MLB Over/Under Betting Strategies

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Over - Under and MLB Field

The easiest MLB bets to make are moneyline bets, and these are often the most popular wager at baseball betting sites. On the other hand, run line bets can be a little confusing, so many baseball bettors don’t use them.

Over and under wagers fall somewhere in the middle. They’re used more in football and basketball, but they’re also offered for baseball games. If done correctly, over and under MLB bets can offer consistent value for smart handicappers. Here are some useful MLB over/under betting strategies to help you get started.

Starting Pitching

The first thing to consider when you’re looking at Major League Baseball over/under wagers is the starting pitching. The starting pitchers are important because they set up the rest of the game. You need to learn how to make accurate predictions for how the starting pitchers are going to perform and how deep they’re likely to go in the game.

Sports fans tend to look at a starting pitcher’s win/loss record and high earned run average, or ERA. But for handicapping purposes, neither of these statistics are helpful. I always look at total runs given up and WHIP.

WHIP is a statistic that adds walks and hits given up by a pitcher and divides the total by innings pitched. I divide the total runs given up, earned and unearned, and divide the total by innings pitched. I also look at strikeouts and ground ball percentages.

I divide the total number of strikeouts by the total number of batters faced to get a strikeout percentage. Pitchers with a high strikeout percentage and/or a high ground ball rate usually control the runs they give up better than weaker pitchers.

Max Scherzer Pitching

A strikeout in a big spot can prevent a run, and a ground ball can turn a dangerous situation into a double play and get the team out of the inning. When I have the four stats listed above—runs per inning, WHIP, strikeout percentage, and ground ball percentage—I use these to handicap the starting pitchers.

When I evaluate starting pitchers and how deep they work into games, I start by looking at how many innings they’ve thrown in their last 10 starts, with special interest in their last three starts. I also look at their pitch count for each start to see how many pitches they average before being removed from the game.

But this isn’t enough information. I then look at the average performance for the opposing teams they faced in each game and compare it to the offense they’re going to face in the game I’m handicapping. A team that has many players that work deep into counts and draw a lot of walks makes the opposing pitcher’s pitch count go up.

The main thing I’m looking for after the predicted performance for each starting pitcher is how early he’s likely to be pulled from the game. In a game where both pitchers are likely to get pulled at five innings or less, the over is a consideration. I’ll explain why in the next section.

Long Relief

Long relief pitchers are usually the worst pitchers on the staff. The best pitchers on the staff are either starting games or used in the back end of the bullpen. This leaves the guys that are good enough to make the team but not trusted enough to open or close games to fill the middle innings.

Long Relief Pitcher

Anytime a manager needs to fill innings up to the seventh inning, between the starter and the back end of the bullpen, he turns to long relief pitchers. If a starting pitcher has a particularly bad start, a long guy might enter the game in the third or fourth inning.

In games where long relief pitchers have to enter the game, the total number of runs scored in the game goes up. This is good when you bet on the over. On the other hand, when starting pitchers go deep into the game and turn the ball over to the back of the bullpen, scores tend to be lower.

I don’t place many under wagers in MLB. The games are too unpredictable, and the managers only care about winning. If a team jumps out to a big lead, a manager often leaves his starter in longer even if he gives up more runs than normal, as long as he keeps the lead. This often inflates scores, even when one team has a big lead.

This means that when I handicap MLB games, what I’m usually looking for is value betting the over. The best games to bet the over on are games where the long relief guys are likely to pitch.

The Back of the Bullpen

Managers use their set up guys and closers when they have a chance to win the game. These guys don’t pitch much in games when the team is losing. When you’re looking for under wagers, you want to see teams with strong back end bullpens. You want teams that lock down small leads over the last two or three innings.

Aroldis Chapman

Several MLB teams have strong pitchers to use at the end of games, but there aren’t enough great relievers to go around. This is another reason I avoid most under wagers. The back end of the bullpen in a close game gives up a run or two to push the total score to the over.

Because I look for value on over wagers, I’m looking for weak set up men and closers. I ignore saves as a statistic because an average pitcher can rack up a lot of saves on a good team, while still giving up too many runs over the course of a season.

High OBP Lineups

When I’m handicapping an MLB game and looking for value on the over, I’m looking for teams that have a high on-base percentage, or OBP. Teams that put more runners on base score more runs, and they are also more likely to get to the long relievers on the other team.

High OBP Teams

See more pitches and draw more walks, which wears down opposing pitchers faster. On the other hand, teams that have lower OBP and strike out more tend to help the opposing pitcher and lower the average runs scored in the game.

When two teams have high OBP and are facing each other, I always look at the over number. It’s even better when the teams have weaker starting pitchers on the mound. Of course, the sportsbooks set the over higher in these games, but it’s often still a bet that offers good value.

Who Cares?

This doesn’t come into play as much early in the season as it does late, but you always want to consider how much each team in a game cares about the outcome of the game. MLB managers and players all say the right things and act like they care about winning games, but everyone can see late in the season that some teams have given up and are simply putting their time in and collecting a check.

New York Mets Fan

A game between two teams in the playoff race is usually more closely-contested than a game between two teams the bottom of the standings. Teams that fall out of the playoff race also tend to try to get younger players’ innings and at bats to try to build for the future.

Games with at least one team that like they’ve given up tend to have higher total runs scored. The one situation where this can be dangerous is when one of the teams is still in the playoff race and has a strong starting pitcher on the mound. I avoid betting over and under on these games because they’re too unpredictable.

Home Underdogs

I always look at MLB games that have home underdogs when I’m looking at over and under wagering opportunities. When the home team is leading after the bottom of the ninth inning, the game ends. When I’m betting on the over, I want the game to go a full nine innings for the extra chance of runs being scored.

In games where the road team is favored, there’s a higher chance that you get the extra half inning of play. This is something to consider every time you consider making an over or under wager.

Conclusion

Most over/under MLB betting opportunities hinge on long relief pitching. This group of pitchers is often ignored because they’re not the best on the team, but they have a great deal to do with over wagers.

The over is often a good value in games where the long relief pitchers are going to get into the game. In games where the long relief pitchers aren’t needed, the under is often a good value. It’s also important to predict when the home team is likely to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning and when they probably won’t.

Michael Stevens

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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