The wealth of available data and sheer volume of games during an MLB season makes it an attractive betting proposition. However, in order to be successful with betting on baseball, you need to avoid the common mistakes people make. Read on to find out more.
Make use of the available data
If you’re new to betting on baseball (and more specifically MLB), the first thing you need to know is that the game is more measurable than any other sport. Data is taken, recorded and preserved for every action in the game and that data can (and should) be accounted for when making a bet.
The temptation when you first start betting is to trust your own knowledge of a sport and assessment of the betting market that often leads to betting on a “gut reaction”. However, with so much information to work with and help you make more informed decisions, failure to use the available data is a mistake you simply cannot afford to make.
A case can be made for the benefit of using intuition in betting but even if this is true, it is something that will take time to develop before it is of any benefit. When you first start dealing with data, it can feel quite daunting but starting with small segments of data (perhaps a specific team) will help you learn what to look for and how to use it.
Always account for external factors
Another reason baseball attracts so much betting interest is because it is unique compared to other sports in terms of its lack of uniformity. Two of the most obvious examples of this are that the leagues use different rules (such as Designated Hitter) and the stadiums/pitch sizes can vary quite drastically.
While it’s important to recognise what makes baseball different to other sports, you also have to remember the basic principles that apply to betting no matter what sport is involved.
While the pitch size in soccer can help or hinder a team with their style of play, in baseball the impact is more obvious. The aim of the batter is to try and clear the fielders (and pitch) when hitting the ball and the bigger the pitch, the harder it is to achieve this aim. Researching different teams’ strengths (particularly hitting) and the stadium they will be playing in seems obvious but it’s so often overlooked.
In addition to the size of the stadium, it’s also important to consider other location-based factors that could influence the outcome of a baseball game. Because domestic soccer leagues across Europe are confined to relatively small countries, there is little change in the climate for each match (apart from changes in the season). This is not the case in baseball though, with drastic changes in weather conditions possible from one game to the next depending on a team’s schedule.
You don’t have to spend hours researching past results in different stadiums if you want to include the stadium factor in your considerations when betting on baseball. The below tables include information sourced from Fangraphs with the top five stadiums for offence over the last five years. A score of 100 means an average run-scoring environment; above means a better environment for scoring runs, below a worse environment for scoring runs).
The top five stadiums for offensive output:
Other parks offer offensive advantages; Yankee stadium, for example, is a home run haven but sees less non-home run offence produced.
The bottom five stadiums for offensive output:
The bottom five MLB stadiums for offensive output
Don't place too much emphasis on the starting pitcher
One general piece of advice baseball bettors should stick to is that you need to be able to adapt to the game. Whether it’s the re-emergence of defensive shifts from 2014 onwards or the offensive adjustment we saw last season, there have been plenty of major changes in terms of how baseball is played in recent years. Of course, when the game changes the way people bet on it will as well.
Pitching seems to be latest element of the game to undergo a shift (namely starting pitchers). Where starting pitchers were once expected to go seven, eight or even nine innings, today’s game has front offices adhering to lower pitch counts with greater reliance on the bullpen than ever before.
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The identity of a given game’s starting pitchers is still important, it’s just that there are more moving parts in the pitching picture that bettors need to be aware of. Keeping an eye on how strong each team’s bullpen is and how heavily those bullpens have been used in recent days is certainly a good place to start.
Don't worry too much about a sitting hitter
As with any sport, baseball has its stars and they’re important to outcomes over the course of a season. However, with so many factors (and players) that contribute to the result of a game (with 9 or 10 starting players per team) and variance that can see the best teams lose to the worst teams three or four times out of ten, it’s important to understand that those stars don’t have the same impact on a single game as most other sports.
The temptation when you first start betting is to trust your own knowledge of a sport and assessment of the betting market that often leads to betting on a “gut reaction”.
Mike Trout is a 26-year old centerfielder for the LA Angels and is on a trajectory for what may be the greatest career of all-time. While his omission might feel like a tremendous blow to the Angels’ chances of victory on any given night, the reality is that his worth in that particular game compared to his replacement is likely to be less than a quarter-run.
Anyone new to MLB betting will likely overreact to news of someone like Trout sitting for a game. Obviously it’s important to keep an eye on any relevant news if you’re betting on a game but overreacting could cost you dearly.
Don't over-value home field advantage
Home-field advantage is of course a critical concept in sports betting and is noticeably prevalent in most major sports (particularly soccer and NFL). In addition to familiarity with surroundings and psychological benefits, the performance of referees (umpires in this case) can also benefit the home team (not least because 50,000 fans will be screaming for them to make a call in their favour).
The fact that home field advantage exists is one thing, but how influential it actually is is another. In baseball, the home team wins approximately 54% of the time in regular season play (this number goes up slightly in playoffs games) and while that number isn’t insignificant, it doesn’t match up with the advantage held by home teams in other sports. In the English Premier League for example, teams win around 46% of home games while only winning 27% away and drawing the other 27%)
Another one of baseball’s nuances that needs to be addressed and considered by bettors is that if the home team is leading heading to the bottom of the ninth inning, that half-inning isn’t played (chopping off the term of play by some 6%). That reduction in playtime can have a legitimate effect on run scoring and run lines. At the most basic level, if the home team is a strong favourite, bettors should account for this slight home advantage.
Remember the similarities when betting on different sports
While it’s important to recognise what makes baseball different to other sports if you want to make consistent profit from betting on it, you also have to remember the basic principles that apply to betting no matter what sport is involved.
Any successful bettor knows that you should only bet when you have positive expected value. Randomness and luck might help you win in the short term but over an extended period of time, only those who have an edge (and stake their bets accordingly) will make money.
Finally, but most importantly, you should always bet with the right bookmaker. Whether it’s betting with the best odds so you make more when you win, being able to bet as much as you want or knowing that your account won’t be limited or closed if you win, the bookmaker you bet with is just as important as the bets you place.