Major League Baseball is my favorite sports as a bettor. Every day of the season offers opportunities to find value, and once you set up your statistical model, you can quickly identify the best games to handicap.
One of the easiest ways to narrow down the games on the schedule is to learn which games to avoid. The strategies on this page about betting on MLB are a good place to start.
Use this list of eight betting strategies that are losers to avoid making mistakes. Once you eliminate these bets, you can quickly find bets that offer value on MLB games.
1 – Betting on Rookie Pitchers
Name the last rookie pitcher that performed like a top 10 pitcher in the league. What about performing like a top 20 pitcher, or a top 40?
I’m sure most fans can name one or two, but when you look at the percentage of rookie pitchers that pitch well enough to be in the top 50, it’s very small. It’s so small that you’re better off simply never betting on a rookie pitcher in MLB.
They tend to use too many pitches to get outs, and they make mistakes in big situations too often. When rookies use too many pitches to get outs, their pitch count goes up quickly. And they’re all on pitch counts.
This leads to rookies not working deep into games, which puts added stress on the bullpen. You can bet on rookie pitchers when you find value, but make sure that it’s significant value, because you never know when a rookie is going to cost you money.
2 – Betting Against Home Teams in a Series
Home teams always have some advantages, but the obviously don’t always win. Some home teams are clearly fighting an uphill battle. When the best team in the league is playing at the worst team in the league, the road team is good enough to overcome the disadvantage of playing on the road more often than not.
But one thing you need to start tracking is how often home teams in MLB get swept. You’re going to find that this almost never happens. Even when bad teams are playing at home against good teams, the home team rarely gets swept.
I don’t bet on many road teams during the MLB season, but I do bet on the ones that offer clear value. But I never bet on road teams assuming a sweep.
You can use this information a couple different ways. You can look at each series to see which game the home team is most likely to win, and look for value and profit on that game.
The other way is to look at series where the home team has lost the first two games. The home team is often a good value in the third game of the series when they lost the first two games.
3 – Giving Runs to the Home Team on the Run Line
When you bet on the run line in MLB you either get 1 ½ runs or give 1 ½ runs. This creates a unique handicapping situation, and many MLB bettors lose money on the run lines.
One of the worst mistakes you can make when betting on MLB run lines is to bet on a road team that gives runs to the home team. When I bet on MLB run lines, I only bet on teams that show value getting runs or on a home team giving runs. I never bet on the road team and give runs.
When you bet on the MLB run lines you also have to consider what the cost of the bet does to the value. The varying cost of making the bet is what makes run line betting challenging. If you’re not good at evaluating games for run line wagers, stick with moneyline bets on MLB games.
4 – Betting Against the MLB Winning Streak
This might seem like it contradicts the advice in the second section about betting against home teams in a series. If the road team is on a winning streak, if you bet on the home team in the last game of the series then you’re going against one or the other of the two sections.
The solution to this is simple. First, this rarely happens. But when it does, I simply don’t bet on the game.
You can set your own number, but I’ve found four games to be a good break off point for streaks in MLB. The only time I alter this is when a team sweeps a four game series. Then I set the streak number at five.
When I’m evaluating a MLB game with one team on a winning streak, I only bet the game if I find value on the team on a winning streak. You won’t always find value on this side, and when you don’t you should avoid betting the game.
5 – Betting Against the MLB Losing Streak
MLB teams also have losing streaks. And just like winning streaks, it can be hard to break the momentum.
When a MLB team is on a losing streak, it doesn’t seem like anything they do works out. Every decision the manager makes doesn’t work out, and players start to press, which leads to more mistakes.
When you’re handicapping a MLB game with a team on a losing streak, only bet the game if you find value on the other team. Even if it looks like there’s value on the team on the losing streak, avoid betting on them.
One thing that you might want to start tracking is how teams on losing streaks do in the game following breaking the streak. When a losing streak team wins a game, it should take some of the pressure off. But does this translate into a better chance of winning the next game?
6 – Betting on Underdog Visiting MLB Teams
I don’t bet on many underdogs in MLB. And I don’t bet on many road teams either. When the two things are combined, you can count the number of road underdogs I bet on during the MLB season on your fingers.
Winning MLB gamblers focus on finding the games that offer the best value, not on finding as many games to bet on as possible. This means that you don’t have to press to find value. Instead, look for the best game or two on the schedule each day that offers value and make money on quality over quantity.
7 – The Wrong Side of High OBP Against High Walks
Some pitching staffs, and pitchers as individuals, issue a high number of walks. Some pitchers are able to offset this by striking out a high percentage of hitters, but walks are always bad.
Some teams have a higher on base percentage than others. When a team with a high OBP is facing a pitcher or staff that issues a high percentage of walks, you should never bet on the team that walks too many hitters.
This combination drives the pitch count up, which usually means the bullpen is in the game early. It also makes it easier for the high OBP team to score runs early. Betting on the wrong side of this equation is going to be costly.
8 – The Moneyline Trap
The most popular way to bet on MLB is on the moneyline. But this doesn’t mean it’s the most profitable way to bet. If you can learn how to evaluate games using the run line you have a better chance of turning a long term MLB profit.
The other option for betting on MLB is totals, but I don’t recommend starting with them. After you learn how to make profits on the moneyline and run lines you can start looking at totals.
If you’re not careful it’s easy to fall into the moneyline trap when betting on MLB games. The trap is that it’s often easy to pick the winning team, but the price you have to pay to bet on a heavy MLB favorite is often too high to have value.
The best MLB teams still lose somewhere around a third of their games. This means that there’s never a sure thing in MLB. A team that wins 66.7% of their games finishes the season 108 – 54. Most good teams only win 90 to 95 games. A team with 90 wins loses 72 games.
Make sure you evaluate value in MLB including the cost of making a moneyline wager. The cost is usually too high for long term profits.
Betting on rookies is always dangerous, and MLB pitchers are no different. It’s often best to skip the games with rookie pitchers to concentrate on the other games on the schedule.
It’s also hard to make profits consistently betting on road teams. It can be done, but why fight an uphill battle every day of the season?
Avoid these traps and the others listed on this page and your MLB profits are going to quickly improve.