Intro to Baseball Betting

With the MLB season less than a week away, it gives a good chance to look at what goes into handicapping baseball games, what bet types are most common and what to look for when trying to find an edge.


There are three major bet types in baseball.

Head to Head, Line and Totals betting.Throughout this series and the rest of the season, we will concentrate on H2H (head to head) and O/U (total runs over or under).


Head to Head

Quite simply it is the easiest to model as it is reliant on teams WINNING the game at all costs which they will be doing all the time, irrelevant of margins or how many runs have been scored. There is no other sport in the world that is so statistically driven as baseball. On any given day, you can find hundreds if not thousands of different statistics that you can use as variables in pricing a game. Obviously pitching is a key factor, but if you are serious about handicapping a baseball game, you must go much deeper than that.


Line Betting

Is different in baseball and not as popular as it is always set at -1.5 runs for the favoured team. Unlike what we are familiar with here in Australia with our football codes, the line does not change in baseball in accordance with the weight of favouritism towards a team. For example. A team that is $1.50 in a H2H market may be somewhere in the region of $2.10 at the -1.5 run line. The closer the teams are in the betting to win the match outright, the bigger price you will get for the favourite at the -1.5 run line. Unlike in other sports where the line will move to give a bigger handicap to the less favoured team, the line stays the same and the prices are changed to replicate that.

The reason that I find this a poor betting proposition is because of the many variables in a baseball game, mainly to do with the longevity of the season. Blowouts, huge comebacks, shutouts, pitch counts, tactical changes, protecting a lead all come into account when playing a run line.

For example, a team has a 4-run lead coming into the last inning. Now, traditionally the manager will not use their ACE closer (A closer is a term used for a pitcher which has the role of finishing off matches, used only at the end of the game and only usually for one inning or less, maybe only for one batter at times) in situations like this, as it is not a SAVE opportunity.

Do we want to be in a situation up by two in the bottom of the ninth, one out and a runner at third and the fielding team is “happy” to give that run away, infield playing back, to get the hitter at the plate and preserve the overall lead? Do we want to be in a situation where we have the line covered comfortably only to know that the team is not playing with the best possible personnel in that situation?


Totals betting and O/U total run lines

This is where I believe you can get you greatest edge in MLB betting, especially early in the year. There are again so many factors that come into it, and each will be reflected in the prices but it all depends on how much weight you put into each variable. Things like home field advantage (remember the home team always bats last), pitching match-ups (some teams hit much better against right or left handed pitching), where the game is being played (no one ball park has the same dimensions), what time of the year the game is being played (players not as in tune early in the year and conversely can get tired towards the end of the year) and what the weather is like (an outside game in Boston at the start of April has very different conditions to one played in a Dome in Florida on the same day). As always, it is up to you to find what you think works and quite often just zoning in on one of these variables you will be able to find an edge.


Specialisation

The most important thing in making a profit, not just in MLB, but also in any sport or racing code that you want to be constantly on the right side of the ledger, is specialisation. With a total of more than 2400 games played in the regular season alone (each team plays 162 games!!), 30 teams, rosters of 25 active players at a time (more towards the end of the year and many more injured or spending time in the minors). It is impossible to know your information thoroughly enough to win trying to bet on every game!

A profitable way to bet MLB is to follow and get to know one team, or in my case follow one league. Personally, I follow the NL West for two reasons. One is that I prefer the National League with no designated hitter, there can be so much gained with a pitcher that can handle a bat, and secondly purely on the time frame. Most games are played in the afternoon Australian time on the east coast. Which makes following it a lot easier.

At www.betfair.com.au, there are other bet types that can be traded, but the H2H market and the total run line O/U will be the two most commonly traded with the most liquidity.

In-play is another option available, especially if you are looking to trade out of situations to make that “green book” a reality.


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