There’s a reason sports handicappers flock to the sport of baseball. It’s not because they like watching the long, drawn-out contests all summer long; it’s because it makes them money! In fact, it’s one of the best sports for returning a profit due to many independent factors.
For one, the length of the season provides ample opportunity for testing systems, tracking data and trends, and collecting information to improve one’s handicapping further. While more team-oriented games can be challenging to break down due to the many simultaneous moving pieces influencing any given play, baseball is more of a series of individual games.
It’s only a contest between the pitcher and the batter; then, if the ball is put into a play, it’s just the baserunner and fielder. You can break the entire game down into these moments and study them individually in ways other sports can’t provide.
Furthermore, due to the low-scoring nature of the game, most baseball wagering is focused on the moneyline. This means you’re merely picking the winner, without a point spread. Considering that underdogs win more often in baseball than any other major sport, that means there are tons of chances to get fantastic returns. That’s why you can be a profitable baseball handicapper without necessarily winning a high percentage of your picks.
This article is going to cover many of the reasons baseball is the perfect sport on which to gamble. We’ll look at how the handicappers and the front offices of the league both analyze data to find an edge and how the game’s advanced statistics make this easier. Additionally, we’ll examine how people go about winning baseball bets, and how you can, too.
Underdogs Win More Often
One of the fundamental reasons that baseball is the premier game on which to bet is because underdogs win at a higher rate than in any other sport. While MLB dogs take roughly 42% of their matchups, underdogs in the NFL only win 32.6% of the time, in the NBA it’s 30.26%, and the NHL dogs finish in second place at 40%. With a rate of winning around 42%, you’d only need an average bet of +138 to break even.
If underdogs are winning such a high percentage of their games, putting in extra research can drastically improve your bankroll without too much extra effort.
Since we already know any team can beat any other during the grinding 162-game-long season, by considering just a few more factors, we can increase the rate at which our underdog picks win, making the sport hugely profitable without requiring an impressive winning percentage.
In fact, many of the best baseball handicappers lose more wagers than they win. It just doesn’t matter because the games on which they do bet hold positive value. The bets they do win cover for the losses, plus some! Over time, these incremental wins add up to significantly impact your bankroll.
The Casual Betting Public Isn’t Smart
If you’re willing to dig a little deeper than the average gambler, the casual public that bets on baseball is a godsend. The sportsbooks always list the starting pitcher along with the betting odds, and since it’s the most crucial position in the sport, this becomes the only factor a good majority of the bettors even consider. This moves the betting lines in ways that can be extremely beneficial.
There are so many more variables that come into play when deciding a game. The ballpark factors, umpire, weather, fatigue, recent travel, bullpens, and hot/cold streaks are all significant independent variables worth considering.
The best pitcher in the world may be unable to overcome a small strike zone on a hot day in a hitter’s park. But the casual public will almost definitely bet tons of action on the big-name pitcher regardless, without any thought concerning these other significant details.
Fading the public is every sharp gambler’s bread and butter. No sport is better suited for this than Major League Baseball.
Easy-to-Track Independent Variables
Another advantage that baseball wagering has over other sports is the many factors, with strong correlations to the outcome, that may be easily found and tracked. Unlike other games with a time limit or numerous simultaneous moving pieces on any given play, baseball is a series of one-on-one matchups, with brief moments of teamwork during base running and fielding.
Think about it; for most of the game, a player is either sitting in the dugout on offense or standing idly in the field.
Only the pitcher and catcher are engaged in every play on defense, while the batter and baserunners are the only offensive players involved. Plus, the ball is never live for very long. There’s nothing going on during a given moment in the game that can’t easily be tracked and analyzed later.
The nature of the game makes breaking the sport down to lots of little pieces and isolating statistics with strong influences on the results reasonably straightforward. We know each batter’s average versus both right- and left-handed pitchers, how they hit balls thrown in different zones, and how they perform with teammates in scoring position. Every minute detail is recorded, making doing regression analysis extremely useful.
We can look back through decades of data and see which statistics or common threads are present most frequently when teams win games. These queries can be as rudimentary or sophisticated as we see fit, although the more relevant data at your disposal, the better.
Tons of Data
Thanks to the nature and pace of the sport mentioned above, handicappers have mountains of data at their disposal. Everything that happens in the game is recorded, so you end up with huge spreadsheets full of data and in-game statistics.
But people don’t build databases on in-game happenings only; you can find statistics on umpires, park factors, weather, and just about anything else that can potentially affect a contest.
Furthermore, the information from years prior stays relevant longer in baseball. The MLB has put tremendous effort into protecting the integrity of the game. They lean heavily upon tradition, hesitating to make any significant changes that may alter baseball too drastically. They do this so that the records and statistics from past generations are comparable to the current athletes.
The things Babe Ruth did at the turn of the 20th century are still impressive to this day. There isn’t another major professional sports league that resembles anything near what it did 100 years ago. In the earliest days of basketball, players were restricted to pre-determined “zones,” couldn’t dribble, and there was no three-point line.
In football, they didn’t adopt the forward pass for years, and the athletes from those early years wouldn’t have a prayer of competing in the modern NFL.
But in baseball, Hall of Famers like Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and countless others could step out of a time machine and compete in the MLB as we know it today. The game has remained remarkably similar for generations!
Sure, tweaks have been made to the height of the mound or how tightly-wound the baseballs should be, but the fundamentals have stayed constant. And because of this, we can study many more years of games and still find valuable information.
The Analytics Movement
A byproduct of the extensive amounts of data that gets collected and the individualistic nature of the sport has been the analytics or Sabermetrics movement. With such a vast wealth of statistics, front offices began looking for ways to better understand the ingredients of winning baseball. Rather than rely on misleading stats like ERA and RBIs, these researchers learned which numbers truly correlated to winning.
The early Moneyball practitioners realized that on-base percentage was much more significant than batting average. Through their research, they found more and more situations like this and even invented new advanced statistics which gave more insight than ever into each player’s contributions to winning.
What’s great about the analytics movement is that the knowledge learned by the experts is just as advantageous for sports handicappers. It’s the same mindset: find an edge and exploit it for positive results. The general managers use this data to find ideal players and win games; we do so to win bets.
Long Season/Lots of Games
Even better than having historical data that retains some of its relevance, baseball gives us droves of recent data to study as well. With thirty teams playing 162 regular-season games each, per season, that’s 4,860 gambling opportunities per year. That’s an enormous sample size with tons of valuable information just sitting there waiting to be cultivated into winning bets!
This also gives you plenty of time to work on and tweak betting systems. Maybe you find that underdogs playing at home tend to win +1.5 run line bets often enough to possess some value. You use this for some time with moderate success until you realize that when the odds fall between -105 and +220, your return on investment gets even better!
Next, you learn that when a particular umpire calls the game, you’re losing bets, and so you now avoid him like the plague.
You see, with so many games, you have plenty of time and opportunities to perfect your handicapping routine, whether that involves building statistical models and simulating contests or something more basic.
Also, the marathon-like season plays a role in the frequent upsets. Emotionally, even the most talented squads can’t stay wholly engaged and focused for every game. When you factor in the long road trips, stretches of games played on consecutive days, and even the occasional double-header, of course, underdog teams are stealing a high percentage of games!
The Moneyline Rules
Baseball gambling is based on the moneyline system. Instead of applying a point-spread handicap and offering both sides at -110, there’s an underdog and a favorite with odds that reflect the probable outcome. The bettor picks either club to win outright, and they are paid out based on the odds.
A firm favorite may be priced at -220 on the moneyline. You can bet on them to win straight up, but you’ll need to risk $220 to earn only $100. On the other side of the equation, underdogs will have odds in the positive range, such as +175. This means that should the dog win, you’ll receive $175 for every $100 wagered.
This allows handicappers to choose an avenue to profitability that best suits their style. One could focus on winning a high percentage of picks, playing it safe and sticking with favorites or slight underdogs to make their money. Someone else may focus on underdogs, losing more often than they win, yet coming out ahead due to the higher payouts.
Baseball even has uneven odds on their point spread bets! Because it’s a low-scoring game in general, rather than a have a spread based on the matchup, a fixed 1.5-run handicap called the run line is utilized instead. Every run line bet lays -1.5 on the favorite’s side and takes 1.5 scores for the underdog.
Since the spread is a set value, how it influences the odds for each game varies. Where other handicaps bring both sides to even odds, minus the vig (-110), baseball’s point spread merely adjusts the line. A -180 favorite may get +120 odds on the run line, since winning by two or more runs is considerably harder than winning straight up. Meanwhile, the underdog that was previously +220 on the moneyline may drop to +110 or so after receiving their 1.5 runs.
Bets on Different Lengths of Innings
Another brilliant aspect of baseball wagering is the ability to specify what exactly you’re betting on. The sportsbooks offer odds on both the full game as well as partial innings. This is done because starting pitchers typically throw for 5-6 innings only, after which the less-predictable bullpen takes over.
For handicappers that want the focal point of their bet to be starting pitching, betting on fewer innings makes a lot of sense. Sure, it’s still possible that the pitcher gets shelled and pulled in the second frame, but that’s gambling for you. In most cases, the five-inning bet is a wager based on the showdown between the two starters on the mound.
Gambling on the full contest has its benefits as well. Like we mentioned earlier, the casual bettors overrate the impact a starter has on the final score. This gives us opportunities to spot scenarios wherein a big-name starter with a good record may cause tons of money to flood into one side of the bet, improving the odds for the other.
If that pitcher is in an unfavorable environment or backed up by a weak bullpen, we can benefit from the surrounding variables as well as the line movement.
Many Effective Systems and Strategies
With so much data at everyone’s disposal, hundreds of winning betting systems and strategies have already been designed. It’s just a matter of doing your research, finding a system that utilizes statistics that you’re capable of locating and understanding, and putting in the time to find upcoming matchups that fit within the system’s given parameters.
As long as you’re betting odds that are congruent with the strategy’s winning percentage, you should be able to grow your bankroll over time.
However, you should know that the sportsbooks adapt their odds in response to winning systems and methods, so no single approach will be useful forever.
If it’s determined that home favorites in games with low totals lines win -1.5 run line bets 57% of the time, that will be incredibly profitable. As soon as the bookmakers are on to the trend, they’ll build this fact into the price, setting lines that aren’t so valuable, if they are at all.
Regardless, there are so many robust resources out there for data mining and analysis that handicappers can create new systems and plans all the time. In fact, anyone can. You just gain access to a database that you can filter and play around with, like at BetLab.com, and experiment with different combinations of variables and stats until you find trends and patterns that, when bet, offer a positive return on investment.
If you’re a novice to baseball betting, you may consider finding tried and true strategies that have worked in the past, then apply your own touch. So, we know that games with a total line of 7 are ideal for a +1.5 run line bet.
After filtering out these games, you may then find that only including favorites with winning percentages between .500 and .650 improves the rate of return by 8%. Then, you keep building on that data and further refine the system to be even more profitable by only using underdogs who have won between .420 and .520 of their contests.
You see, the possibilities are endless, limited only by your imagination and effort level. Luckily, there are numerous already-developed strategies out there to use as your foundation. Find one that still returns positive results when run against this year’s statistics and start applying additional layers. You may be surprised at how easy it is to generate a winning system.
High Winning Percentages Aren’t Necessary to Profit
A significant benefit provided by baseball’s moneyline-centric betting lines is that an extensive bankroll can be earned without the need to win a high percentage of your games. The plus-money payouts won from picking dogs allow for profitability despite losing roughly 60% of your games with average underdog odds.
Between the moneyline odds and the wealth of statistics and other factors that are freely available for study, finding positive value is relatively easy to do.
First, you should calculate the implied probability of any side you’re considering buying. This requires a quick conversion of the betting odds into a percentage. This number represents the likelihood of the bet winning, as stated by the moneyline. Then, you determine if this implied probability is an accurate prediction of how things will play out.
As long as the actual probability of an event occurring is higher than what’s implied, a bet has real value. So, let’s say you’re betting on a +150 underdog, which has an implied value of 40%. You feel like that percentage is a little low and that the public is too bullish on the opponent’s starting pitcher but isn’t weighing the influence of the assigned umpire and the ballpark heavily enough.
You determine that your underdog will probably win this matchup 45% of the time in reality. That’s a bet with some serious value! As long as your methods are accurate enough to win more than 40% of your picks, your bankroll will grow. The bigger the average numerical value of the moneyline odds, the less frequently you’re required to win to still profit.
Lots of Options
One last reason that baseball is perfect for sports betting is the numerous different styles of wager allowed by the sportsbooks. The main types of bet are the moneyline, totals (or over-under), futures, and run line. However, the online bookmakers do a good job of keeping things interesting with loads of new proposition bets and alternatives to traditional wagers.
You can now put action on nearly any aspect of the game.
Some prop bets currently found at Bet365.com include “1st Innings Winner,” “First Team to Score,” “Whether the game will require extra innings,” and even a “race to runs” bet in which you set a number of runs before choosing which team you think will score that many first. And that’s just scratching the surface of what’s available for betting!
A positive result of the wide variety of bets is that you’re much less likely to grow bored. It can be fun to mix it up now and then. More importantly, having so many options allows you to develop a specialty or niche at which you excel.
Maybe you’ll find, through practice, that you’re not good at predicting the outcome of games, but you’re great at picking the first team to score. With online gambling, you’ll have the luxury of only focusing on those specific scenarios at which you consistently win.
If one were to break down all of baseball’s many qualities, they would undoubtedly determine that this game was invented specifically with sports gambling in mind. Just about every detail related to the game makes it favorable for handicappers.
The pace of play and limited time per contest in which the ball is live creates a highly scientific sport where anything that influences the final score is tracked and measured.
The limited instances of teamwork and interaction result in a sport in which every at-bat is basically an independent game of its own, with the pitcher and hitter facing off one-on-one. The statisticians record every at-bat, live ball, pitch, and fielding opportunity.
The advanced analytics practitioners then take those values and refine them in a way that quantifies each player’s impact on the game and cuts out the noisy data that doesn’t correlate to wins and losses.
What’s amazing is that all of this information is freely available to the public as well. That’s a powerful tool for recreational and professional handicappers alike. If you play around with the different sets of data long enough, you never know what trends or patterns you might find.
Once you’ve found a system that works, the insanely long season then provides an opportunity to continually put it to the test, applying and perfecting your edge as you go along.
Depending on the type of wagering you prefer, you don’t even have to win all that often to take home some wads of cash! Due to baseball’s moneyline betting standard, you can average a losing winning percentage yet still earn a sizable profit. That’s because as long as you gamble with value in mind, you may place underdog bets that will pay enough when they win to cover all of the losses, plus some.
Which brings me to the very best thing about baseball from a sports betting perspective. There are more upset wins in Major League Baseball than in any other major professional sport. With so many underdogs triumphing and returning sizable earnings, it’s almost absurd not to bet on baseball!