MLB Baseball Betting Guide

With more games than any other sport (almost 2500 games including the postseason), the MLB gives bettors non-stop action from April to October. The most popular and profitable betting option on MLB games is the moneyline. Other popular betting options include game totals, the run line, and five-inning lines. World Series futures, regular season win totals and regular season player award are popular futures options bet on the MLB.

MLB Betting Options

Betting MLB Moneylines

The top choice for sports bettors on Major League Baseball games is the moneyline. The sport is not known for big upsets like football and basketball ss the majority of teams in baseball win between 40% and 60% of their games, 

The majority of favourites on MLB run lines open as a -125 to -200 favourite, with the home team getting a boost in the odds (although, when one of the top teams in the league travels to face a team sitting in the basement of the standings, it is common to see the road team as the favourite). Take the moneyline example below. 

Houston is a modest favourite over Oakland. Of course, is it worth betting $180 on Houston to win $100 or is taking the underdog a better bet in this scenario?

How to Bet MLB Moneylines

There are a few things every bettor should consider before betting on an MLB game.  The top thing to consider is the starting pitching. The starting pitcher is so essential, nearly every online sportsbook shows the starting pitcher with their game odds. Of course, baseball is a complicated sport, and there is more to take in than just starting pitching when betting on baseball. 

Top Factor: Starting Pitching

Starting pitching is the most critical factor to consider when betting on the MLB. How the starting pitcher performs dictates the majority of MLB games over the season. If you think a pitcher will control the other team and go deep into the game, betting on that team and pitcher is smart. If you expect him to struggle, betting against the pitcher is smarter. Player vs. pitcher stats, pitcher splits, and recent history are just some things you can check out to make a better bet.

“No Action”

As starting pitching is so important when betting on baseball, online sportsbooks give bettors the option to pick “no action” on a wager. What “no action” means is if a starting pitcher is changed before the first pitch, then the bet is void and refunded. It is protection for the bettor.

Imagine picking a team to win because they send a CY Young candidate to the mound, just to have them push back that pitcher a day and bring up some random minor leaguer to make a spot start. Even if you still think that team can somehow win, the odds you are getting are much worse than the new odds for the team starting the minor leaguer. No action is the default on many online sportsbooks and opting out of it is only recommended for the most experienced bettors.   

Other Factors: Bullpen, Starting Lineup, and Injuries

While starting pitching is very the top consideration for most betting on an MLB game, there are still many other moving parts to research before betting on an MLB game

The Bullpen*

In recent years, the importance of a strong and deep bullpen as grown. Teams now try to stack their pens with inning specialists, hard-throwers and a 1-2 punch in the setup man and closer. When a team’s bullpen is working like a well-oiled machine, betting on them to win (even if they are not throwing out one of their best starters) is not a bad strategy.

If they have some power in their lineup (more on that in a bit), then they can always pull off a come from behind win if their starting pitching is lacklustre, but their bullpen is firing on all cylinders.

Starting Lineup*

In the modern era of Moneyball baseball, lineups focus on getting on base and getting runners into scoring position. Teams with the highest On-Base Percentage, have the most opportunities to score runs in a game. If the team also ranks high in Slugging Percentage, they have a higher chance of scoring a runner from first base. Quickly checking team stats or even a player’s history against the starting pitcher helps you make a well-informed wager.

*While we will touch on live betting near the end of this guide, the bullpen and lineup are more important things to consider when placing live bets on MLB games (than starting pitching).

Injuries

Even if baseball is not a physical sport, injuries happen every day in the MLB. Make sure you are aware of injuries. Check the DL or lineup cards before betting on a game. A player could be held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons, and his replacement is likely a downgrade, hurting his team’s chances of winning the game. 

Betting MLB Run Lines

An MLB run line is essentially a fixed 1.5 point spread on MLB games. However, unlike a traditional point spread that’s purpose is to balance the two teams, it is quite rare you will see a 1.5 run line with each side receiving the same odds (-110). Instead, the run line typically flips the favourite and underdog (or makes betting lines on big favourites more appealing. Take the three examples below the three main types of MLB run lines you will see. 

These three examples fit the three types of run lines you will see on MLB games. All the considerations when betting on the moneyline apply to wagers on the run line.

You should only bet on the run line when you are confident the favourite will win big, or the underdog will keep the game close. Let’s us the Philadelphia-Washington game as an example. If you are very confident Washington’s bats will get to Eflin and Strasburg will shut down the Phillies then betting the Washington Nationals at -1.5 (+120) is a good bet.

Betting MLB Game Totals

The last of the three main bet types on MLB games is game totals. MLB game totals typically range between 7.5 and 9.0. Some games will open as low as 7.0, but anything below 7.0 is exceedingly rare on online sportsbooks. Game totals of 9.5 to 11.0 are relatively common in the MLB. Bad pitching in a hitter’s baseball is one reason you will see high game totals.

Differences in American League, National League and Interleague Games

It is also important to remember that on average American League games are higher scoring than National League games. The designated hitter position generates more offence than the pitcher hitting in the nine-hole of the lineup. Because of the difference, American League games have a higher average game total.

There are also interleague games. Interleague game totals are influenced by what team is playing at home. When the NL team is the home team, the total is lower as the AL pitcher needs to hit. The opposite is true when the game is in an AL ballpark, and the NL team gets to use a DH.

MLB Prop Bets

Every MLB game throughout the regular and playoffs offers prop bets. There are typically around two dozen prop bets on every regular season MLB game, with the number increasing in the postseason. The most popular prop bet is the five-inning betting line (which gets its owe section before we explain other types of prop bets available on MLB games).  

Five-Inning Betting Lines

A popular and unique betting option to baseball games is the five-inning moneyline. Instead of betting what team will win the game, you can pick what team will have the lead after run innings. The five-inning run line is excellent for bettors who want to handicap starting pitching and avoid dealing with shaky bullpens.

There are usually two options when betting five-inning run lines. The first is a 0.5 point spread, and the other is a moneyline. Betting the spread is marginally more profitability when correct while betting the moneyline results in a push if the game is tied after five innings.

Game Props

The most popular option on regular season games is game props. Game props include total runs in specific innings (usually an under/over line for runs in innings one through five), alternative run lines, alternative totals, winning margin and team to score first.

Player Props

There are a few types of player props on MLB games. The most popular are game totals and head-to-head props. Game totals are most popular on pitchers. Bettors have the ability to wager on whether a pitcher will strikeout a certain amount of batters or pitch a certain amount of innings.

Head-to-head player props usually pit competing players against each other. For example, if the New York Yankees are playing the Boston Red Sox, a head-to-head player prop could be who will have more total bases: Aaron Judge (New York) or Mookie Betts (Boston).

Player props are not hugely relevant during the regular season. However, their popularity increases in the postseason, when teams do not rest players, and there is more time between games. 

Live Betting

One area where baseball really shines is live betting. The pace and style of the game work great for betting on it in real-time. Live betting on baseball usually entails betting on adjusted totals and moneylines.

As we mentioned early, the strength of each team’s bullpen and lineup are pivotal to live betting. When two great bullpens are set to close out the game, live betting on the under is one of the best strategies to take (especially when the game is close, and both teams are using their better relief pitchers). When bullpens are shaky, the over is the recommended approach. 

Betting on MLB Parlays

With 15 games scheduled on the majority of days throughout the regular season, it is easy to parlay MLB games. Parlaying MLB games involves betting on two or more games correctly. Bettors may mix-and-match their types of bets on their parlay. A heavy favourite and an attractive game total are the most common bets parlayed on MLB games. 

MLB Futures

For bettors who prefer long-term bets with higher payouts, online sportsbooks offer a range of MLB futures before and during every MLB season. We have laid out the most popular options below.

World Series Futures

Betting what team will win the World Series is the most popular futures wager available on the MLB. While World Series futures are open throughout the year, there are two times of the year when bettors love to bet World Series futures.

The first is before the start of the regular season. In March, as Spring Training concludes, the second is after the trade deadline at the end of July. You can also bet on World Series futures at the start of the playoffs, but the odds are worse (as there are only ten teams to bet at this point).

Regular Season Win Totals

Before the start of the regular season, bettors may wager on win totals. The worst team totals are lower than 70.0, while teams with World Series aspirations open with totals exceeding 90.0 games. Line shopping on totals is a smart strategy, meaning you should wait for some public money to go on totals and bet against the public on the over and under lines with the best odds. 

Player Props

Before the MLB starts, online sportsbooks have a range of player props available for the regular season. The most popular is what player will win what award. As each league has a winner of each award, there are more player prop futures on the MLB than most other leagues.

Bonus: All-Star Game Props

One last fun betting option available on the MLB is All-Star game betting props. Baseball sportsbooks offer wagers on who will win the home run derby, over/under totals on home runs hit (by each player and total home runs overall) and a bunch of unique prop bets on the All-Star. As the week of the MLB All-Star game is arguably the slowest week of the year in sports, the game props for the two days are a bonus for bettors.