A Beginners Guide To Betting On Baseball

Making casual bets with your mates over a pint in a pub is one thing, but real sports betting can get very confusing very quickly if you are an amateur in that area. While many websites are quick to come to your aid with odds and statistics, the many numbers can confuse you even further. Baseball betting is often deemed to be one of the most popular markets for sharp bettors.

Unfortunately, knowing how to read the numbers is only a small part of the equation. As a successful bettor, your knowledge has to go beyond numbers and various betting strategies.

“A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings.” – Earl Wilson

A Brief History Of Baseball

The precise origins of baseball are somewhat difficult to trace. For an extended period of time, many believed that young man called Abner Doubleday invented the game of baseball in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839. However, it was later discovered that the myth was based on mining engineer Abner Graves’ claims. The history of baseball is a lot more complicated than that, and according to historical references dates back to the 18th century. Its ancestors seem to be two English games: rounder and cricket.

The variations of such games rapidly gained popularity by the mid-19th century. However, it wasn’t until September 1845, when a group of New York City men founded the New York Knickerbocker Baseball Club. One of the volunteers, Alexander Joy Cartwright, codified a new set of rules that formed the basis for modern baseball.

The very first “all-professional” baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, emerged in 1869. The team was sponsored by a group of Ohio investors, and each player was paid a salary, with the highest paid player, George Wright earning $1,400 per season (equals almost $23,000 a year now).

Baseball’s growing popularity helped introduce the industry’s very first stars such as Denton True Young, also commonly known as Cy Young. Baseball’s all-time leader in wins, losses, games started, innings pitched and complete games has the annual award given to the best pitcher in each league named for him, the Cy Young Award.

The Basics Of Baseball

Baseball is played by two teams consisting of nine players. Each team has nine innings in which the batting team sends one player, known as the hitter or batter, in turn, to bat (known as an “at bat”), until three hitters are “out”, whilst the pitching team has nine players on the field trying to stop them from scoring.

The home team always bats second (the “bottom” of the inning) and the visiting team always bats in the “top” of the inning. A run is scored by a runner reaching home base, having first touched first, second and third base. Only one runner is allowed on any one base at any one time.

There are three basic bet types available in betting on baseball; Money Line, Run Line and Total.

Money Line Betting

Despite seeming like a difficult concept to understand, Money Line (sometimes called moneylines or American odds) in baseball betting simply refers to which of the two teams will win the game. Generally, money lines are used in low-scoring games like baseball or hockey, but they may also be used in boxing, racing, tennis, etc.

Hypothetically speaking, imagine a baseball game between Chicago Cubs and the Los Angeles Dodgers. When looking at the money line in the game, you might see something similar to this:

Chicago Cubs +120
Los Angeles Dodgers -130

According to this example, as indicated by the negative numerals, Dodgers are the favoured team, meaning if you were to put $130 on Dodgers’ victory, you would pocket a payout of $100 when the team wins. However, if you were to bet $100 on Cubs, you would collect $120 if the team won. It’s worth mentioning that you do not have to wager as much as $100 on your favoured team. You can work just as well with betting of $10 or $20.

Also, it is highly important that you keep track of rotation and who will be the starting pitcher in any given game, considering a large number of games played in a typical Major League Baseball season. Pitching stats to look out for would be; IP (Innings Pitched), WHIP (Walks Plus Hits per Innings Pitched), ERA (Earned Run Average) and WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player).

The assessment of the batters is just as important as the pitchers. While there is a bunch of stats available online, keeping an eye on information such as PA (Plate Appearances) wOBA (weighted On-Base Average), OBP (On-Base Percentage) and ISO (Isolated Power) can be quite valuable.

Run Line Betting

The run line betting is similar to what is referred to as the point spread in basketball and football. While betting on run line can be more profitable, it also requires more advanced baseball knowledge on stats, trends, and pitching performances.

Despite money line being a popular option of wagering, run line betting keeps growing in popularity, especially late in the season when a wealth of individual player and team stats and betting trends are available for analysis.

A run line bet is a 1.5-point spread attached to a baseball game, which means that favoured teams have to win by two or more runs. Otherwise, they will not cover the spread. It is important to note that in run line the rules of money line betting are somewhat backwards. In other words, a team that may be a heavy favourite on the money line can have drastically reduced odds when pegged as a 1.5-run run line favourite. Furthermore, a team that is listed as an underdog on the money line will see its odds boosted on the run line, with underdogs sometimes even showing up as run line favourites.

The Run Line vs The Money Line

For instance, New York is listed as a strong -200 money line favourite, which means a bet on New York to win will cost $200 to win $100, while a $100 bet on Boston to win outright will pay $170.

Boston +170

New York -200

On the other hand, in an MLB run line bet on the same hypothetical game, the Yankees are slim +110 underdogs to win by 1.5 or more runs, while Boston is a -140 favourite to not lose by more than one run. This entails that a $100 runline bet on the Yankees would win $110, while it would cost $140 to win $100 on a bet on Boston to not lose by more than one run.

Boston +1.5 -140

New York -1.5 +110

Totals Betting

In addition to money lines and run lines numbers, you will also come across over/under predictions (O/U), also know as totals. These indicate the number of total runs that are expected to be scored by both teams over the course of the game, including extra innings. In over/under bets you don’t rely on your knowledge regarding which team is most likely to win, as you are only trying to speculate whether the final score will be higher or lower than the number listed on the books.

For example, you might see something similar to this:

New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox    Over 9.5 (-110)

New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox    Under 9.5 (-110)

The exemplary lines indicate that you can risk $110 to win $100 by choosing if the game will have 10 or more runs scored (over), or 9 or less runs scored (under).

Generally, over/under bets will be worth less than making a straight bet on an underdog win, but may potentially be worth more than betting on a favoured team.

Understanding Betting Odds

Odds — A representation of the perceived frequency of an event derived from the underlying probability which enables betting.

As someone trying to grasp the required skills and knowledge to become a successful bettor, you might find underrating odds a bit of a challenge. To truly understand betting and odds, you must also get the hang of calculating the probability.

Betting is about evaluating the chance or probability of an event occurring, while bookmakers use the odds to translate it into viable form in order to offer betting. 

There are many odds formats that vary depending on which part of the world you live. The two of the most common options used are Decimal and American odds. Before we look into different odds formats, it is critical to note that, regardless of which odds format you use, the potential profit is the same, the presentation just differs.

American Odds

As expected, American odds are the default format used in America. The odds start with a negative or a positive sign, e.g. -$110, +$110. The negative number states the amount you need to wager to make a profit of $100. While the positive number shows how much you might profit if you bet $100.

American Odds Calculation

Positive American odds calculation:

Odds x (stake/100)

If you bet $13.75 on the White Sox at -129, your potential profit is $10.66:

(100/Odds) x stake = (100/129) x 13.75 = 10.66

If we use the same example for positive odds, when you bet $15 on the Royals at +119, you can potentially make $17.85:

Odds x (stake/100) = 119 x (15/100) = 17.85

Decimal Odds

Decimal odds are a fairly simple format which is a numerical representation of potential return of a bet that includes the stake amount. It’s pretty easy to calculate. You simply multiply the amount you want to bet on the Decimal odds offered while keeping in mind that the return includes your stake.

Your Profit = (Stake * Decimal Odds) – Stake

The potential return for a $100 bet on Chelsea at 2.270 which includes your initial $100 stake amount: Odds x stake = 2.270 X 100 = 227

The potential return for a $100 bet on Liverpool at 3.390: Odds x stake = 3.390 x 100 = 339

There you have the basics of betting on the game of baseball. Despite betting on baseball being challenging for beginners, as long as you do your homework and bet wisely you might be the next gambler to swear by baseball wagering.

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