Baseball Betting Strategy
Baseball is a unique animal in the realm of sports betting. As we mentioned in our “MLB Basics” article, it’s often the sport that many bettors who wager heavily on football and basketball decide to skip. After the conclusion of the NBA Finals, baseball is the only professional sport in town until football starts in September.
Sports bettors who decide to use the dog days of summer as a hiatus from the betting world are missing out on one of the more profitable sports for experienced bettors. There’s a big reason that baseball betting limits are substantially lower than other major sports, such as NFL football and NBA basketball.
Bookmakers have every reason to fear sharp MLB bettors. The sport offers a massive number of wagering opportunities and a smaller breakeven percentage compared to traditional -110 wagering opportunities.
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The MLB Season is a whopping 162 games for each team. That’s just about double the NBA season and about ten times the 16-game schedule that each NFL team plays. The 162-game schedule amounts to over 2,430 games over a baseball season, not counting the postseason. There will also be rainouts that may not get made up, so this number is usually slightly lower, but you get the idea.
In terms of sheer wagering opportunities, the MLB dwarfs other sports by a massive margin. The amount of games available helps bettors in two different ways.
For one, they can be selective when they bet, picking the best spots because they have so many chances to wager. If a line moves before they can act and they’re not happy with the odds available, there’s always tomorrow.
Another factor is the sheer number of games on the schedule. The oddsmakers simply don’t have the time to breakdown every MLB market they offer down to the smallest details. When lineups come out, many bettors will pounce before the oddsmakers are able to adjust.
Baseball player and team propositions, while not offered at all sportsbooks, are another area where they may be vulnerable to sharps.
Forget About 52.4 Percent
If you don’t know the significance of 52.4% by now, you should. It’s the magic number or percentage that is needed to break even at sports betting if you’re wagering at the standard 10% vig or -110 expressed in American odds.
Since baseball doesn’t use a traditional point spread and the standard wagers are moneyline odds, the breakeven percentage isn’t relevant for MLB betting. Bettors can have an extremely strong season betting the bases even if their winning percentage at the end of the year is well under 50%.
Utilize Dime Lines and Overnight Lines
We discuss dime lines in-depth in our article regarding all about dime lines. Many sportsbooks in the US market offer dime line MLB markets. BetOnline and 5Dimes are two of most popular sportsbooks that offer dime lines, and they are also excellent all around sportsbooks.
Both also offer overnight lines, giving bettors the first crack at the odds before the majority of the money comes in the next day. 5Dimes even offers players 5-cent overnight baseball moneylines until 8 am of game day. Heritage Sports, another trusted sportsbook, offers players an almost unheard of 4-cent overnight MLB lines, but only until 5 am.
Avoid Heavy Favorites
Of course, this is general advice, as there are many situations, especially after a steam move or due to an inefficient market that betting a large favorite may the correct move. However, if you’re betting many large favorites in baseball, it’s extremely unlikely that you will end up as a long-term winner.
One primary reason for this is that the betting public (who loses money long term) consistently bets more favorites than underdogs. Their betting acumen is not the best, and they don’t care about value or getting the best price.
Another reason why there’s so much danger in betting high-priced favorites is due to the breakeven percentage on those wagers. For instance, a -190 favorite, a price that is common when an ace starting pitcher faces a low caliber team has an implied probability of 65.52%.
The implied probability is the win probability that would imply zero-vig on the offered line. In other words, bettors would need to win this bet 65.52% to just break even! With baseball, wagers like this are particularly dangerous, because it’s a game of short term luck.
The ace starting pitcher may simply have an off night. The bullpen might blow a small lead late, or the opposing team might get a few bloop singles all at the right time. There’s a reason why they play a 162-game schedule, the game of baseball is full of variance in the short run.
For instance, the underdog in the same game, if using dime line pricing would be listed at +180. The underdog would have a break even percentage of just 35.71%. This means that you would only need to win this bet about 36% of the time to breakeven.
We’re don’t always advocate avoiding big favorites. There are definitely times where they warrant a play. Baseball is just a game that is well, random, even the best starting pitcher in the league vs. the worst starting pitcher in the league will only win about 80 percent of the time.
This also fails to take into offense, ballparks, bullpen usage, and other factors.
Don’t Forget About the Bullpens
It’s no secret the lines originate around the starting pitchers for each club, and bettors are right to center in on each starter and how he matches up against the opposition. However, in today’s game, it’s becoming exceedingly rare for a starter to throw a complete game.
Even baseball’s best pitchers usually don’t make it more than seven or eight innings and in the vast majority of games and it’s no fault of their own a lot of the time.
Most managers pull pitchers after 100 or fewer pitches. And those are the best pitchers with the highest stamina. Many are pulled around five or six innings and sooner if they’re getting beat up by the opposition.
Bullpens are responsible for at least the last six outs in many games and others the last 9 or 12. It’s critical to consider what happens when a starter gets pulled if there’s an opportunity for a comeback or the opposing bullpen is a shutdown group.
Keeping track of how good a team’s bullpen will give you an idea of how a game might progress once the listed starter leaves the game.
In close games, bullpens are the difference between a winning or losing a bet and can provide that extra edge that most aren’t considering. Baseball Press does an excellent job tracking bullpen usage over the past three days for each MLB team.