You never know what’s going to happen in a baseball game and it ain’t over til it’s over. The games last however many innings it takes to break the tie— some games go on as long as 5 hours and the variability helps entice gamblers to join in on the action of this kind of unpredictably.
Baseball’s lack of any kind of clock sets it apart from the other major American sports. Instead, the innings keep on going until the home team is behind after their last set of at-bats.
Baseball’s most common bet is the moneyline bet. Other baseball bets include run line betting and totals betting.
Moneyline bets are one of the simplest forms of bets because there is only one thing to predict—which team will win. They’re easy to understand and great if you’re a baseball fan who wants to bet on your favorite team.
How Moneyline Bets Work
If you’re a fan of the Yankees and just want to bet on them winning without worrying about how many runs they’ll score, then moneyline betting is a great option for you.
For example, if the Rangers are playing the Astros, you can make a moneyline bet on the Rangers to win. It doesn’t matter how many runs the Rangers score or how many innings are required, as long as the Rangers win you the bet payouts.
Oddsmakers try to balance the odds on both teams to entice bettors to bet on either side of a moneyline bet. This is known as sweetening the pot and helps oddsmakers stay in business. If oddsmakers gave even odds on every game, everyone would bet on the favorites, and oddsmakers would soon go out of business.
Moneyline bets get more convoluted when oddsmakers give different odds for teams based on which team is the favorite.
How to Read Baseball Betting Odds
Oddsmakers use odds to sweeten the pot of the bet on either side. Odds balance the bets so that there’s comparable risk to voting on both the favorite or the long shot.
Today, we’ll be discussing moneyline odds—also known as American odds.
Here’s an example of some typical baseball odds:
- Texas Rangers (-140)
- Houston Astros (+130)
These odds project the Rangers to win. One confusing thing about odds is that the team with the negative number is the team that’s expected to win.
The best way to understand this type of odds is to use $100 to show how much risk is involved in betting on either side.
To win $100 betting on the Texas Rangers, you’d have to bet $140.
The Astros are the underdog so you could win more money by betting less on them.
To win $130 on the Astros, you’d only have to bet $100.
As you can see, you can win more money betting on the underdog in a moneyline bet so markets provide better value on underdogs than favorites.
Factors Affecting Baseball Moneyline Bets
There are lots of factors you can look at when you’re trying to make a winning baseball bet. Looking at tiny details is the best way to get an edge on moneyline bets and baseball is full of them. The game’s nuances can seem impossible to predict but there are some methods that can help you.
Projection systems are a surprisingly great tool for moneyline bets. There are many projection systems available for free on the internet that predict how many wins teams will have at the end of the season.
While these sites don’t predict the winners of individual games well, their systems do predict how many wins teams will have at the end of the season. Season win totals are a great indication of how good a team actually is and you can use this information to your advantage in moneyline bets.
For example, your favorite sportsbook may favor the Yankees at -140 to beat the Rays.
However, the Baseball-Reference projection system might expect the Rays to win 100 games that season and the Yankees to win 90. That system is suggesting the Rays are probably a better team than the Yankees.
While this isn’t foolproof and there’s still other factors in play other than projections, the projection system can give you a good reason to feel confident about betting on the Rays. The system thinks the Rays are an overall better team than Yankees, so they probably have a decent chance to beat the Yankees, even though the individual game odds favor the Yankees.
On the other hand, if the Yankees were to have -140 odds instead in the same situation above, you may not want to bet on them. The projection systems still think the Rays are a much better team as they project to have 10 more wins over a season so a Yankees bet may not be the sure thing you think.
2- Home Field Advantage
Home field advantage is another big component of baseball betting and the cheers and jeers of the crowd can make an underdog into a favorite in the blink of an eye.
Field conditions are also important. Rogers Centre in Toronto is notorious for its artificial turf. Many players struggle to adjust to the turf as it increases the height a ground ball bounces and feels different to run and slide on.
The difference in the field gives the home team at Rogers Centre, the Blue Jays, a big advantage. Their players are used to playing on the turf and have less trouble adjusting to the path a ball might take.
3- Pitching Matchups
Pitching staff can make a huge difference in a baseball game. Having a Cy Young caliber pitcher on any team can give them a big boost in the regular season as well as the playoffs.
Teams like the New York Mets, who have a Cy Young caliber pitcher in Jacob deGrom, get a big boost anytime he takes the mound and which presents a good opportunity to make a moneyline wager.
Even if the Mets don’t have as great a team overall as the Nationals do, Jacob deGrom can make a huge difference in any game. As a gambler, knowing when pitchers like deGrom are pitching can give you an ace up your sleeve when you decide to take a risk on a longshot.
4. Lineup Advantages
Some teams are composed of all right-handed hitters and struggle mightily against a good right-handed pitcher. Other teams have the opposite problem and an ace pitcher like Cole Hamels can leave half their lineup slain without breaking a sweat.
Good managers will balance the lineups so that not too many left-handed hitters are hitting in a row but some teams don’t have the balance to do that.
Teams like the Texas Rangers are one such example and have so many left-handed hitters that they regularly struggle against left-handed pitchers no matter how well the manager alternates hitters in the lineup.
The advantages of batting lineups are related to pitching matchups. If you know that a great right-handed pitcher like deGrom is about to face off against a team full of right-handed hitters like the Astros, you may be able to make a smart bet on the Mets winning.
Check out lineups and starting pitchers before the game on a site like Baseball-Reference so you can place a smart bet on a longshot team.
Lastly, hitting is another critical component to look at when deciding which team to place a bet on.
Baseball players are notorious for going into slumps, or cold streaks, where they struggle for weeks at a time. It seems like every time they come up to the plate they either strike out or hit a weak infield pop fly.
Don’t be deceived by slumps. Some baseball bettors will make a mistake by looking at statistics in the short term and see that a player has gone 0 for his last 15 and think, “There’s no way I’m betting on this team. This guy’s got nothing in the tank.”
While it’s intuitive to expect a player to continue his cold streak, it’s important to remember that slumps and cold streaks aren’t as important as you think. It’s usually safer to just bet on the team with the better players by stats like OPS+ than worrying about which teams are hiding a slumping player in their lineup.
What helps you predict who’s going to win a baseball game? Do you think slumps are overrated? Let us know in the comments.