MLB Betting Strategy Course 101
With sports betting becoming more available, I am intrigued to dive in and learn more about it. Using statistical data and research for my DFS needs, a lot can transition into the way I research for sports betting. This article is a beginner’s guide to MLB betting with the 2019 season upcoming, brought to you by a betting beginner with a deep knowledge of MLB info.
Where To Bet
With betting now legal on the federal level, it is going to come down to whether your state allows it or not. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada, Delaware, Mississippi, and West Virginia were quick to get in on the action. If you are in a state that does not allow sports betting, keep tabs on upcoming or current bills that you can voice your opinion on to your local congressman or woman. This is going to be a growing work in progress as you may know working to get things changed in government takes time. Michigan, Mississippi, Oregon, Rhode Island, and New York are states that could be on the verge of legalizing at the state level soon.
The number of online Sportsbooks are starting to grow in the US, as FanDuel Sportsbook, DraftKings Sportsbook and Pointsbet Sportsbook all opened up their online and mobile sportsbook for those located in New Jersey. There has been an explosion with over 10 online sportsbooks in NJ alone. The plan is for online sportsbooks to open up state restrictions as more states expand their rules and/or approve sports betting. There are land-based sportsbooks within some of these states for those looking for a more Vegas-style experience.
Types Of Bets
If you find yourself legally sports betting in the baseball world, there are different ways of going about it. You have your moneyline bets, spreads, over/under, and other various means of attacking a game. It might all sound a bit overwhelming, or maybe you are aware of some of these already.
Moneyline – Betting a favorite or underdog can come via the moneyline. This is a straight-up win/lose bet with no strings attached. You will not have to worry about a team winning by x amount of runs. The minus next to a number means that team is a favorite. While a plus sign means they are an underdog. For example, Toronto Blue Jays are -150 favorites against the Baltimore Orioles, who are +130 underdogs. The -150 means you need to bet $150 to win $100. Now say you put $100 on the Orioles to win, the payout would be $130 on top of the $100 wagered.
Spread – Baseball spreads are simple, as they are set by winning or losing by one run. Sportsbooks will give out different odds for winning by two or more runs or losing by one run. For example, the Atlanta Braves might be -250 favorites to win, but -150 favorites to win by more than one run. This is an area where you can get a little bargain on some of the heavy favorites, but we will get into more of that later.
Over/Under – If you are looking to avoid picking a team and want to bet on the total combined score of a game or team, you can bet the over/under. These are set for each game, and a lot of combined factors go into how they get this number. If you play DFS, you know this is an indicator of what pitchers or hitters you want to use. For betting, an over/under might be set at 7.5, which means you need the combined score to be seven or lower if you took the under. If you took the over, you need eight.
Futures – If you are looking to bet on who will win a division, or win an MVP, or even the World Series — these bets fall under futures. These are longer investment bets that you will need to hold out on the payout for if they hit. Each team will come with a set of odds to win either the division or World Series, and payout if the selection was correct. Say the Giants come into the season at +5000 to win it all. You can place a $100 for that to pay out $5,100 if they win. Odds change throughout the season, so you can make these bets at any point.
Parlays – A parlay bet is when you take two or more bets and increase your payout odds if both of them hit. For example, you could take the over on a game, and Boston winning on another to combine for one payout. Both need to be successful. Otherwise, you lose. This is a riskier way of betting, but also a way of getting a bigger payout.
Live Betting – Most sportsbooks will offer live betting, which has similar bets from above within a portion of a game. The odds are ever-changing on each moment of the game, which makes it one to figure out when the best time to bet is. If you are watching the Cubs take on the Red Sox, and they are down 5-0 in the 6th inning, you could bet the outcome of the game still.
Player Prop Bets – You can move away from games, and bet on the statistical outcomes of players. A pitcher will have an over/under set on strikeouts. Max Scherzer will be given, let’s say 8.5 strikeouts. We will need to look at the odds each over and under brings. The research that goes into this can be similar to researching fantasy, and player props are something some players brush over before the start of a slate.
Game Prop Bets – There are plenty of bets to target outside of winning and losing teams. The over/under mentioned above is a game prop, but you also have props like even or odd runs scored, first to score, first five-inning score, score in the first inning, and total runs + hits + errors.
How Are MLB Odds Set?
An overnight or starting line will come out, which is set to believe each side will get moderate action, but also be close to the likely outcome. Say a money line is set at -150 for the Boston Red Sox and +130 for Toronto, they believe this opening number will find itself around the 50-70% mark for one particular side, and 30-50% on the other. Another goal is for bookmakers to make a profit regardless of the game outcome. This is another reason why odds can change, as they try and adjust to cover the public’s betting angle, so they don’t get crushed on an outcome.
The beginning odds are considered from all factors of an individual game’s matchup. These factors range from things like statistics, recent form, historical numbers, and professional analysis. Through various advanced algorithms and MLB power rankings, they are able to generate that opening line of -150 for Boston and +130 for Toronto. Power rankings in the betting world are how teams do in various categories.
MLB Betting Strategy Checklist
Avoiding Big Favorites – Let’s use the Red Sox as an example, who won 108 games and comfortably demolished everybody in their path. They sat as heavy favorites almost every night, meaning you would need to spend up to get any sort of worthwhile return on their odds. Why would I want to risk $100 on Boston at -300 to win $33? There are ways to still get exposure to this bet, by using them in a parlay or taking the spread if odds are more in your favor. They are big favorites because they are good, but also because they are big-market teams that average fans love to bet.
Starting & Reverse Line Movement – Not everything is going to be set and stone with opening lines, but this is where you can get a very straight set of odds before things start to shift around. As the line moves, you will need to monitor what is happening. Reverse line movement generally means some sharp money came in on opposing odds. Oakland might sit at +150 underdogs, but are a smart bet despite the public betting heavier on the opponent. Sharp money comes in and bets Oakland heavy, that line starts to drop because the sportsbook caught on.
Weather – Weather factors are going to be baked into the odds to a degree, but you can still use them to your advantage. Day games and warm weather, the ball carries more. In night games and colder weather, the ball carries less. Wind will also be a key factor. Wrigley Field always has some interesting over/under totals. When the wind is blowing in, the park can play very big. Wind blowing out, and you could see double-digit totals like they are playing in Coors.
Watching Public Money – Public money is not necessarily smart money, meaning there are trends to stay away from. As mentioned, large market teams will draw more attention and bets. A lot of money will not come from somebody researching, as they bet more with just instinct. Favorites, home teams, and other personal biases will influence the average bettor’s decisions. This means certain odds will be inflated. You are going to take some losses going against the grain, but payouts will eventually even the way out even if you win 40% of the time.
Divisional Underdogs – Divisional teams play each other 19 times a year, and underdogs have had a positive ROI compared to underdogs outside of the division. Teams spend more time knowing each other’s tendencies, and more variance comes into play, leading to underdog wins on occasions.
Moneyline Vs. Spread – Mentioning a few times, if you are looking to bet heavy favorites or heavy underdogs, you can use the spread over the moneyline. With a high variance sport and such a small spread, this can work against you. Of course, having better odds for a heavy favorite is a plus, especially if you are a firm believer they will not win by just one. Underdogs, things get a bit more tricky. A moneyline on an underdog will just need a flat out win, while the spread they could lose, but just by one run. You improve your chances a bit, but it is not an encouraging margin.
Home Field Advantage – Do not get caught up in the all home field advantage hype. This is part of the bias and trend that can hurt bettors.
Using Recent History – We have a lot of recent data for sports, I mean a lot. We can use it, but we must not solely rely on it. The Cubs winning three games over Pittsburgh in April, does not mean they will do so in July. Diving into the success of teams versus certain pitchers and vice versa can be telling. Sample sizes are key in baseball, look to use data over the last few years, rather than the last few weeks.
Bullpen Usage – Bullpen usage can give you an upper hand, as teams can be coming off a taxing few days using their pen. This leads to some poorer arms on the hill, or a long reliever that doesn’t belong in the rotation. This is helpful for both over/under and team bets.
Park Factors – Much like the weather, park factors are going to be baked into the odds. This comes down to more being aware of how certain parks play. Coors is a place where the runs can come in a hurry, and you likely won’t see totals under eight or nine there, regardless of how cold it is.
Umpires – Umpires can influence games by having a small or larger strike zone that plays well for hitters or pitchers. This should not cause you to bet solely on the over because of a small zone, but use it in your research. There are stats on umpires for how many of their games go over the run total, and also home-away records with them.
Comparing Lines Across Sportsbooks – With multiple sportsbooks out there, you can compare to see where you are getting the better odds. Here at Lineups, you are able to view some of the major ones used now. There won’t be any huge differences, but you will be able to gain some better odds the more you look.
Pitching Scratches, Rain Outs, Suspended Games
Because there are pitching scratches, lineup changes, rainouts, and all sorts of effects on a possible bet, you need to learn how sportsbooks handle those types of things. Most are very similar, but some have differing rules. The most universal is that if a starting pitcher is scratched before the game of your bet starts, your action is now canceled. The odds were set on Chris Sale pitching, not all of a sudden, Brian Johnson.
If games are shortened, games posted as final will be accounted for within the betting world, unless stated otherwise. Sometimes you will find sites using a game must go x innings for it to count. A suspended game typically will mean your bet carries on until that game is officially finished.
One of the most common questions is, how much should I bet? Keeping a set system of betting is very key to long term success. You will see the term units, which one unit is typically 1-5% of your bankroll. If that is $10, and say you won 10 units, it would equal $100. This is a common and viable strategy to use moving forward. You are going to run through hot and cold streaks, which should not influence how much you are playing. Because you are hot, that doesn’t mean you need to invest more. If you are cold, you shouldn’t feel the need to press and make up what you have lost. Staying disciplined is key to having long term success.
We are all tempted by the big payout, and we shouldn’t be afraid to admit it. Hell yeah, I want to take down a big parlay and tell Lineups I am taking a month off in Europe, but we need to have realistic expectations for ourselves. Limit yourself in taking unnecessary risks like parlays.
Common Beginner Mistakes To Avoid
- Weighting recent trends to heavily
- Poor bankroll management
- Following public money
- Not noticing where sharp money is going
- Not keeping tabs on opening lines and line movement
- Using false logic, like believing a team is due for a win
- Using your heart over your head
- Not looking for the best odds
- Failing to dedicate time to research
- Betting heavy favorites