Baseball is America's pastime, it has been for a long time. However, the stakes can be higher than ever now with the increased avenues for legal sports gambling. A complicated game with a lot of intricate parts and terminology can leave those new to the sport with the question of "where do I begin?". Well, that is the point of this article. Until you know the markets and how they work, it would be unwise to bet on the MLB or baseball in general. So, let's get into things.
MLB Money Line Bets
Like any sport, a money line bet is simply a bet on which team/side will win the game or match. So, if the Los Angeles Dodgers play the Houston Astros, betting a money line is just taking a bet on which team will win. This is the easiest bet type for any bettor to understand. However, the value of money line bets might not be worth it in most sports. If the best team in the league plays a bottom-tier team in any sport, the odds for the heavy favorite are likely never worth it. For example, a money line, in that case, could be upwards of -2000 or worse. A bettor would need to risk $2000 to win $100. In baseball, these outrageous money lines hitting four digits in the odds are less common.
This is why oddsmakers have "spreads" for each game. Spread betting is betting on a team to cover the number of points given to them by the sportsbook. If a football team is given a -6.5 spread as favorites, they must win by a touchdown (7 points).
Run Line Bets
In baseball betting, the spread is referred to as the run line. Baseball is a sport where every run is critical. Unlike basketball or some other fast-paced sports, it is harder to "go on a scoring run", no pun intended. In the 2022 MLB season, the Los Angeles Dodgers lead the league with an average margin of victory. The team averaged a winning margin of 2 runs. However, that is a historical number.
Outside of the Dodgers at the top of the league and the Washington Nationals at the bottom of the league, all other teams had a run margin within 1.5 for the season. Even that Nationals at a 55-107 records maintained a -1.6 margin, just outside the 1.5 mark according to Team Rankings.
This is why in MLB betting, the most common run line you'll see is 1.5. The juice will vary greatly for these 1.5 lines, but it is rare to see 2.5 spreads throughout the season. Those instances come when we see those top teams like the Dodgers square off against a bottom-five team.
The Run line bets are massively different than the money line. It is vital for bettors to understand the probabilities that go into place when considering a -1.5 or -2.5 bet for a favorite, or just betting them to win outright. A prime example comes from the New York Yankees last season. The Yankees won 99 regular season games, a 61.1% win percentage. However, when it came to covering their run lines for the season, the team had a 72-90 record, only covering 44.4%. of their games.
Like Money lines, this is another bet type that is easier to understand. This bet is taking the over or under in runs total scored in a game. If a line is set at 9.5 for the total, a bettor would need 9 or fewer runs or 10+ runs combined by both teams depending on the side they bet.
There are also options to bet the over or under on team totals for a game. So, if a bettor thinks one team will do most of the scoring in the said game with a 9.5 total, they could take the "Home Team Over". If the home team is a -1.5 favorite, they would likely see a team over/under of 5.5. The away team would conversely get a line that is around 3.5 or 4.5, with varying juice.
First 5 Betting
Now first 5 betting is a unique betting market that is specific to baseball. While other sports have two halves in a game, baseball is a nine-inning game. So, sportsbooks offer "first 5" bets which are the equivalent of betting the first half.
It is tough to break up a 9-inning game, an odd number, into halves. This is a bet type that a bettor must be careful with, and make sure they understand the rules in the book. Some books treat the first 5, or F5, bets as the first five innings of the game. This system allows both the home and away teams to have the same amount of outs/chances to score. However, other books grade the first 5 money lines, spreads, and totals at the exact middle point.
The exact middle point of a nine-inning game would come at the 4 1/2 inning mark before the home team gets their fifth inning of at-bats. Books that grade F5 bets in this way factor this into the line, so the lines/juice on the lines reflect the fact the home team is getting three fewer outs and that there are fewer outs for an o/u line.
Player Prop Markets
The main player prop markets when betting on the MLB are strikeout props and offensive props. The offensive props for batters are split between hits and total bases.
Strikeout props focus on how many strikeouts a pitcher will record in a game. You can bet on batter strikeouts as well, but when referencing "strikeout props" it is usually the pitcher. There are numerous factors that go into setting a pitcher's line and how bettors decide to bet on the prop.
Baseball is the ultimate sport of advanced stats. When it comes to a pitcher strikeout line all these advanced stats matter. A few examples would be strikeout rate, strikeout history against the batters, weather factors, pitch velocity, or pitch whiff rates are all baked into a line. There is always a lot to dig into before deciding to bet the over or the under on a pitcher's strikeouts.
Strikeout props are low-volume props, no matter how many strikeouts a pitcher averages per start. The difference between a 6.5 strikeout prop and a 7.5 one, is a 15% change. Low-volume lines make line shopping a critical part of how, what, and when to bet. Make sure you track strikeout props lines with the Pikkit App.
One of the most available and widely bet offensive players prop markets out there. If you think strike props were low-volume bet types, they are nothing like hit props. When betting "batter to get over or under" in hits, the lines are most commonly .5 or 1.5 for the majority of hitters in the league. Even the best hitters in baseball fail to get a hit in 70% of their at-bats. When you factor in that each batter likely gets 3 or 4 at-bats per game, the opportunity for this bet is slim.
That is not to say they are bad bets, or that players don't go over their hit lines often. However, this market has very fine margins. A bettor is likely paying a lot of juice/vig on most .5 lines. This is why prop bettors often look to the "Total Bases" market for their offensive props.
Player Total Bases
The total bases market is one that focuses less on the hits by a player and more on the bases. This prop is set for how many bases the player records in a game from their at-bats. So, a single is worth one base, a double is worth two, a triple is worth three, and a home run is scored as four total bases. So, if a player has a hits line at .5 with -180 odds, a sportsbook may offer a 1.5 total bases line at -110. If you bet over 1.5 it could be won with any two hits or with one double, triple, or home run.
The most important thing to keep in mind in this market is that the term total bases can be misleading. This is especially true for newer bettors. The market only factors in bases acquired during a player's at-bats, not all plate appearances or all of their bases run. In baseball, an at-bat is when a player records a hit, reaches base on an error, or records out. However, any bases gained on a fielding error won't count toward a total bases prop.
A plate appearance, on the other hand, includes all outcomes. This includes outcomes such as when a batter records a walk or a hit-by-pitch. To a bettor's dissatisfaction, neither of these is counted for a total base prop. Stolen bases are also not awarded as a base for the batter in question. So, unless your batter records a hit, don't get excited about any overs in the total base market.