Guide: How to bet on Baseball/MLB

Baseball is the National Pastime and, if you’re looking into sports betting, learning how to bet on baseball is a sure way to go. With the MLB season traditionally played March through September, over 2,000 games are contested during the regular season, which are then followed by the postseason tournament.

Baseball betting, with a greater focus on the money line, totals and run lines, is very stat heavy – as anyone who has seen Moneyball will know. But, with the abundance of data available to sports bettors, the sport offers plenty of value and opportunity.

When learning how to bet on baseball, there are a number of different factors to research, which we will go into in detail below, along with a look at different baseball betting strategies. To learn more about the different types of betting in baseball, read our guide on baseball bet types, while you can also read about the biggest baseball events of 2020 on BetCompare.

Responsible gambling

Before we look into how to bet on baseball in more depth, like with any type of betting, we at BetCompare always encourage you to gamble responsibly.

Whether your aim is to have some skin in the game for excitement, back your home team or make a long-term profit with a specific baseball betting strategy, always remember not to lose control. Wagering is about entertainment as well as the chance to make money, so don’t let a bad run ruin your betting experience.

Stake only what you know you can afford and always remember there’s a chance of losing. Don’t chase your losses; instead, set limits for yourself to help your betting. That way, you’ll enjoy your betting more – and end up enjoying the baseball itself more.

Use the statistics

Many bettors might not want to get bogged down in the statistics of baseball betting, preferring to bet with what they see, or perhaps their gut feel. That’s totally fine, especially if you are betting just for fun. But if you are looking to profit in the long term, baseball is more stat-heavy than other sports, so the data is there if you choose to use it – and can be incredibly useful.

At the same time, it’s important to focus on the right information. With so much data available to baseball bettors, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by legions of stats and numbers in the MLB alone. So be sure to filter out anything that’s too subjective, or numbers for numbers’ sake – which don’t tell you much about what you should actually wager on.

What to look out for: the pitchers and hitters

Where data and statistics can absolutely help your betting is when analyzing certain players and positions. Whereas a quarterback is the most important position in American football, the small number of different positions in baseball limits which positions to focus on.

Crucial in helping your betting is looking at the pitcher. It is vital to know who a team’s starting pitcher will actually be for a game. Due to the high volume of MLB matches, for example, some coaches may rotate more often than others, giving their relief pitchers more game time. Starting pitchers are so important that bets can be voided if one of those expected to start is benched. Useful statistics here are:

Innings Pitched – This stat measures the number of innings a pitcher remains in a game. Just because a pitcher appears in a game, it doesn’t mean he will record an inning pitched. For a pitcher’s Innings Pitched total to increase, he must be pitching while an out is recorded.

Walks Plus Hits Per Innings Pitched – Looks at the number of baserunners a pitcher has allowed per inning pitched. This covers the number of walks and hits allowed, and is then divided by innings pitched. The lower this figure is for a pitcher, the better they have performed.

Earned Run Average – Is the average of earned runs given up by a pitcher per nine innings pitched. To calculate this, you divide the number of earned runs allowed by the innings pitched, then multiplying that number by nine. (Earned runs are runs made by offensive play, rather than the result of an error from the fielding team).

Wins Above Replacement Players – This determines a player’s total contribution to his team. In other words, this measure looks at how many wins a starter is worth compared to if the team had a replacement-level player in the same position.

Baseball is, of course, as much about the bat as the ball – so be sure not to concentrate just on pitchers but to equally look at a team’s hitters. The most important statistics when assessing a hitter are:

Plate Appearances – A simple measure, this looks at how many turns batting a player has completed. If a player has been put out or becomes a runner, they are credited with a plate appearance.

Weighted On-Base Average – While On-Base Average looks at whether a player usually reaches base or not, Weighted On-Base Average is arguably a more useful measure, looking at how a player reached base, accounting for walks and home runs.

On-Base Percentage – Similar to the above, an On-Base Percentage measures how frequently a batter reaches base, comparing their ratio of times-on-base to their total of plate appearances.

Isolated Power – This measures a batter’s power by taking only extra-base hits, and the type of extra-base hit, into account. Extra-base hits are long hits that help a batter advance past first base without a fielding error, which can be calculated by the sum of a batter’s doubles, triples and home runs.

Familiarize yourself with these stats and it can help you on your way towards learning how to bet on baseball.

Injury reports

To help keep on top of which players are in form, in top condition or likelier to start, make sure you keep an eye on a team’s injury reports. This can not only help with your general wagering, such as on the money line, run line or with totals, it can help with futures betting and player prop bets too.

Injury reports will not only help you find out who won’t be starting, they are also good indicators of who is not at full health. If a player isn’t operating at 100%, you’ll have to analyze how that will impact the game before placing your bet.

Keeping an eye on a team’s schedule will help in this regard; MLB teams have a packed calendar, just like those of the NBA and NFL. Teams in baseball can even play games for two weeks in a row without a day off.

Teams who are playing for consecutive days may have equally travelled a long distance if they are away to a team in a distant part of the US. Added to injuries, fatigue from heavy scheduling can equally affect performance.

Going against the grain

In baseball betting, the big favorites are not always the way to go. Home field advantage, for example, is less of an influence in the MLB compared to the NBA or the NFL. The biggest teams in baseball, like the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankee and the LA Dodgers, are often overpriced as sportsbooks know how much the public love to back them.

While you should never dismiss favorites completely out of hand, and assess each wager game by game – or even inning by inning – betting underdogs can provide more long-term value in baseball than other sports. For that reason, it can be a good idea to bet against the public.

If the public bet on a team heavily, the odds and lines will move in that team’s favour. But this is more down to the sheer volume of wagers received by the sportsbook, rather than any form or statistical information. Identifying when this happens can help you figure out when it’s smarter to bet on the underdog – or just to avoid the money line or run line completely.

Sometimes, though, if you see a significant line move, it will actually be down to big stakes from professional bettors. More often than not, bettors such as these will not be afraid to back against the public, so it is a strategy you can pursue if you feel a line or set of odds just doesn’t add up.

Outside influences

Unlike basketball, the weather can be a crucial factor in both American football and baseball. In MLB betting, the weather can have a big say on totals betting. While the wind affects passing and receiving in the NFL, it can have an even greater impact on the flight of a baseball.

Difficult weather conditions can favour an under bet, like quicker winds – especially when the wind blows inwards. But if the wind blows out, there can be a greater chance of hitters making home runs, so it’s always worth knowing how the weather – and specifically the wind – will affect the game you are wagering on.

Not unlike the weather, an umpire can too affect the outcome of your baseball betting. While the best umpires and referees in sport are those who remain unnoticed, an umpire can sometimes be influenced by the crowd – benefiting home teams.

Umpires will also have strike zones of varying size. If an umpire has a tighter strike zone, more runs are scored and, again, over/under betting is affected. Umpires with bigger strike zones lead to more strikeouts and will benefit under betting.

Finding the betting edge

With players playing three-game series against the same opponent on consecutive days, scheduling, injuries and weather can all affect a player and team’s motivation. You can therefore find a betting edge if a team is less focused, more tired or has less to play for, and this is not reflected by a sportsbook’s odds and lines.

In the longer term over the course of the regular season, many teams can know within four months whether they’ll qualify for the postseason World Series. If they’re out of a chance of winning anything, they may start to plan for the future and experiment rather than go all in for the here and now. If a team in such a situation is up against an opponent with everything to play for, this could provide another opportunity to find an edge.

Another strategy that can be looked at when learning how to bet on baseball is to only bet favorites on the run line. Pursuing this strategy is a matter of personal choice and research, as you may not want to effectively rule out a whole bet type.

But some argue the odds make run line betting much more attractive for favourites, as their money line odds would be too short. This betting strategy works the same way in reverse, only recommending underdogs for the money line rather than the run line. Again, though, pursuing this strategy would be a personal choice as it effectively limits your options and choices.

Example: The Arizona Diamondbacks are @ the Colorado Rockies and are -175 to win on the money line with Caesars Sports. On the run line, however, they are +130. You can see this as offering far more value because, at -175 on the money line, the Diamondbacks are considered to be comfortable winners.

Finally, unlike in NFL betting, when you can sometimes beat the spread by betting early, MLB and baseball betting is more like basketball and NBA in nature when it comes to the timing of your bet. That’s because coaches announce their starting line-ups a couple of hours before a game, leaving you with more up-to-date information.

If you are deciding whether it is better to bet earlier or later, then, it is generally considered better not to bet too early in baseball. All of the factors we have already discussed, such as starting pitchers, injury news, weather and more, will be easier to assess closer to a game.

What to look out for: advanced stats

In MLB betting, you can use statistics to assess team performance as well as taking an even closer look at individual performance. The following can help give you an idea of what is useful to measure by digging deeper:

Pythagorean wins – This stat tries to remove the element of luck when assessing exactly how good a team has been over a period of time. It therefore measures how many wins a team should have based on the team’s number of runs scored vs. allowed. Pythagorean wins helps you try and determine if a team is overperforming or underperforming.

Fielding Independent Pitching – This measure takes Earned Run Average a step further by removing the impact of the field and focusing solely on a pitcher. It measures only runs, walks, hit by pitches and strikeouts.

Weighted Runs Created PlusRuns Created estimates the number of runs a hitter contributes to his team. Weighted Runs Created Plus takes this statistic and adjusts it to account for external factors such as ballpark (with some ballparks and conditions more favourable for batting). A Weighted Runs Created Plus of 100 is a league average, so anything above 100 would mean a hitter is performing above the league standard.

World Series betting

The MLB season comes to a conclusion with the World Series, a best-of-seven playoff that offers even more betting opportunities. Be sure to look out for all the best sign up and bonus offers on BetCompare, as sportsbooks will be looking to attract as many players as they can during the World Series. Just like the Super Bowl, though, it’s worth noting the rest of the baseball betting community will be looking at exactly the same games, odds and lines as you are.

When it comes to World Series betting strategy, fatigue and scheduling are just as important considerations as during the regular season. If one team had an easier time qualifying in its last series, and the other had to grind through all seven games to win its previous series, there is already a serious difference in terms of rest and rotation.

Looking at most recent performances can often prove more useful for World Series betting than the regular season. Over the last few years, the majority of teams to win the World Series have not been the teams with the best record during the regular season. Wild-card teams have, too, won in recent years, adding more weight to the argument against always betting favorites in baseball.

World Series betting can equally offer up plenty of prop bets, like who will win the World Series’ MVP Award. Other more fun and less serious prop bets can be: which manager gets ejected first, whether a player will flip his bat after hitting a home run or even who gets hit by a pitch first.

If you feel confident in your ability to bet on baseball after reading our guide, be sure to compare the best MLB and baseball odds on BetCompare. We will also help you find the best sportsbook offers on the market.