Understanding and Profiting From Baseball Run Lines

Baseball Player Running With Finger Pointed to Sky Next to Cascade of Money

Baseball run lines are confusing to many sports bettors. Unlike the NFL and NCAA football lines, baseball run lines don’t just give one team points and take the same number of points from the other team at the same bet cost.

At first glance, baseball run lines look like a combination of moneyline bets and spread bets. But this isn’t really what they are.

On this page, you’re going to learn exactly what a baseball moneyline bet is, how to avoid mistakes, and a few strategies that you can start using to make profitable run line wagers. Once you learn how run lines work in baseball, you’re going to easily understand puck lines in hockey, because they work the same way.

What Are Run Lines?

I’m going to use two examples of actual baseball betting lines to help you understand how run lines work. You can also get an idea of how the moneyline is related to the run line by studying these examples.

The first game in the examples is Atlanta at San Francisco. Here are the moneylines and the run lines for the game.

  Moneyline Run Line
Atlanta Braves -123 -1.5 (+135)
San Francisco Giants +113 +1.5 (-155)

The second game in the examples is Cincinnati at Milwaukee. Here are the moneylines and the run lines for the game.

Moneyline Run Line
Cincinnati Reds +125 +1.5 (-165)
Milwaukee Brewers -135 -1.5 (+145)

The away team is usually listed first, and the home team is usually listed second.

A moneyline wager is simply a bet on the team that’s going to win. When the number is a plus, you win that much when you bet $100. When the number is a minus, you have to bet that much to win $100. The plus and minus numbers on the run line after the -1.5 and +1.5 are the same.

The confusion for many bettors is the plus and minus 1.5 numbers. Each team on the baseball run line either gets 1.5 runs or gives 1.5 runs.

In the Atlanta at San Francisco game, Atlanta gives 1.5 runs and San Francisco receives 1.5 runs. This means that is you bet on Atlanta on the run line they have to win by two or more runs for you to win. If you bet on San Francisco on the run line, you win if they win the game or if they lose by one.

The plus or minus number that’s listed after the 1.5 lines works just like a normal moneyline wager. In the Atlanta vs. San Francisco game, if you bet the run line on Atlanta, you win $135 on a $100 wager. A run line wager on San Francisco cost $155 to win $100.

Notice that the moneyline favorite gives runs on the run line and the moneyline underdog gets runs on the run line. Also notice that the plus and minus numbers following the run lines are the opposite sign or the traditional moneyline.

On the second game above, Milwaukee is favored, so they have a -135 moneyline number, meaning you have to bet $135 to win $100. But if you bet on Milwaukee on the run line, you give Cincinnati +1.5 runs, but you win $145 on a bet of $100. This is the common way that run lines work.

Run Line Profit Strategies

One of the most profitable baseball betting strategies that I use is based on the historical fact that home teams are rarely swept in a series. When the home team is the underdog, I bet on the home team in the first game of the series and take the +1.5 runs on the run line.

When I lose on the first game, I bet on them again in the second game. I bet enough to cover the first game loss and enough to show a profit. I do the same thing on the third game if the home team loses the first two games.

The combination of the extra 1.5 runs per game and the rarity of home teams getting swept creates a profitable long-term baseball betting strategy.

Baseball Pitcher Throwing Pitch From the Mound

Another profitable strategy is betting the run line on the underdog getting +1.5 on games with a tight moneyline. A tight moneyline means the sportsbooks believe the game could go either way. When a game is close, the +1.5 is a powerful advantage.

In the Atlanta against San Francisco example above the moneyline is tight at -123 and +113, so I’d bet on San Francisco. This game has the added bonus of San Francisco being the home team and the underdog, so it’s a game I’d bet on.

Tight moneylines are ones that are close to 100 or -110. The bigger the spread between the two moneylines, the looser the line for this purpose. Use the moneyline numbers, not the + and – numbers on the run lines to determine how tight the line is.

Here’s an example of a good game to bet on based on a tight moneyline.

  • Colorado Rockies: (-105)
  • Pittsburgh Pirates: (-105)

The line shows that the two teams have the same chance to win, so I look at the run lines to see which team gets the extra runs. In this case, Pittsburgh is listed at +1.5 (-185). In addition, Pittsburgh is the home team, so this is a game I’d definitely consider betting.

Baseball Handicapping

Every winning baseball bettor needs to develop strong handicapping skills. Once you learn how to successfully handicap baseball games, you can use your skills to make both moneyline and run line bets on the same game sometimes.

Games that you predict to be close based on your handicapping can offer value on both sides. On the other hand, games that you handicap to be more lopsided can offer value on both bets on the same side.

Baseball Laying in the Dirt at Home Base

In the Cincinnati at Milwaukee game in the last section, I handicapped the game to be close. Milwaukee has a small edge, but based on my calculations, there’s a good possibility they’ll only win by one run. This is a game that offers a possibility of betting both sides, with the moneyline on one side and the run line on the other.

Make a bet of $200 to win $148 on Milwaukee on the moneyline. Also, make a bet of $165 to win $100 on Cincinnati on the run line. There are three possible outcomes.

  • Milwaukee wins by two or more runs: Win $148 on the moneyline and lose $165 on the run line. This results in a total loss of $17.
  • Milwaukee wins by one run: Win $148 on the moneyline and $100 on the run line. This result is a total win of $248.
  • Cincinnati wins: Lose $200 on the moneyline and win $100 on the run line. This results in a total loss of $100.

On two of the three possibilities, you lose money. But when you win both sides, you hit a big win. If you add the losses of $17 and $100, it’s less than half of the amount you win when you hit both sides. This means you only have to win both sides one out of five times to show a profit as long as Cincinnati doesn’t win more than two times out of five.

This is complicated, and you shouldn’t try to bet on both sides of a game until you master the art of baseball handicapping. But the profits can be high once you do.

Conclusion

For many years, I ignored the run lines in baseball and only bet on the moneylines. As my handicapping skills improved, I started taking advantage of run lines more. Now that you know exactly how baseball run lines work, you can start looking for value.

You can get started using the baseball run line strategies I included in the last section. Build out your go-to strategies from there and you can start making a profit on your baseball betting activities.