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Our Comprehensive Guide to Betting on Baseball

During the summer months, baseball takes center stage, offering bettors and sports fans alike a variety of unique wagering opportunities and live odds. A successful MLB betting strategy considers the performance of starting pitchers and bullpens, team home/away records and head-to-head records, score potential, and what to expect from each team’s offense.

With baseball lines available daily, both novice and hard-core sports betting fans can get in on the action – and with our help, betting trends and a little score watching, you can make educated picks. Ray Liotta’s ghost once told Kevin Costner, “if you build it, they will come.” Here at Odds Shark, we say, “if you bet it, you could win.”

Betting on the Moneyline

In all sports whether it’s baseball, hockey or UFC, a moneyline bet involves picking an outright winner, aka who will have the highest score. However, like everything in life, this bet comes with a price. Betting on a moneyline favorite always pays less than winning a bet on an underdog, no matter which sportsbook you use.

In betting, favorites are always shown with the minus sign (-) and underdogs are shown with the plus sign (+).

Let’s say the Boston Red Sox are hosting the Chicago White Sox in a battle of the socks. A game line would look something like this:

Boston -200

Chicago +170

The above game line means a bet on the favored Red Sox would cost you $200 to win $100. On the other hand, a White Sox underdog win would give you $170 on a $100 wager.

You can use our Odds Calculator to determine what you would win based on your wager amount. You’ll also be able to tell what a win on the underdog vs favorite will give you depending on the sportsbook’s odds. With even the best baseball teams typically losing about 40 percent of their regular-season games, frequently picking big favorites can be risky for novice bettors.

Handicapping small favorites and underdogs, particularly home underdogs, while watching out for good pitchers on bad teams, can go a long way in helping you steadily build your bankroll. Think of the 2018 Mets and how they had one of the best pitchers in the game (Jacob deGrom) but could not give him any run support at all.

The Runline

The MLB runline is baseball’s version of the point spread where you get a 1.5-run spread on a game. An example of a runline would be:

New York -1.5 +110

Toronto +1.5 -140

While the Yankees may be -200 moneyline favorites to defeat the Blue Jays, their odds of winning by 1.5 or more runs could be dramatically higher and may even make them underdogs. The Blue Jays could lose the game by a run but pay off as a favorite on the runline. The number (1.5) is set by oddsmakers based on the normal score of a baseball game where teams generally win or lose by two runs.

First Five Innings Betting

During the regular season, especially in April and May, it can take baseball teams time to find their groove. Young players get called up, new managers learn the ropes and seasoned vets can have slow starts, turning a typical matchup into a tumultuous affair that can have an effect on the score of the game and your betting strategy.

Part of your baseball betting strategy should involve looking at the bullpen. So, if a team has a horrible bullpen, you only need to worry about the active starting pitcher for five innings for this type of bet. Instead of wagering on the game’s outcome straight up, you can bet on the first five innings of a ball game. Generally called F5 bets at the sportsbook, this is like a moneyline bet except you’re only betting on the first five innings of the game. If you’re only handicapping the starting pitchers, then there’s less risk vs handicapping the entire game.

Betting MLB Totals

MLB totals betting allows you to wager on the total number of runs that will be scored by both teams in a game. Oddsmakers establish a betting line representing the total, giving bettors the option to wager on the OVER or UNDER.

Let’s pretend the Dodgers are playing the Rockies. Totals bet odds would appear like this:

OVER 10.5

UNDER 10.5

In this example, the total is set at 10.5. If you think the combined number of runs scored by both teams will be 11 or more, you would bet the OVER. If you think the score will be 10 or less, you would bet the UNDER. One thing for bettors to understand is that oddsmakers take into account factors like ballparks. Oddsmakers always consider locations like Coors Field (where the ball travels further) and Wrigley Field (where wind often has an impact) and work them into the set total for the game.

Baseball Futures

Futures betting is available all year long. During the offseason, the 162-game season, the pennant races and the postseason, sports bettors can wager on which team will be crowned the World Series champion and which teams will be league pennant winners and division title winners.

The great thing about MLB betting, besides winning a few bucks, is that there are so many options available when it comes to future odds that you can make picks on just about anything. You can bet on team win totals or if they will go OVER or UNDER the oddsmaker’s set number. You can also make player-specific futures bets like who will win MVP, who will be the home-run leader, which pitcher will win the Cy Young, and who will eat the most seeds during the course of the season. OK, we made up the last one, but in a perfect world, a sportsbook would offer odds on that.

Prop Bets

Prop betting allows you to wager on very specific instances, especially during the playoffs. You can make individual bets on players. Will their total number of hits be OVER or UNDER the oddsmaker’s set number? Other examples would be:

  • How many RBIs will a certain player have?
  • How many bases will a certain player steal?
  • How many home runs will a certain player have?
  • How many strikeouts will a certain pitcher have?

We provide umpire stats which can be useful when it comes to player props. Knowing how an umpire controls a game lets you know if they’re prone to calling more strikeouts, which can hamper the number of hits.

Baseball Parlays

Parlays can be a baseball bettor’s best friend or worst nightmare. This type of bet allows you to combine two or more bets on the same ticket (point spread/runline, totals, moneylines), netting more money than you would on a single wager. However, all picks must hit otherwise your entire parlay ticket is a bust.

Live Odds

Bettors wagering on baseball want to win. However, sometimes you make a bet on your favorite team and you notice that it’s the top of the seventh and they’re not going to win you any money. When this happens, look for live odds at your sportsbook to make an in-play bet. Odds will be available for plate appearances, home runs, which base a batter will get on, and the number of strikeouts a pitcher will throw during any given inning. If a bullpen phenom comes on in the top of the eighth and you think he’ll have at least two strikeouts, why not make an in-play bet on him?

What is the Best Baseball Betting Strategy?

The best betting strategies for wagering on Major League Baseball involve a basic knowledge of the sport. Odds Shark’s MLB Center features betting news, free picks, stats, odds and everything else you’d need to handicap your bets. Checking out a team’s offensive and defensive stats can also aid you in your quest to make great baseball picks.

Analyzing starting pitchers and the bullpen’s fatigue level can help shape your bets. A starting pitcher may have a great start one week but flounder the next time they’re on the mound. We have probable pitcher stats and pitching logs for every pitcher currently in the majors.

Plus, our Consensus page lets you know how the public is betting on each scheduled game. Moreover, our Betting Trends Report can give bettors a snapshot of how to bet. There’s also our Standings page which shows you where each team sits in their respective division. This page is broken down into Money Standings giving you an idea of how much teams are worth as favorites and underdogs, and MLB Standings so you can see how a team performs against lefties and righties. Finally, our Scores page gives you a team’s schedule and, you guessed it, the score of their past games.

Odds can change daily for an MLB game, which can make the nature of sports betting seem erratic. However, if you lock it in to Odds Shark, you can make good bets and win that Bryce Harper money – or at least that Jake Taylor money.