Major League Baseball is a great place to find good betting value. With teams playing 162 games every season, there are always lines and games that offer value for smart handicappers. But you need to learn how to identify the important stats and use them to find value.
The best place to start is with the nine facts you need to know about MLB on this page. These facts are going to help you evaluate every game in the best possible way. This is going to lead to more profits over the course of the season.
1 – Starting Pitching Still Leads
Winning sports bettors have to learn how to adjust their evaluations and handicapping methods over time to continue winning. Things don’t seem to change much from year to year, but over decades a lot can change.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the 30 plus years I’ve been betting on baseball is that starting pitchers are still the most important position to evaluate. Every MLB game I evaluate starts with a deep look at the starting pitchers.
The only thing that’s changed over the years about evaluating starting pitchers is they throw fewer innings per start on average than they did 10, 20, or 30 years ago. But starters still throw more innings than the bullpen.
2 – Relief Pitching Is Catching Up
I mentioned in the last section that starting pitchers are throwing fewer innings than they used to. This means that relief pitchers are throwing more innings than ever before. They still aren’t throwing as many as the starter, but it’s getting closer every season.
It can be challenging to know which relief pitchers are likely to pitch, because there are so many factors that you don’t know.
You need to evaluate each team’s bullpen as a whole, and then try to figure which pitchers are going to come into the game in certain situations. Start by finding out which relief pitchers are not available, and by learning which pitcher fills each role in the bullpen.
The pitchers filling the long roles are usually the weakest on the team, so take a close look at these pitchers, especially when the starter doesn’t usually pitch deep into games.
3 – Plenty of Games So Don’t Push
One mistake that many sports bettors make is trying to force value on a game. Instead of being patient and finding true value, they want more action so they manufacture value so they can make a bet.
MLB has a 162 game schedule for each team, so there are always plenty of games on the schedule. You don’t ever have to push value where there isn’t any. You can afford to not make a bet on a game where you can’t find any real value, because there are dozens more games each week.
Speaking of value; another mistake most MLB gamblers make is they never even look at games from a value standpoint. Value is when you find lines offered by the sportsbooks that make betting on one side or the other profitable.
4 – Learn How to Use Run Lines
Baseball lines are the same as the ones you find in football and basketball in some cases, but you’re also going to find a special type of line called a run line. A run line looks like a point spread wager, but instead of paying a standard vig, like 11 to 10, the vig varies based on the teams in the game.
A standard run line has one team getting 1 ½ runs and the other team giving 1 ½ runs. You occasionally see a run line at a different level, but 1 ½ is by far the most common.
I almost always bet on the team getting the runs, but only when the bet offers true value. I never bet on a team just because they get runs. When a team gets runs you have to pay a higher price, so you have to take this into account when you’re evaluating the game.
5 – Always Evaluate Home Road Splits
Overall stats are what most people follow in baseball, but the overall stats don’t really mean anything. You’re looking for value in a particular game. And in each game there’s one home team and one road team.
This means that you need to look at the stats and performance on the road for the visiting team, and at home for the home team.
Home teams tend to perform better than road teams, but you can’t know exactly how much the difference is if you don’t look at the relevant splits.
6 – Always Evaluate Left Right Splits
The same thing is true for left and right splits. It’s extremely rare for a hitter to perform the same against both left and right handed pitching. And the same is true for pitchers facing hitters.
The next thing you need to follow closely is how each manager uses his players according to splits. Most teams have at least one or two positions that work like a platoon, and some managers use an even heavier platoon rotation.
You also need to see how each manager uses his bullpen based on left right splits. The new relief pitcher rules put into place in 2020 changed this some, but there are still specialist relievers and there always will be.
7 – Home Runs Are Important, But Not Too Important
Home runs are exciting, and there’s no argument that they’re an important part of evaluating MLB games. But don’t make the mistake of valuing them more than they are really worth.
Baseball teams score runs in a wide variety of ways, and you need to evaluate them all. Each possible outcome of an at bat is worth a certain amount in relation to the other possible outcomes. You should develop a rough system for the value of each outcome.
A home run is worth more than a triple. A triple is worth more than a double, but not much more. And this continues all the way down to a triple play, which is the worst possible outcome for the offense in an at bat.
On the other side, the value for the pitcher and defense goes the other way. Learn how to value home runs in comparison to other outcomes, and work on getting the value ratio correct for every outcome. This is going to help you evaluate games more profitably.
8 – Defense Is More Important Than Most People Think
All of the highlights tend to focus on offensive plays, but smart baseball gamblers know that defense often wins or loses games. You can’t afford to focus 100% on offense if you want to win.
You need to consider two things when looking at defense. The first thing is the range of the players, particularly in the middle infield and outfield positions. The second thing you need to consider is how well each defensive player does on the balls he gets to.
Then you need to evaluate catchers based on how well the pitching staff does with them behind the plate, and their ability to deal with stolen base attempts.
9 – Be Careful of Advanced New Age Stats
Many sports bettors have started using the new advanced stats like WAR, which stand for wins above replacement, when evaluating MLB games. While I always recommend using any stat that helps you win more bets, you have to be careful every time you introduce a new one.
If you don’t know exactly how a statistic is derived and exactly what it means, you shouldn’t use it.
I like the direction some of the new age defensive stats are going, but none of them are perfect. You can use advanced stats like WAR if you can figure out how to make them work for you. But most winning baseball bettors are already using statistics in a way that takes the same things into account that WAR and other metrics use.
Every time you evaluate a MLB game it needs to start with a deep look at the pitching. Start with the starting pitchers, and then evaluate everything you can about the bullpen. Then learn how to evaluate offense and defense, using the relative value of everything that can happen during an at bat.
Using the nine MLB facts on this page, you can develop a complete evaluation and handicapping strategy that you can use on every game. This is going to make your results consistent, and you can quickly see if your system is working; or if it needs more work.