Baseball Betting for Beginners: How to Bet on Baseball
For beginners who are looking to learn how to bet on baseball, you’ve come to the right place to learn. Sportsgrid will walk you through all of the basics required to bet on baseball. Baseball betting provides a lot of entertainment value for even the most casual bettor as every pitch can make a difference throughout the course of a 2-4-hour ballgame. Baseball also offers several different betting market types that may be foreign to the new sports bettor. Below is a quick overview of how to bet on baseball within each market type.
Concept of Volatility
Betting baseball is unlike betting any other sport due to the unique aspects to consider before placing a wager. First off, baseball is inherently volatile which means bettors need to recognize this aspect before attempting to bet a sport with such a wide variety of outcomes. In baseball, a player can crush a baseball off the barrel of their bat and the difference of one foot of distance can change the entire game. If the ball travels 351 feet towards an area with a 350-foot wall, it is a home run, whereas if it travels 350 feet, it can be caught. This concept is applicable to almost all aspects of the game and is the single most important tool to keep in the back of your mind before placing any bet.
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Factors to Consider
The first aspect to look at is the starting pitchers who will be facing off against one another but that is by no means where the analysis should stop. As analytics in MLB continues to progress, some teams have deployed the strategy of using “openers” for the first inning before transitioning towards a more traditional starting pitcher. These factors will impact the betting markets in general and specialty markets like Props or First Five Inning betting. Other distinctive factors to consider in baseball betting are the quality of the offenses, quality, and status of the active bullpen members of each team, weather conditions, umpires and the favorability of the ballpark. As a general rule, parks become more hitter friendly when the wind is blowing out compared to in, when the weather is warmer and when the environment is more humid. Weather is generally priced into the betting markets but there are still potential ways to benefit if you have an angle for a specific team or player.
Moneyline betting is the simplest way to learn how to bet on baseball as the bettor simply predicts who will win the game and makes a bet on the outcome. If the team you have bet on simply wins the win, you will be paid out on the bet, and if your team loses then you will lose the wager. Baseball moneyline betting makes it very difficult to find value in heavily favored teams because their odds will often exceed -200. As a rule of thumb, the team that is favored is always listed with a minus sign (-) and the underdogs are always shown with the plus (+) sign. If a team is a -200 favorite, that means you have to bet $200 dollars to win $100 dollars ($300 in total) on a bet. On the other hand, when a team is listed as a heavy underdog, they will come with longer odds, and some teams pay out as much as +350. In that scenario, a bettor could place a bet for $1.00 and would win $3.50 ($4.50 total) if their team were to come through and win.
For example, a game line may be set up as follows:
San Diego -175
In this scenario, a $100 bet of Colorado would win $150 if they were to win the ballgame. As the favorite, a bettor would need to play a $175 wager on the Padres to pay $100. Bettors can easily compare moneyline odds in our Sportsgrid MLB Odds tool to find the best price for a game.
Spread (Run Line) Betting
Spread betting, or run line betting as it is known in baseball, is a way to alleviate some of the heavy odds away from the favorite but requires a bettor to take the shot on them winning by at least two runs. If betting the underdog, it also gives a bettor the chance to win the bet even if the team they selected does not outright win the game. In baseball betting, the run line is almost always 1.5-runs which means the score of the bet will be determined by either subtracting or adding 1.5-runs to the team that you have bet. If you bet a favorite -1.5, the score of the game will begin with your team having -1.5-runs and they will have to win the game from there to win the bet.
For example, here is how the game from above may be set up in terms of run line:
Colorado +1.5 +110
San Diego -1.5 -110
Bettors will still have to abide by the odds but the outcome is not based on who outright wins the game but rather by if they cover the 1.5-run spread. In this scenario, a bettor would have to place a $110 bet on San Diego -1.5-runs to win $100 ($210 total) and San Diego would need to win by 2.0 full runs to cover (because 1.0 run would not be enough to cover the 1.5-run spread). Consequently, a bettor would need to risk $110 to win $100 ($210 total) on Colorado +1.5 and they would need to lose by 1.0 run or fewer (because 2.0-runs would not cover the 1.5-run spread the other way). Check out our Sportsgrid MLB Odds tool to find the spread (or run line) odds for each day’s MLB matchups.
Total betting takes the rooting for a single team aspect out of the bet and instead focused on the combined run total that the two teams produce. Vegas will set a game total and bettors will have a choice whether to bet the combined run total of the two teams goes “over” or “under” the specified number. If Vegas sets the game total at 8.5 runs, the team will need to score nine runs or more for an “over” bet to win or eight runs or fewer for an “under” bet to win.
Player Prop Bets
Player prop bets involve betting on the statistical outcomes of specific players. Bettors can bet on whether a pitcher will go over or under a certain number of strikeouts, how many total bases a certain hitter will accrue throughout the course of one game and a variety of other statistics. These bats work similar to total betting as a wager will be based on whether a player will go “over” or “under” a given number in the statistic that is specified.
Some other common props include:
-How many RBIs a certain player will have
-How many bases a certain player will steal (usually a 0.5 over/under)
-How many home runs will a certain player have (usually a 0.5 over/under as well)
Because player prop markets typically have lower limits, they are often ignored by professional bettors and therefore can be advantageous for recreational bettors to make money in. In MLB lineups are confirmed at various times throughout the day, and it is possible that the sportsbooks will post prop lines and not adjust them quickly when lineups come out. For example, MLB props may be posted assuming a team’s normal starting lineup versus an LHP but if an injury (or rest) situation causes the lineup to be filled with two bench players that have high strikeout rates (K%) versus LHP than it is possible there will be an edge to betting the OVER on that prop.
First Five Inning Bets
First five-inning bets work in an identical way to moneyline, run line, and total bets but are based on the first five innings only. The benefit of betting the first five inning line is theoretically not having to rely on bullpens like a bettor would if focusing on the full game line. This cuts the length of the bet nearly in half as the only thing that matters is the score after the completion of the first five innings. If the teams are tied after five innings and you have bet the moneyline one way or another then the bet would be refunded. If betting a team based on handicapping just the starting pitchers, this is the safer and more efficient route. As teams have started to deploy the strategy of using “openers” to start the game it has impacted the first five markets and provided bettors the opportunity to capture an informational edge when these tactics are used in an unexpected situation. Additionally, the starting lineups can impact the volume of at bats expected from certain players within the first five innings and also impact the moneyline, spread, or total for those markets.
Live Betting or In-Game Betting
Live betting or In-Game betting occurs when an online platform offers any of the aforementioned bets but the lines update in real time. For instance, if the Reds started off as -250 favorites against the Blue Jays, but then the Blue Jays scored five runs in the first, sports bettors could then go back and bet on the Reds with much higher odds once they are down huge. These also include player prop bets for pitchers during their start and sometimes include the over/under for strikeouts of a certain bullpen member as they enter the game as well. Odds change drastically from play-to-play at times so this sort of betting involves skilled timing in finding appropriate odds on a variety of different bets but bettors will have to act fast before the line is removed. Sportsbooks use in-game betting feeds to create their lines and because of that may not *always* take factors into account if a pitcher has a high pitch count early (thus creating more bullpen expectation) or is visibly performing above or below his baseline pitch velocity.
For more information on check out our article on how to bet on sports and learn about sportsbook vig, where to bet, how much to bet, line moves, shopping for the best line, and expected value (or EV).