Major League Baseball (external link) is currently third in the United States behind NFL and NBA in sports betting popularity. The recent expansion of local and national TV deals has made the sport easier to access than ever before for fans around the country and world, which is a significant positive development for bettors of the sport.
The recent change in the sports betting legislation in the United States should only expand the interest in MLB betting, as it is the primary sport available to bet on during the summer months before the NFL kicks off. Additionally, the sport’s shift from managing gameplay by gut feel to analytics-driven optimal decision making has altered the nature of the sport, and bettors can use this style change to find edges in the betting market potentially.
One of the unique features of MLB is the longevity of each season – both for the individuals involved in the games as well as for sports bettors.
Every season, the 30 MLB teams play a total of 2,430 regular season games, plus the postseason and World Series.
MLB not only contains plenty of games to bet on but stacks of almost unlimited types of bets offered within each game. The amount of events to bet on in an MLB season is unmatched in any other sport offering, so understanding what each bet means and how they can lead to successful betting. In addition, the massive number of bets offered allows the sports betting players to leverage projections and predictions to maximize their return.
Money Line (ML) Bets
Money line bets are the most popular betting form for MLB. ML is a straightforward form of betting on MLB as far as picking a distinct outcome – but it gets trickier once you look under the hood and factor in odds.
When wagering on the money line, the bettor is simply picking who will win the game outright.
With ML bets, it is regardless of how many runs one team wins by, just that they win the game. There are, of course, no ties in baseball, so as long as the game is played, there will be a winner and loser on a money line bet. Sportsbooks show the dissimilarity in talent or prediction between the two teams with money line bets by weighing the ML with worse odds on the better team. For example, a division-leading team like the Yankees playing a basement-dwelling team like the Orioles will often have substantial odds in their favor, such as the below.
Baltimore Orioles (+180) at New York Yankees (-210)
The team with the odds with the plus sign is the underdog team, and the amount you will win (or the equivalent) on a $100 bet. The team with the minus sign is the favorite, and the amount you must bet to win is the equivalent of $100.
The odds above can be explained as follows:
- If wagering $100 on the Orioles ML, you would win $180 (plus the $100 you wagered).
- If wagering on the Yankees ML, you would need to bet $180 to win $100 (plus the money wagered).
Creating a variance in the odds for the two teams is how the sportsbooks make a balance in an unbalanced game. The ML betting odds are also often affected by the caliber of starting pitchers slated to be on the mound for each team in the game. Elite pitchers can impact odds significantly, especially when facing a mediocre or worse starting pitcher on the other team. As sportsbooks collect bets on both sides of a game, the money line odds will be adjusted for both teams to account for the money being attributed to each team within a game. Other factors that might change the money line betting odds and details you need to know are injuries to key players, weather/wind, ballpark factors, lineups, and recent player/team trends.
Run Line (RL) Bets
MLB wagering is unique to most other sports in that there is not a traditional point spread established for each game. In place of a point spread, each game has a fixed -1.5 and +1.5 “run line” assigned to the two teams, with the favorite being -1.5 and the underdog assigned +1.5. So, for example, the same Orioles at Yankees game-used above might show the following RL odds:
Baltimore Orioles +1.5 (+100) at New York Yankees -1.5 (-120)
The interpretation of these RL odds are as follows – a $100 RL wager on the Orioles means that you are betting that the Orioles will either win the game outright or lose by no more than one run. The Orioles losing by two or more runs would result in a loss. With the odds posted, you would stand to win $100 (plus the $100 wagered) if the Orioles win the game or lose by one. If betting on the Yankees -1.5, the odds tell you that you must wager $120 to win $100, and the Yankees must win the game by at least two runs for your wager to be paid. MLB RL betting is not as popular as ML betting but provides the equivalent of a spread bet for MLB, as spread bets are the most popular in the NFL. There are some underlying pitfalls with RL betting, which are addressed in the “Betting Strategies” section.
Over and Under Bets
MLB total bets mirror total bets from the other major US sports. The sportsbook sets a line for the total number of runs projected to be scored in a game, and the sports bettor will place a bet whether the total score for both teams will be over or under that total.
For example, in our Orioles at Yankees, the total is set at 9.5 runs. You could then either bet on the over or under for that total. Some game totals are set at whole numbers which adds the possibility of a push bet, an added flavor not seen in the money line or point spread. The opening over and under lines will move as players place their bets, the game total and odds will move concurrently with the level of money being placed on each side (over/under) of the event. As an example, the total betting profile could look similar to the below for this Orioles/Yankees game, and then change based on bets placed on either side.
Orioles at Yankees Over 9.5 (-115)
Orioles at Yankees Under 9.5 (-105)
Many factors including home ballpark, weather, wind, starting pitchers, and lineups have a significant impact on game total lines and odds.
Team Total Bets
MLB team total betting is a sub-section of the game total betting type. The difference is that the game total is broken down into the expected number of runs for each team. The dynamics are the same as game total betting – bettors can wager over or under the set team total for either team involved, allowing four wagering options for each game. Below is an example of how our BAL/NYY game might look for team total wagering.
Orioles Team Total: Over 4.0 -105 ; Under 4.0 -115
Yankees Team Total: Over 5.5 -115 ; Under 5.5 -105
First-5 Innings Result Bets
First-5 Innings bets (F5) are less popular than full game bets, but nonetheless offer additional options in which to wager on each MLB game. Most sportsbooks will offer three options for F5 wagering:
- F5 ML
- F5 RL (+/- 0.5)
- F5 Total Runs
The dynamics of each of these bets are consistent with their full-game counterparts.
These bets are prevalent in every sport, and MLB is no exception. Parlaying means that you are placing multiple bets within the same bet. For your bet to be winning, you need to win all bets placed. The upside with parlay bets is an increased payout as the odds multiply as more bets are placed, and the downside is a higher risk with an increased risk of losing your wagered money.
For example, if a parlay bet is made on the Yankees ML in their game against the Orioles plus the Dodgers ML in their game against the Rockies, both the Yankees and the Dodgers must win their respective matches in order to be paid out on that wager. If one of the two teams loses, the wager is a loss.
An important note on parlay bets in MLB (as with other sports): most sportsbooks will not allow parlays that include correlated bets, such as parlaying a team’s ML with their team total.
Growing fast in popularity in MLB, player proposition bets are a great way to
Rapidly growing in popularity across all sports, player proposition bets are an excellent way to give substance to other bets. Sportbooks will offer prop bets for categories like hits, home runs, RBI, total bases, strikeouts, and more. Player props have always been more popular for Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) but are growing in popularity in the world of sports betting.
This betting form is very similar to player props, but instead of betting on an event for an individual player, you are now betting on something that will happen on a team level.
Examples of some MLB game propositions include the following:
- Team to Score First
- Score in First Inning – Y/N
- Extra Innings – Y/N
Game props are tough to predict and should be considered "fun bets." Game props and player props are beautiful for people who are new to sports betting as they are easy to understand and relate to than points spread and other more complex betting types. As live betting has increased in popularity, game props are often fast bets that are settled within minutes after a bet is placed.
The MLB season comprises a multitude of "series" since each team has to play 162 games, it does not make sense for each team to travel every day. The result is a series between two teams, ranging from two to four games at the exact location. So naturally, you can bet on which team will win the most games in a series as an ML bet.
Each series wager can win, lose, or push depending on the outcomes and number of games within the series. The ML odds for series bets are contingent upon the length of the series and the relative strength of the two teams, as well as which team is home or away.
This betting type is all about predicting the future. Future bets are based on something that will happen later and involve predicting a long-term result of a season. For example, MLB's future bets could be choosing the team to win the World Series, a team to win its division, or a player to win a significant season-long award. The draw of futures bets is the long odds payoffs that come with plucking that World Series or MVP award winner well before the results are known. Future bets are most popular before the start of a season, and the odds of the future bets will be updated as the season goes and based on the teams' performances.
Adjusted/Alternate Run Line Bets
A lesser-used bet type and not offered everywhere, adjusted or alternate run line bets are where the bettor can take a team at a different spread from the standard run line -1.5/+1.5 spread. The Alternate Run Line (ALRL) is the inverse of the Run Line. The team which was +1.5 on the run line is bet at -1.5 for the ALRL, at much better odds, because they now have to win by more than one run. Conversely, the team which was -1.5 on the run line is now bet at +1.5, with much worse odds. Again, it's because they no longer have to win by more than one but now have to either win the game or lose by less than two runs. An example of the ALRL lines from our Orioles at Yankees game:
- ALRL Orioles -1.5 (+300)
- ALRL Yankees +1.5 (-400)
The Adjusted Run Line (ADRL) is usually an offering of -2.5 or +2.5 (but can increase to 3.5 or higher) with the same teams as favorite/underdog as the RL. It gives the underdog an extra run of cushion, and the favorite must cover an additional run for a wager to win. It affects the odds you are receiving for betting on each team instead of the RL or the ALRL. An example of the ADRL lines from our Orioles at Yankees game:
- ADRL Orioles -2.5 (-150)
- ADRL Yankees +2.5 (+130)
Most sports betting enthusiasts would describe this as the most fun way of betting. Sportsbooks have improved their live betting offering, and nowadays, you can bet on almost anything that will happen in a game. Some bets could settle within seconds. It's what makes in-play betting so much fun and exciting. In-Game betting ranges from simple to complex betting types. For example, bettors can wager on what the next at-bat will result in – Hit, Walk, Out – or which team will score next – or which player will hit the next home run.
Live betting is widely considered as the most fun way to bet on sports.
Live odds are constantly updating, and you need to place your bets fast for the marker odds not to change. Live betting is a significant part of the total amount wagered in a sportsbook and grows every year. Combined with live-streamed MLB games at sportsbooks websites and apps, in-play betting could increase even more.
The following MLB betting strategies are listed without the order of importance. You need to apply more than one MLB betting strategy to succeed when betting on MLB.
- The ability to follow trends, player news, lineups, manager tendencies, bullpen statistics, and other factors is crucial to maintaining success across all betting types in MLB.
- RL bettor mistakes – when making RL wagers, note that roughly 30% of all MLB games are decided by one run. Most often, the favorite laying -1.5 looks like a great bet, especially at home. Still, with the abundance of one-run games, there is mainly a disadvantage betting home team -1.5 RL favorites, as they do not receive an at-bat in the bottom of the ninth if leading. Many games are decided by one run in the top of the ninth without the home team given a chance to score in the bottom of the ninth because they are already victorious. As a result, many successful MLB bettors will wager on the underdog (+1.5) side of RLs the majority of the time.
- Monitoring weather and wind is an excellent way to succeed in wagering on Game Totals. Many MLB stadiums are heavily impacted by weather and wind, with historical trends showing that these highly influence hitting and pitching environments daily.
- Team totals and player prop wagers are arguably the best way to deliver sports wagering with DFS play. Most MLB DFS players search for teams that will outperform their baseline expectation on a given day and will stack that team’s hitters in hopes of hitting a significant score. By augmenting your DFS team stacks with Team Total and Player Prop bets, you can capitalize on correct predictions about team production daily. An essential factor of success is capitalizing as much as possible when your projections/forecasts are accurate.
- F5 betting can be a great way to attack a game that you think might play out one way early on. This is especially the case in MLB, where many teams might have excellent starting pitching but a poor bullpen (pitchers that play later in the game). Leveraging solid research to figure out which bullpens are over or under-performing, as well as deciphering starting pitching effectiveness, is the key to successful F5 MLB wagering.
There are two Leagues within MLB, the American League, and the National League. And they still play with a different rule – the American League uses a Designated Hitter who bats each time through the order for the pitcher. In contrast, the pitchers go to bat for themselves in National League-hosted games.
The 2019 MLB season is experiencing a record number of long balls. Per SI: “At this rate, MLB hitters will break the record of 6,105 home runs set in 2017 not by a little, but by a lot: by 456 homers, or 7.5%. Compared to last year, homers are up 17.5%, with almost one thousand more dingers expected.” Bet the over!
June 13-16, 2019 – the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies set an MLB record by scoring 92 combined runs over a four-game series at hitter-friendly Coors Field in Denver, CO.
In 2016, there were 185 extra-inning games out of 2,428 games played (7.6%) — a tidbit for Game Total and Game Prop bettors.
How to Find Baseball at Betting Sites
With MLB being one of the most wagered sports in the US all sportsbooks will offer a wide selection of MLB betting. You will find the MLB or Baseball section at the sportsbooks top header navigation or the left sidebar depending on the layout of the specific sportsbook but you can rest assured you will find it when the season is on. The selection of bet types for MLB are plenty and at most sportsbooks, you will find all the types of betting explained above ranging from money line, point spread, totals, futures, player prop bets, and in-play betting.
Most Popular MLB Events
There are three major MLB events each season where casual fans and bettors join the regular crowd on the action.
- Opening Day. The unofficial beginning of Spring for many in the United States. Eternal hope abounds as every team is 0-0 and a new season is afoot. There is always a ton of pomp and circumstance surrounding Opening Day festivities. This is a great time for sports betting fans to get future bets in and offseason research and predictions can create an early-season edge against betting lines before sportsbooks have a chance to adjust.
- All-Star Game Festivities. The celebrated halfway point of the long, arduous MLB season. The weekend contains two events that are heavily wagered on, including the Home Run Derby as well as the All-Star Game itself. It is widely accepted that MLB has the greatest All-Star weekend out of the four major sports.
- World Series. The pinnacle of the sport is normally in late October-early November, where the two best teams compete in a seven-game series to decide the World Champion. Player and Game props are expanded for the World Series, much like for the Super Bowl in the NFL albeit at a much smaller scale. Hopefully, the World Series gives bettors a chance to cash futures tickets held since early in the year.
Major League Baseball (MLB) is the highest level of baseball in the world. MLB was founded in 1903 and is the oldest of the four major North American professional sports leagues. Known as “America’s Pastime”, MLB teams are the heart of their respective cities and carry avid fanbases. The current model of MLB contains 30 teams, who each play 162 game seasons followed by postseason play, ultimately resulting in the World Series, where a champion is crowned.
MLB has steadily increased its cache around the world over the years and is currently comprised of roughly 40% African American, Latino or Asian players, with a major progression over the last 20+ years. The Latin and Asian markets contain a deep baseball culture, and the influx of talent from those areas of the world into the MLB landscape has energized the game and increased the overall level of play significantly, as many of the current stars in the league are non-native to North America.
MLB is now known as very analytics-friendly in its current state, as the sport has undergone a massive shift just in the last decade in how the game is played and how the game is analyzed. The game of baseball has never been influenced more by young talent, as the sport is currently enjoying a fantastic youth movement where incredible young stars are littered throughout the league, giving many teams hope for bright futures.
Legends in MLB
The greatest players in the history of the sport can be found memorialized in Cooperstown, NY at the Baseball Hall of Fame. The most iconic players in MLB history include names such as Cy Young, Babe Ruth, Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Ted Williams; all of which transcended the game in their own ways, throughout different eras of the sport.
Babe Ruth Pitching
There are many future Hall of Fame-worthy players currently residing in Major League Baseball – they belong in two categories, the first comprised of the experienced and accomplished grizzled veterans of the sport. The second category contains the young group of exciting players with unbelievable potential.
The Old Guard Category: Albert Pujols, Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Miguel Cabrera, Buster Posey
The Young Studs Category: Mike Trout, Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Mookie Betts, Christian Yelich, Jose Altuve, Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor