Have you ever had a feeling in your gut that you knew which team was going to win it all before the season even started? Well, if so, you’ll probably be very interested in Major League Baseball futures bets. These are wagers that can be made on awards and championships for the next season almost as soon as the previous one ends.
What’s great about MLB futures betting is that the payout is significantly larger than if you wait until just before the actual World Series or after the season has already started. However, they are also much more difficult to win. When you factor in the juice built into the lines, it can often be difficult to find value in futures, particularly those predicting the winner of the championship. But that doesn’t mean value doesn’t exist. You just have to look for it a little harder.
It seems that every year in Las Vegas there’s a story about a lucky handicapper nailing huge futures bets at long odds to receive an astounding payday. Why can’t that be you? The trick is knowing what variable to look for early on and then hoping the ball bounces your way once the playoffs come. In this article, we’ll share some successful MLB futures betting tips, as well as some important factors to keep in mind when making your picks.
One of the core tenants we preach in most of our sports betting articles is bankroll management. This is the act of determining exactly how much money you have to gamble responsibly with, and then putting this money aside to divvy up into individual bets. Combined with a staking plan, it’s how you ensure you’re betting wise amounts.
If you’re going to engage in MLB futures betting, you should realize that these wagers won’t be resolved for several months in most cases. That means a portion of your bankroll will be tied up for the remainder of the season. So, if you see a futures line you like, you may need to sacrifice some of your picks from another week to stay disciplined within your bankroll management plan.
Know the Types of Futures Bets
While MLB futures picks are most commonly associated with predicting the championship-winning team, there are actually a few other varieties as well. Besides the World Series results, you may wager on the winner of each division and the pennant champions for both leagues. Then, there is also a slate of individual awards available for wagering, including the Cy Young and MVP honors.
Another MLB futures betting option is to bet on the win totals for each club. Before the season, the sportsbooks will set over-under lines for the number wins for every team. You can bet on any of the MLB franchises to either exceed this win total by going “over” or to fall short of the totals line by going “under.”
These are a great option if you don’t want to deal with the randomness of playoff baseball and would rather focus on a single team that you’re more knowledgeable about. These win totals wagers are resolved at the conclusion of the regular season rather than the playoffs, which is also excellent from a bankroll perspective.
Research the Past Season
Depending on when you place your futures bet, the previous MLB season may be all you have to go by when researching for your picks. When you’re analyzing the prior year’s performances, try to focus on variables that will carry over to the next season. You can’t assume a post-season hot streak that led a team to the World Series will repeat itself the following year. But if a team has a young core that’s only going to get better with age, that’s worth looking into.
It can be difficult not to overvalue recent results, but it’s vital not to when trying to win MLB futures bets. Teams very rarely repeat as champions in Major League Baseball, so don’t fall into the trap of assuming the same playoff teams will be at the top of the standings the following season. Top teams often make trade deadline deals for one-year rentals to put them over the top or temporarily rely on aging veterans to turn in one last great post-season before they start to decline.
Look at Contract /Roster Situations
Similar to the point made above, you’ll want to look at the rosters of the clubs you’re considering betting and examine which players will remain with the team and which are likely to move on. Then, there are also expected trade candidates that you must keep in mind. These are usually good players in the last year of their deal who aren’t likely to re-sign with their club. Rather than lose them for nothing, these teams will usually move the player at the trade deadline to a contender willing to pay by sending over some prospects in return.
It can be difficult to forecast all of the roster movement too early in the offseason. You’re better off waiting to see how free agency goes and what trades are made before really laying down odds. The primary focus should just be researching which franchises will be returning the majority of their core players, especially if they have a youthful roster.
Keep Minor League Prospects in Mind
With roster stability in mind, you may also want to read about the top AAA prospects expected to get their call-up to the Majors in the following season. A highly-touted prospect filling a position of need can significantly improve a lineup.
The same goes for a top pitching talent making his way to the big leagues. You may want to look at the franchises that fell just short of the playoffs the year before and check to see if they have any meaningful players expected to be called up to help with the next campaign.
Bet Divisions and Leagues You Know Best
One mistake we frequently see with regards to MLB futures betting is gamblers making picks despite not knowing much about the game, league, or team. Sure, it’s fun to have action on any upcoming sporting event; it raises the stakes and makes every play more meaningful to the viewer who placed the bet. But if you’re hoping to win money, don’t just buy futures odds based on the rumors and conversations about MLB on television.
You really only want to wager on teams on which you have better-than-average knowledge. The reason is that all of the casual public bettors are already going to be laying action and making bad bets off of misinformation. The only way to find success through sports gambling is to have an edge that the bookies or other gamblers don’t. Unless you’re a statistician who can cultivate tons of data to help inform your decisions, the best way to have such an edge is to focus on the division or teams that you watch the most and of whom you have the most knowledge.
Study the Schedule
Another aspect of the upcoming MLB season worth studying is the schedule. Depending on the division on which you’re considering MLB futures betting, the winner and eventual playoff representative may be decided by only a game or two. You will want to know which interleague opponents each potential betting team will be playing.
Furthermore, analyze the schedule for long road trips or homestands during crucial parts of the season. You wouldn’t want a team in a tightly-contested division to have to play numerous series on the road right as things are coming down to the wire.
Also, be mindful of teams traveling east after spending time in the west. Historically, jet lag greatly diminishes performance for several days after flying west to east. So, keep this in mind if a club you’re considering betting has lots of these travel situations, as they’ll be playing at a significant disadvantage.
Keep Injury History in Mind
There are always those teams that look amazing on paper, only to get decimated by critical injuries time and time again. You’ll want to keep individual players’ history with injuries and extended amounts of time off in mind when making your MLB futures picks. A couple of season-ending injuries to players in vital roles can turn a contender for the World Series into a bottom-feeder in the standings in the blink of an eye.
Aging rosters are going to be more prone to losing athletes to the Disabled List. If a squad made a deep run the year before but with an older team of aging stars, keep in mind that they’re likely to encounter injury issues in the next season. After playing an extended season and aging another year, these veteran sides often fall down the standings dramatically only a year removed from substantial success.
Check Back in Mid-Season
The All-Star break acts as the midway point in the Major League Baseball season. This is a great time to regroup and analyze how your MLB futures picks are performing to date. If your team fell short of expectations, you might consider making some new bets with your current data regarding which teams are good and bad.
If your bet is looking good, you may consider hedging if you want to play it safe. Rather than put all of your eggs in one basket, hoping that your pick continues to advance towards winning your bet, maybe place a small wager on the other teams with a legitimate chance in an effort to guarantee yourself some winnings. If your futures pick advances all the way to the World Series and the potential payout is massive, you’ll definitely want to consider hedging.
While the All-Star game is excellent for sports wagering as well, if you have some MLB futures picks with potential, use this break in the action to evaluate what’s working and what isn’t. If you’re happy riding with your team all the way, that’s fantastic. But if you have some doubts, maybe making a few extra side bets isn’t the worst idea.
Know the Stats That Correlate to Winning
The top handicappers use what’s called “regression analysis” to study previous outcomes and what analytical factors were present when the desired result occurred. They mine their data with more and more specific queries until they’ve identified independent variables with a strong correlation to winning baseball games. With that information in hand, they then identify upcoming contests with similar circumstances and bet based on the historical data.
Luckily for you, being able to perform regression analysis is not necessary to make successful MLB futures bets. We’ve already written numerous articles about baseball betting systems and strategies that share many of the most vital factors that you should consider. You can then take this information and compare the team statistics across both leagues so that you may wager on the clubs who excel at the statistics that matter.
Research has shown a starting pitcher’s record means very little; the same goes for RBIs and other older metrics that have been replaced in the post-Moneyball world. We now have advanced statistics that tell a much clearer story regarding the impact individual players have on the outcome of games. Finding the teams that excel in these essential stats will drastically help identify upcoming contenders. Some relevant stats you may want to keep in mind:
- OPS – On-Base Percentage + Slugging
- Run Differential
- WHIP – Walks and Hits/Innings Pitched
- Batting Average
- ERA+ – Earned Run Average Adjusted for Ballpark
- DER – Defensive Efficiency Ratio
- RC – Runs Created
- BABIP – Batting Average on Runs in Play
- P/PA – Pitches Per Plate Appearance
- DRS – Defensive Runs Saved
Bet with Value in Mind
Believe it or not, the winning percentage of your sports bets are unimportant in the grand scheme of things. You could bet nothing but the most heavily-favored teams and win a high ratio of your matchups despite losing money. The proper way to approach gambling is to place your bets with the concept of value in mind.
Betting value is found anytime the actual probability of an event occurring is greater than what’s implied by the odds. Handicappers will convert the betting odds into percentage form, giving them the implied probability. If the actual likelihood of a team winning is greater than that calculated percentage, the bet holds value.
Think of it in terms of a coin toss. What would you do if the bookmaker gave you +200 odds on heads and -180 odds on tails? We know that a coin toss only has two possible outcomes, each of which has a 50% chance of happening. +200 odds expressed in percentage form is 33.3%. That means that at +200, you’d only need to hit one-third of your bets to break even.
Since 50%, the actual likelihood of heads landing is higher than 33%, “heads” has lots of value. It doesn’t matter if every fiber in your being believes tails will land next; the only correct bet is on heads. At -180, you’d need to nearly 65% of your coin tosses to land on tails to break even, something that’s insanely unlikely.
This is the same approach you should have to betting on baseball. When you’re looking at futures odds, oftentimes the best teams from the year prior have lines of two-to-one or three-to-one, which doesn’t hold much value. Baseball has too much variance for a club to have a higher than 33.3% chance of winning it all before the season even starts.
But you can still find teams that do hold some value. It’s not uncommon for teams to drastically outperform their pre-season expectations. In 2018, this is being done by the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, both of which are teams that were expected to need another year before their young cores started winning games. Either of these teams would have been distant underdogs to the Washington Nationals to win the division but are now in the driver’s seat. They would have been ideal candidates for a brilliant MLB futures bet.
Shop for the Best Odds
Once you’ve handicapped the following season and your analysis has settled on a couple MLB futures bet-worthy teams, don’t just pull the trigger and buy some action with the first sportsbook you see. It’s worth your time to visit numerous online bookmakers to find the very best price you can find.
So often, a gambler’s bankroll is determined by the slightest of margins on a large volume of bets. Every half-point or small percentage point difference can add up in a major way over time. It’s those small increments that make up the difference between making money through sports betting and being down overall.
Let’s say one site has the Red Sox winning the World Series at 4/1 (+400) odds, while another lists them at 9/2 (+450). Before the year, you want to place $300 on the Sox to win it all. If they win the title and you bet with the first option, your earnings will be $1200. If you shopped around instead and placed your wager with the second bookie, you’ll receive $1350. That’s a $150 difference on a single bet. Imagine how much the money will add up over time if you always shop for the best lines!
We recommend opening an account with several sportsbooks to ensure you always have access to the most valuable lines. Betting odds don’t always sit in a favorable position for long, so you’ll want to act quickly when you see a better price. We’ve got several recommendations of great MLB betting sites that can help you find and exploit these valuable lines.
Major League Baseball’s futures bets are an excellent way to add tons of excitement and action to the long season. Spending the time to research the league and make your picks before the season launches will put you ahead of the curve and give you an edge on the casual gamblers who bounce from game to game. Entering the year, you’ll have more knowledge about all of the teams, making your weekly bets on individual games more effective and successful.
Beyond the benefit that doing research ahead of time gives you, MLB futures bets provide incredible payouts when they are won. When you get the hang of researching the significant data and finding correlations to winning baseball, you can expand your bankroll considerably just by hitting one of these long-term wagers. In Las Vegas a few years ago, a man won almost two million dollars when the Kansas City Royals won it all!
As long as you do your research, shop for the best odds, and always keep value in mind when making your picks, MLB futures betting can be an enriching and enjoyable experience. For one sum of money, you get an entire season of increased stakes in the game, making the extended MLB schedule feel more intense along the way. Plus, there’s nothing better than getting to the end of the year and realizing you predicted the whole thing correctly before the campaign even began!