Major League Baseball, listed as MLB in the rest of this article, is a great place for new sports gamblers to start. You have many opportunities to find value and weak lines throughout the course of the season, and you aren’t going to struggle to get bets down.
But winning MLB wagers is hard for new gamblers. That’s why I’ve put together this list of five questions that can help you get started. Once you learn the answers to these questions about betting on MLB games, you’re going to have a better chance of winning than most other sports gamblers.
1 – Who Are the Starting Pitchers?
You need to learn how to do a deep dive on the starting pitchers for every game you evaluate in MLB. They starting pitchers control more of the game than anyone else, and you’re going to have a hard time winning until you master the art of evaluating them.
A complete evaluation of each starting pitcher includes how they performed in their previous start, their previous three starts, their previous five starts, over the course of the season, and in previous seasons depending on their age. You need to know how many pitches they throw in each game, and how their performance changes in the next game based on how many pitches they threw and how much rest they have.
Other things you need to track include their velocity by start and inning, the quality of their opponents in past games, their ball and strike percentage, and their groundball and strikeout percentages. And even after doing all of this, you’re still going to get blindsided at times.
The point I’m making here is that you’re not spending enough time and effort evaluating starting pitchers. And until you start doing what you need to do, the odds of you making a profit are slim.
2 – How Does the Run Line Work?
Run lines in MLB work just like puck lines in the NHL. If you understand how one works, you understand how the other works.
At first, run lines look confusing. But they’re actually simple. They’re just like point spreads, but the amount you have to wager is often different from point spread wagers.
One team gets 1 ½ runs and the other gives the same number of runs. Here’s an example of a run line and how it works.
Here’s a run line for a recent game. Cleveland is playing at Cincinnati. I chose this run line because the home team is the underdog, which is what I look for when evaluating games with run lines.
Cleveland –1 ½ -105
Cincinnati +1 ½ -115
As you can see, if you bet on Cleveland you have to give 1 ½ runs and bet 105 to win 100. If you bet on Cincinnati, you get 1 ½ runs and bet 115 to win 100.
When I bet run lines in MLB, I almost always take the runs. When I say almost always, I mean well over 95% of the time. If there’s not value on taking the runs, I usually look at the moneyline to see which team offers value.
In addition, I prefer to bet on home teams receiving runs. Home teams win more often than they lose, they always are guaranteed to bat in the bottom of the last inning unless they’re already winning, and many MLB games are decided by one run.
Of course, when a home team is the underdog, there’s a reason. In this game, Cleveland’s starting pitcher has been pitching extremely well, and Cincinnati is starting a guy that has been in competition for the fifth spot in the rotation.
3 – Does Batting Average Matter?
One of the best things that have ever happened in MLB is when all of the fancy advanced statistics became popular. For some reason, advanced statistics lead to many supposed experts spouting off how batting average isn’t important. On-base percentage, slugging percentage, and exit velocity are all that matters.
It used to make me mad when I heard that batting average doesn’t matter. Now, it just makes me laugh.
Slugging Percentage and On-Base Percentage Matters
These are important statistics that you need to use to evaluate MLB games. But this doesn’t mean that batting average doesn’t matter. Batting average is still important, and you can’t afford to drink the Kool-Aid being sold by supposed experts.
If a runner is on second or third with two outs and a batter walks, does a run score? The answer is no. If the batter gets a hit, there’s a very high chance the runner scores.
When a batter is the first person to reach base in an inning, there’s no difference between a walk and a single. In this case, a higher on-base percentage player is more valuable. But in the first example, I want the guy that has a better chance of getting a hit at the plate.
The main reason why I’m ranting about batting average isn’t because it’s more important than other statistics. It’s because you can’t afford to ignore anything that can help you evaluate MLB games. This includes batting average and many other statistics that are available.
Use every MLB stat that helps you win wagers, and ignore everything else. Don’t take anyone’s word for what works and what doesn’t without finding out for yourself.
4 – What Does WAR Mean and Can I Use It?
WAR, which stands for wins above replacement, is one of the advanced stats that have become common in MLB. It’s basically a way to rank players based on their production. A player with a WAR of 3 is supposedly worth 3 more wins a season over a player that would be his replacement.
The first thing you need to know is that there are different ways to determine WAR for players. Before you decide to use any version of WAR, read exactly how the number is determined. The second thing you need to know is that WAR for pitchers is one of the weakest ways to rank pitchers. I ignore WAR for pitchers.
You can use WAR when you evaluate MLB games, but it’s not a good idea to only use it. I evaluate MLB players and teams using a wide range of statistics, and only use WAR to compare individual players when I need an extra bit of information to make decisions.
I’m not saying that you can’t develop a MLB betting model that relies heavily on WAR and make it profitable. I’m simply saying that it’s not the way I make wagers. No matter what you do with WAR though, be extremely careful if you use it for pitchers.
5 – How Important Is Home Field Advantage?
This one is a little tricky, but it’s one of the most important things I learned about MLB over the years. It’s responsible for as much of my profits gambling on baseball as anything else.
Home field is important in MLB, but it’s not overly important for any individual game. I said this was a tricky one, so let me try to explain.
Even the Worst Teams in the League Play Better at Home
They usually still have a losing record at home, but it’s extremely rare for a MLB team to win fewer than 30 home games in a season. This means that even the worst team in the league is going to win 30 or more out of 80 home games. And when you dig into the numbers, it’s more like 40 wins at home is the realistic bottom number.
When you eliminate the worst 10 teams in the league, the remaining teams almost always win at least half their home games a very high percentage of time.
Why is this valuable information for an MLB bettor? If you look at betting opportunities as series for home teams instead of individual games, when you know the home team wins at least 50% of the time, do you think you can use this information to make a profit?
If you’re not clear about what I’m saying, read this section again. I just gave you one of the easiest ways to turn a long-term profit gambling on MLB games.
If you’ve learned anything from this page, I hope it’s that you have to use every possible statistic and trick that you can access to win more MLB wagers. You can’t afford to ignore anything while you’re figuring out how to evaluate games profitably.
If it sounds like you need to work harder than anyone else, then you’re starting to get the picture. Winning MLB wagers is hard work, and until you accept this and take action, your odds of making a profit are slim.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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