How to bet on baseball
Fans enjoy hot dogs and cold beers on a weekday afternoon. The familiar crackle sound of the ball meeting the bat before flying out of sight. Classic stripes, manned canoes and 7th inning stretches.
Baseball is back.
And while enjoying the game from the fan’s perspective is as easy as a Sunday morning double header, betting on baseball and figuring out which of the thousands of stats to research can seem overwhelming. So when it comes to putting yourself in the best position to make your bets out of the park, I’m here for you.
In this article, I’ll go over some baseball betting lingo and point you to the resources you need to find the most important stats. My goal is to teach you how to bet on individual games. Baseball futures are also a fun way to bet on the sport that I love, so we’ll dive into that as well.
But, first, let’s start with the basics – moneyline, runline and total over/under.
Each game has a display like the one below:
Let’s start with the simplest possible bet, the total over/under. The last column shows the total number of points that should be scored in the match. In our example, the total is listed at eight runs. You then bet whether you think the total number of points scored by both teams will be over or under eight points. Easy, right?
Next, let’s break down the moneyline. In its essence, it is a simple bet, as you simply choose who you think will win the game. If you pick the winner correctly, you get the payout shown. In the chart above, the moneyline is the leftmost number.
The number in the middle column of this graph is called the running line. With this bet, you are essentially betting on how many races the team will win. The team with a negative running line is the favorite to win and the team with the positive running line is the underdog. For you to win by picking the favorite based on the racing line, that team must win by more than the points listed. In this case, the angels must win by more than one point for you to win your bet.
Then come the payments. Usually a negative number means a result is more likely to occur. So this negative number means the implied probability is greater than 50%. In our example, the negative numbers refer to the amount you need to bet to win $100.
In this case, if you bet on the Boston moneyline, a $100 bet will net you $110. On the other hand, if you took Anaheim -133, you would have to risk $133 to win $100 if the Angels win.
Remember that when there is a plus sign, it means the results are less likely to occur. This is why these teams are generally called the underdogs.
As for the racing line, it is a similar concept with risk and payout. If you took Boston +1.0 to -120, you need to bet $120 to win $100 if you like the Red Sox run line. If you take Anaheim -1 to +100, you would bet $100 to win $100 if you like the Angels run line.
These are the ground rules, and like everything else, you’ll feel more comfortable with repetition and experimentation. Now comes the next painfully obvious question: who should I bet on?
For this you will need to stay up to date on all my MLB posts on FOX Sports! The other answer is that you will need a working knowledge of descriptive and predictive baseball statistics. Baseball is a sport where statistics are very valuable. Let’s see how you can use these statistics in your favor.
Descriptive statistics explain what happened. Mike Trout has a .319 batting average and Max Scherzer has a 2.45 ERA are examples of descriptive statistics. The problem with descriptives is that there is no guarantee that they will accurately predict the future. That’s the whole point of betting, isn’t it! And as interesting as they are, these base box score numbers are poor indicators of when a player will go on a hot streak, or worse, into a slump.
Predictive statistics are better at doing exactly what they seem to do: predicting the future. You will often see the word “expected” next to these statistics. Components of these stats include measurable things like exit speed, ball speed when hit. You can also see the launch angle, which is the angle at which a ball flies after it makes contact with the bat. By looking at the probability of a hit occurring with a specific exit speed and launch angle, these probabilities can be added together to arrive at an expected batting average (XBA). Then, by comparing batting average (BA) to XBA, you can get a better idea of which hitters need to get hot and which need to regress.
Yes, it was a lot. So, to make it even simpler, baseballsavant.mlb.com includes these expected stats in every game preview. The site also includes league-wide information to help with betting futures, such as picking a World Series winner.
Speaking of futures contracts, the easiest way to describe it is to bet on an event that will take place in the future. Most popular when it comes to MLB are bets on which teams will win the World Series or which stud player will win the MVP.
One of the primary means of making such projections is the racing differential. The Pythagorean expectation is a formula that uses runs scored and runs allowed to find the winning percentage of a ball club should to have. A team surpassing its expected Pythagorean record is due to regression, while a team that has suffered a lot of bad luck should be on course to perform better the following season. There are other ways to dig even deeper and get more details.
You can take a look at a baseball club’s offense and defense and how many runs should have been scored and allowed, then adjust the strength of the schedule (baseball analyst Clay Davenport details all these adjustments here). Including these adjustments gives you third-order gains and losses. Ball clubs that are underperforming against their third-rate records may be poised for success in the future. This type of data gives us the tools we need to make informed in-season bets.
While there are many other expected stats and several permutations of predictive stats, applying the latest and greatest often is key to beating the daily and futures markets.
Now comes the fun part. Hopefully, now that you’ve got the basics down, you’re in a good position to throw some money at a baseball bet or two. But if you still need help, I’ve got you covered too. Stay tuned for my next article where I’ll dive deeper into the stats above to give you my top three MLB futures bets to make right now.
And, as always, be sure to head to FOX bet to get in on the baseball betting action now!
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