “First 5” line if they have shown to perform better in the first five innings that the last 4 when compared to the Blue Jays. If you think Yu Darvish to be a great matchup vs. the Blue Jays starting lineup, you may opt to back the Cubs on the first five innings as well.
What is a Prop Bet? Well for a start, it’s short for a proposition bet. This is a wager based on specific occurrences or non-occurrences during a match. Unlike point spreads, totals, or Moneyline bets, these occurrences may not affect the outcome of the game or the final score. Prop bets are considered novelty since they deal with individual players or team milestones.
What Do Prop Bets Look Like?
For a starting pitcher, you usually have the option of betting over or under the number of strikeouts in a game. Sometimes sportsbooks offer a prop bet for a critical player’s total number of bases or even home runs if they are a big hitter. Another attractive option is a team’s over/under for the total of hits, runs, and errors. A few examples of these:
Justin Verlander: Over/under 7.5 strikeouts
Cody Bellinger: Over/under 3.5 total bases
New York Mets (Hits + Runs + Errors): Over/Under
It is also worth mentioning MLB futures bets here. These are predictions of things you think will happen well into the future. For example, before the regular season begins, you may wager on the Boston Red Sox making a playoff game. The odds will be more generous than moneyline odds as lots of things could change. Futures is a popular betting market as a futures bet adds excitement to following the season hoping your team comes through.
Live betting is also exciting as you can wager on things such as which player you think will score the next home run.
An MLB parlay bet is a single bet made out of multiple selections, where you place a wager on at least two different MLB games while staking a single amount on all of them. The odds for each selection are compounded within parlay bets, leading to significantly higher payouts.
However, parlay betting is significantly riskier as well, as you’re betting on multiple selections and all of them have to win in order for you to receive a payout.
What do parlay bets look like?
As we’ve mentioned, parlay bets are made up of multiple bet selections, with odds from every single baseball game compounding to match the increased risk of the bet. For example, a three-selection parlay bet would look like this:
New York Mets + 150
Atlanta Braves – 200
Chicago Cubs – 180
Due to how parlay odds are calculated, a $100 stake would net you $483.33 in case all three selections go through. If you’re looking to bet on baseball and score huge payouts, parlays are the type of bet you’re looking for.
Lastly, we have futures bets. As its name suggests, a future bet is a wager on the outcome of a specific event that will take place considerably later in the season. Some of the popular selections for baseball futures are determining which team will win the World Series or make it to the MLB playoffs.
What does a baseball futures bet look like?
Futures bets also give great baseball odds due to the fact that you’re trying to predict big events in advance. Of course, the same rules for American odds apply, so a futures bet for an underdog like Kansas City Royals to make it to the playoffs would be:
Kansas City Royals +1300 to qualify
Kansas City Royals -2994 not to qualify
Baseball House Rules That You Need to Know
There are some unconventional rules for baseball betting, so it is essential to familiarize yourself with the house rules. As one of the most popular sports in the US, baseball is also one of the best sports to bet on too.
For total or run line bets to be valid, the match must last at least 8.5 innings. That means if the Cubs lead 15-6 and bad weather ends the game after seven innings, all bets on the total and run line are refunded – even if the game already hit the over on your bet. Bets placed on the regular Moneyline are still paid out; however, they are graded according to the last completed inning.
Another caveat is the pitching option when placing a bet. A starting pitcher plays such a vital role in baseball that online sportsbooks allow you to guarantee the scheduled pitchers take the mound. When placing a bet, you can “list” or “name” the scheduled starter for either team or both. If you decline any of the three options, you have “action” on the game regardless of who the starting pitcher is, but, in the event of a pitching change, you will automatically get the sportsbook’s reposted odds. If you do choose the option of listing a particular pitcher and he is not in the starting lineup, your ticket will be refunded regardless of the match’s outcome.
Of course, none of this will be useful unless you know about odds. You should read our guide on how to read baseball odds.
The Best Baseball Betting Strategy
Unlike basketball and football, where most bets placed are based on the point spread, baseball is primarily a Moneyline sport. This means that players only need to pick the team who wins the game, not the team who covers. A free sportsbook bet from using a promo code is a great way to start your betting off with a sportsbook.
When betting on the Moneyline, you have the option to back either the favorite (Usually the New York Yankees) — the team that the sportsbook expects to win the game — or to back the underdog. Be aware that if you are betting the favorite, you will win less money than you wagered if the favorite bet wins, whereas winning an underdog bet will typically return more than your initial stake.
And while it is more uncommon, there is an option to bet on the “spread,” in baseball betting, this is referred to as the run line and is -1.5 most of the time for the favorites.
When betting on baseball, you will also have the option to bet on the total, otherwise known as the over/under, which, as in other sports, is a bet on how many runs will be scored in the match.
Another unique aspect of baseball betting is its long, drawn-out schedule. With a high amount of games played every single day (2,430 regular season games total in a regular season), wise guys are provided seemingly endless opportunities to maximize their edge.
As for how you can maximize your profit, here are ten baseball betting tips you need to incorporate to create the best betting baseball strategy.
1. Follow Reverse Line Movement
Baseball sports betting is not just about taking plus-money dogs and blindly going contrarian when you have a gut instinct. It is best if you aimed to be on the sharp side of each game, joining the professional bettors who have a successful track record. One of the best and most straightforward ways to find the sharp action is to follow Reverse Line Movement (RLM): when the betting lines move in the opposite direction of the betting percentage pattern.
For example: say the Braves open -150 against the Phillies (+130). Atlanta is getting 75% of Moneyline bets, but you see the Braves fall from -150 to -135, while the Phillies move from +130 to +115. Why would the sportsbook drop a line to give public Braves bettors a better return? Because sharp action came in on the Phillies. Even though Philadelphia is only getting 25% of bets, the betting line has moved in their favor.
Since 2005, MLB teams (both underdogs and favorites) getting less than 35% of the total Moneyline bets with RLM of at least two cents have gone 3712-4743 (43.9%), +28.6 units won.
If you then raise the RLM to 10 cents or higher, the profits get even better. A $100 bettor would have profited more than $6,600 following this system since 2005.
2. Focus on Divisional Underdogs
Because teams in the division play each other much more often, it breeds familiarity and levels out the playing field, which inevitably will benefit the underdog. Since 2005, all underdogs in divisional games have lost just 16.4 units, while underdogs in games outside the division have lost an astonishing 587.8 units.
3. Know the Weather
While most bets are placed on the Moneyline, bettors can still find value betting on totals. One significant factor to consider before placing a wager on a total: the weather, specifically wind. We have seen that when the wind is blowing in at five mph or more, the under total has gone 901-741-85 (55%), good for 102.1 units profit and a 6% ROI. This under total becomes even more noticeable in day games at Wrigley Field: 183-112-14 (62%), +61.5 units won, 22% ROI.
When the wind blows inwards, it can turn home runs into warning-track outs, benefiting under totals. Conversely, when the wind blows out, it can turn fly balls into homers and benefit overs. Since the 2005 MLB Season, when the wind is blowing out at eight mph or more, the over total has gone 1131-1006-126 (52.9%), winning 80.42 units for a 3.7% ROI.
4. Avoid Massive Favorites
Sportsbooks know that recreational bettors love betting on favorites. As a result, they will capitalize on the public bias and shade their betting lines accordingly. This means that prevalent teams like the Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, and Dodgers will constantly be overpriced because average bettors will bet on them regardless of whether they are -150, -170, or -220.
We found that regular season favorites at odds of -150 or higher have gone 8260-4765 (63.4%) since 2005. On the surface, that record seems impressive. However, because you are always laying a huge minus number, you end up in the red (-258.85 units). When a favorite wins, your payout is small. But when they lose, you get crushed.
5. Take Advantage of Plus-Money Underdogs
To make money while betting on football and basketball, bettors must win 52.4% of the time (assuming -110 juice) to just break even. However, if MLB bettors avoid the big favorites and consistently take plus-money underdogs (+120, +150, +170), they can win at a sub-50% clip and still finish the season in the green. When the underdogs lose, you only lose what you risked. But when they win, you will enjoy valuable plus-money payouts.
For example, our MLB Best Bet In Baseball picks have gone 1988-2340 (45.9%) on the Moneyline since 2010. However, because we are almost always taking undervalued plus-money dogs, that 45.9%-win rate translates to +128.2 units in profit. This means that if you had bet $100 on each Moneyline Best Bet In Baseball since 2010, you would have profited $12,820.
6. Bet Against the Public
For years, we have detailed the value of betting against the public. We like to go contrarian because, often, the public loses. The average bettor places their wager based on their gut instinct. They always want to bet favorites, bet on home teams, popular franchises, and teams with the star players.
They are also a victim of recency bias. If a team looked great last game, he would bet it. If it looked awful, he would fade it. By going contrarian, we can capitalize on public bias and take advantage of artificially inflated numbers. As a bonus, we place ourselves on the side of the sportsbook. We all know that the house always wins.
Our MLB Contrarian plays, which focus on dogs getting less than 40% of Moneyline bets in the most bet games of the night, have gone 2209-2834 (43.9%) since 2007. A losing record, but because of their plus-money payouts, they have produced +188.9 units won.
7. Know the Umpires
We would not recommend placing a wager solely based on an umpire; however, it is vital to know who is behind the plate so that bettors can exploit their tendencies. In the end, all umpires are human. Some can cave under pressure and are influenced by the roaring crowd, which benefits the home teams.
Some umpires thrive off the hate of the crowd, benefiting the road teams. Some have a tighter strike zone, which leads to more walks, total runs scored, and benefits over bets. While some have significant strike zones, leading to more strikeouts and batted balls in play, which benefits under.
For example, home teams have gone 285-185 (60.9%), +59.3 units, 12.8% ROI since 2005 when umpire Lance Barksdale is calling balls and strikes.
When Joe’ Cowboy’ West is behind the plate, underdogs have gone 236-266 (47%) but have produced +44.4 units won, good for an 8.8% ROI.
When Ron Kulpa is the home plate umpire, under have gone 245-192-24 (56.6%), +39.16 total units won, 8.7% ROI.
8. Look to Shop for the Best Line
The biggest mistake that new bettors can make is only using one bookmaker for all their betting needs. This is such a bad idea because it forces the player to wager with whatever number their sportsbook is offering. Instead, we suggest opening accounts at many different sportsbooks so you can always shop for the best line.
As an example, say you want to bet the Houston Astros. DraftKings is posting the Astros at +140, but BetMGM is posting +145. By looking at more than one book, you just gained an additional 5 cents for free. Although it may not seem like an immense difference, in the long run, it can make a world of difference, leading to higher payouts and diminished losses.
9. Manage Your Bankroll Effectively, Avoid Parlays and Teasers
Bankroll management is the most important factor for long-term betting success. We encourage our readers to use a flat-betting approach: meaning that every play is the same, always risk one unit per wager.
We also recommend betting only between 1% to 5% of your bankroll per wager. If you are looking to be conservative: 1% or 2%. Suppose you want to be more aggressive: 4% to 5%. A good blend is 3%. Meaning that if you start with a total bankroll of $100, you are betting just $3 per game.
There will always be your ups and downs when betting, but if you remain disciplined with your bankroll management, it will help you from losing big when you go through a rough stretch and set you up for a positive ROI in the long run.
We also recommend avoiding parlays and teasers. Many bettors get sucked in by the massive payouts and fall in love with the idea of turning $5 into $100. However, the truth is that sportsbooks make a killing off badly picked MLB parlays and teasers because they can get away with offering incredibly unfair odds disguised by those big payouts. If you are going to place a parley bet, make sure its a good one.
We would suggest sticking to individual game bets. It is hard enough to win one bet. If you begin to layer on more games to a bet, all you are doing is adding more risk and limiting your chances of actually winning.
10. Volume Betting
One of the keys to being a successful long-term bettor is being disciplined and limiting your bets to the most valuable matches of the day. However, baseball is one of the sports where volume betting does lead to increased profits.
If you use a betting system that yields an ROI of 2%, it is reasonable to expect that you will make around 490 bets on MLB and 50 bets on the NFL throughout the season, approximately 20% of the season’s total games.
Even though the ROI’s are the exact same, the sheer volume of baseball bets leads to a higher number of units won, a 2% ROI would result in a profit of +9.72 units in MLB betting, yet, a 2% ROI would result in just +1.03 units won on NFL betting).
An MLB bettor putting $100 on every play ($100 x 9.72 units) would end the year with a $972 before the MLB Playoffs even start. Meanwhile, a $100 NFL bettor with the same 2% ROI would profit just $102 ($100 x 1.02 units). To keep it simple, the sheer volume of baseball betting leads to a profit of 9.5 times greater than football betting.
11. Find a Trustworthy Sportsbook
Last but not least, you should aim to find a trustworthy baseball betting app or sportsbook that supports a wide variety of betting types, provides great odds, and offers lucrative baseball betting bonuses you can make use of. While these features won’t help you with your predictions, they will make your betting experience more enjoyable and lead to things like bonus bets or higher payouts.
Baseball Betting Terms
When betting on an MLB game, you need some sense of the quality of the teams involved. That is why we keep win-loss records and statistics — to tell us who is good and who is not.
But as sports have become more analytics-driven, the statistics used to judge teams and players have evolved. Luckily, we can put those metrics to good use when deciding which teams and players to place bets on.
Here are just three advanced stats that offer more predictive value of a game — which is, after all, what we want.
It might come as a shock to many to learn that not all win-loss records are created the same. For example, a team that happens to outscore its opponents by 50 runs throughout a whole season could still end up with a losing record if those runs do not happen to fall in the right games. But should that team be worse than one with a winning record and just a +15-run differential?
A Pythagorean win is a stat that attempts to rid a team’s record of luck. In other words, it is how many wins a team should have, taking the team’s number of runs scored vs. allowed into account.
By paying attention to which teams are either overperforming or underperforming, you will often find betting value on the latter.
Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and xFIP
FIP is an advanced view at ERA that attempts to take the fielding aspect out of the equation — because the pitchers have no control over what happens once a ball is put into play.
Instead, it considers only home runs, walks (unintentional), hit by pitches, and strikeouts — the outcomes of which pitchers are in the most control.
It functions on the same scale as ERA, so the pitcher’s FIP and ERA can be compared to assess his level of luck and attempt to determine how he will perform in the future.
xFIP (expected FIP) takes it a step further. Since not all ballparks have the exact same dimensions, xFIP takes the total amount of home runs a pitcher should have given up based on the average home run-to-fly ball ratio around the league, rather than their actual home run total.
Weighted Runs Created (wRC) and wRC+
With so many potential outcomes on the offensive side of the plate (singles, home runs, double plays, walks, etc.), it is hard to gauge a player’s offensive value by merely looking at his stat line — mainly since various players are valuable for different reasons, whether that be power, average speed, etc.
The Bill James’ “Runs Created” metric was an effective attempt to evaluate how many runs a player was worth to the offense, given his array of numbers.
Since the introduction of “Runs Created,” new statistics, like wOBA (weighted on-base average), have been created and have allowed for new contributions into the calculation of Runs Created, resulting in the new metric: Weighted Runs Created (wRC).
Changing from wRC to wRC+ is just a matter of adjusting for external factors like ballparks and league averages. So, wRC+ should not be looked at as a quantity. The league average wRC+ is 100, so a player at 125 created 25% more runs than the average, while 75 would mean 25% fewer runs.
Now that you have a plan, have a look at our best sportsbooks for betting on Baseball.
How to Bet on Baseball FAQs
What Is Baseball Handicapping?
Handicapping in sports betting is the process of giving an advantage between two unequal teams or participants. Often, this is done via a point spread.
However, when it comes to betting on baseball, there is no point spread available. Instead, it is done through money lines and run lines. Several factors go into handicapping baseball games. Who the starting pitcher is not the only factor when handicapping two baseball teams.
However, it is the primary factor when deciding on an advantage between two teams. The team's offense, defensive prowess, and bullpen are also weighted, but not as much as the starting pitcher.
How does baseball betting work?
Baseball betting relies on the money line, meaning that your payout depends on the three-digit moneyline odds that use plus and minus signs to mark underdogs and favorites.
What is the best way to bet on baseball?
While there's no single sure-win baseball betting strategy you can employ, there are things you can do to increase your winning percentages. This includes avoiding huge favorites, betting against the public, mastering team and player metrics and being able to analyze and assess a team's performance in a certain time period.