How to Bet on Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball (MLB) is a sports betting nirvana. With each of the 30 teams playing 162 games during the regular season between April and September (that’s a whopping 2,500 matches), there’s never a shortage of action.
Throughout the season smart punters should have no trouble unearthing an abundance of betting gems. Games come thick and fast almost every day of the week, which is why baseball can be one of the most profitable sports for professional bettors.
And Ibro Savic, a professional baseball gambler and tipster at BetAdvisor.com, should know as a former sports trader for a major European operator. “If you do your homework, deploy solid bankroll management and are able to identify spots to make value plays, you stand a great chance of making tidy profits from the sport,” Savic says.
1. Understanding the Markets
When firing up baseball betting markets you’ll be confronted by three options:
First you have the moneyline, which are the odds for each side to win. In baseball home field advantage isn’t so important, which is why certain astute bettors profit from placing well-timed bets on underdogs.
Then there’s the handicap market, also known as the “run line”, whereby the favourite and the underdog are assigned handicaps. In baseball games the handicap is almost always -1.5 and +1.5 runs. If you’re betting on this you are looking to analyse the games better than the market.
Lastly is the total market, which means you are wagering on whether the total runs recorded by both teams will be over or under a particularly number. So here it’s whether the total runs in the game will add up to more than 7.0 or less than 7.0. This can be a very profitable way to bet as I’ll reveal later.
2. Picking on the Pitchers
Unlike most sports, the line-up isn’t key. However, it is the starting pitchers who have the most influence on a game (their names are in brackets next to teams in the market example above). Teams will tend to rotate their starting pitchers throughout the season because of the sheer number of matches, with a pitcher typically having four or five days’ rest between starts.
Repeatedly hurling balls at nigh on 100mph takes its toll on the body so the starting pitches usually won’t pitch all nine innings; instead, it’ll often be just five or six. That means it pays to keep an eye on the bullpen* if betting in-play and how healthy, or otherwise, the current bullpen is.
Also, when studying pitcher stats it’s important to distinguish between data from home games and those on the road. Pitchers will play differently on the road due to it being different playing conditions and an unfamiliar stadium – it’s not like his home yard where he feels comfortable.
*the bullpen is a team’s specialised “closing” or “saving” pitchers, who replace the starter.
Batting average: This is calculated by dividing a batter’s total base hits by his number of At Bats. It’s expressed to three decimal places. A .300 average is considered stellar, while .350 is exceptional.
Earned run average: This ascertains how many runs a pitcher gives up per nine innings. Total earned runs are divided by innings pitched multiplied by nine. An ERA of below 3.00 is impressive for a starting pitcher.
RBI: This stands for ‘runs batted in’. If the batter makes a play that allows a runner to reach home the batter is credited with an RBI. A hitter can score one, two, three or four RBIs depending on how many runners were on base.
3. Finding Your Focus
The bewildering array of matches means it’s virtually impossible to keep abreast of the action and analyse all the numbers and betting markets ahead of games. There’s simply too much. This is why it’s best to specialise on one league or, better still, just a handful of teams. That way you become accustomed to a smaller pool of teams and their players.
If you’re based in Europe it can be difficult to catch the games on TV with the awkward time difference. So I operate a hybrid system whereby two thirds of my preparation comprises of stats and form study while the final third is watching teams and players in action.
Watching live baseball isn’t crucial in becoming a successful bettor. By far the most import aspect is analysing the multitude of data out there; you simply can’t avoid them if looking to profit from betting on baseball.
4. Spotting the Edges
Teams usually play a series of three games against the same opponent on consecutive days. This is where you can often spot whether or not teams are 100% motivated for an encounter. I focus solely on total runs with my betting and finding games where teams probably won’t be busting a gut to win.
When teams are not so focused or determined makes for great betting opportunities, either by backing the opposition or betting totals. With so many games on the calendar you will often see players get bored or not give their best.
5. Finding the Right Data
Like most US sports, baseball creates a mountain of statistics. In fact, there’s so much historical data on games and players that you can easily find yourself drowning in information. That’s why it’s important to filter out stats that are not relevant to your betting.
The percentage possession stat in soccer for example is a pretty useless number and not really relevant from a betting perspective. At sites like MLB.com and ESPN.com you will discover a treasure trove of data, but don’t try to analyse anything and everything as it’s mission impossible.
You’ll find that US sports kick up countless pointless stats that won’t help you with your betting research. Separating pitcher stats as we discussed above is a prime example of filtering out irrelevant information. Learning what not to include can be as important as what you do include.