Jun 11, 2017
Jun 11, 2017

How to bet on baseball: The ultimate baseball betting guide

Learn how to bet on baseball

Explaining the basics of baseball betting

Find out how to convert odds into probability

How to bet on baseball: The ultimate baseball betting guide

Baseball betting is often cited as one of the most popular markets for sharp bettors. With thousands of yearly fixtures creating a large sample size to apply an analytical approach, learning how to bet on baseball could be the key to successful betting. Want to learn how to bet on baseball? Read on for the ultimate baseball betting guide.

How to bet on baseball

The first step to learning how to bet on baseball is to understand how the game is played. A standard baseball game comprises of two teams with nine players on each side. The teams take it in turns to bat and field for nine innings - each consisting of three “outs” for each team - and attempt to score the most runs by circling the four bases on the field.

Baseball betting - The basics

There are three basic bet types available for baseball betting; Money Line, Run Line and Total. Money Line baseball betting simply refers to which of the two teams will win the game. Run Line betting is baseball’s equivalent to NFL’s Point Spread, while Totals betting in baseball relates to the total number of runs scored in a game.

Money Line betting

Once bettors understand how to bet on baseball, the next step is to find out how to get an edge over the bookmaker. There are two main factors to consider that could inform your Money Line baseball betting:

Defence - The starting pitcher

With so many games in a typical MLB (Major League Baseball) season, it is important to be aware of rotation and who will be the starting pitcher in any given game. Although analysing a team’s bullpen (second choice or “relief” pitchers), it is ultimately the starting pitcher that provides the biggest variables.

Pitching stats to look out for include; IP (Innings Pitched), WHIP (Walks Plus Hits per Innings Pitched), ERA (Earned Run Average) and WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player).

Offence - The hitters

In addition to assessing the effectiveness of each team’s pitchers, the same should be done for batters. Again, there are numerous statistics available but some are considered more valuable than others; PA (Plate Appearances) wOBA (weighted On-Base Average), OBP (On-Base Percentage) and ISO (Isolated Power) are just a few examples of stats bettors should use.

Run Line betting

Betting on the Run Line can offer better value, but also requires slightly more advanced baseball knowledge. At a basic level, for those who know the value of 3 points in NFL betting, 1.5 points is effectively the same thing in baseball betting - it is a 1.5 point handicap that either side must cover for a bet on them to win.

A Run Line strategy can be devised to help bettors assess whether there is value in the market or not - this is done by converting the Run Line odds into a percentage chance of winning.

The simple formula to convert odds into probability percentages is below.

Converting odds into probability:

(Risk / return) x 100 = probability percentage

However, sharp bettors will calculate probability without the bookmaker’s margin - this can be done using the hypothetical example.

Odds for probability conversion

TeamAmerican Run Line oddsDecimal Run Line odds
Tampa Bay Rays (+1.5) -101 1.99
Boston Red Sox (-1.5) -109 1.92

The following formula can be used to calculate no margin, or "fair" odds:

(Boston Red Sox odds - Tampa Bay Rays odds) / 2 = Boston Red Sox no margin odds

After converting the Boston Red Sox odds into "fair odds," we can work out the percentage chance of a -1.5 Run Line bet on them winning:

(105 / 205) x 100 = 51%

To convert the decimal odds into probability, the process is just as straight forward. Simply convert the odds into a percentage to work out the bookmaker’s margin: 

1/Decimal odds = implied probability

1/1.92 = 0.5208 or 52.08%

We then calculate the implied probability of all outcomes to get the margin.

(1/1.92) + (1/1.99) = 1.022 or 102.2% = 2.2% margin

Implied probability x (100 - margin) = fair probability percentage

0.5208 x (100 - 2.2) = 51% 

Totals baseball betting

Just like Totals betting in any other sport, Totals in baseball betting refers to a bet on the total number of points (runs) scored in a game being over or under a figure set by the bookmaker - each team has 27 outs to score as many runs as they can, making it ideal for strategic betting.

Similarly to Money Line betting in baseball, analysing the two teams in terms of offensive and defensive strengths can go a long way to informing your Totals betting. Additionally, there are several external factors that can lead to both high and low scoring games.

External factors

Aside from analysing team and player performance, it is important to consider the external factors that could affect your baseball betting. While baseball shares similarities with other sports in terms of home field advantage and being affected by the weather, it differs slightly because of how important luck is.

Heat thins the air and enables the ball to travel further, but the less humid it is the thicker the air becomes, making it harder for the ball to travel.

Different baseball stadiums have different dimensions and this can influence how many runs are scored. Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies and the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field are renowned for high scoring games. In contrast, San Francisco Giants’ AT&T Park and Safeco Field - where the Seattle Mariners play their home games are known to be low scoring stadiums.

The temperature, humidity and wind speed on game day also affects baseball betting. Heat thins the air and enables the ball to travel further, but the less humid it is the thicker the air becomes, making it harder for the ball to travel.

The wind has a more obvious impact on baseball which can work both for and against batters. If a strong wind is blowing in the opposite direction to where a batter is hitting, the ball won’t go very far. If the wind is with the batter and going in the same direction as their hit, it will help the ball go further - wind speed and direction is certainly worth analysing for Totals baseball betting.

You can build on this knowledge by learning more about developing a baseball betting strategy. Alternatively, read about how Joe Peta capitalised on discprancies in MLB odds to make money in our Trading Bases book review.

Now that you know how to bet on baseball, you can implement this expertise and take advantage of Pinnacle’s unbeatable baseball betting odds.

Betting Resources - Empowering your betting

Pinnacle’s Betting Resources is one of the most comprehensive collections of expert betting advice anywhere online. Catering to all experience levels our aim is simply to empower bettors to become more knowledgeable.