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Baseball Betting Strategies That are Tried and True

Updated February 19th, 2020
Published January 24, 2020

Baseball betting strategies are a dime a dozen, but it’s worth taking the time to find a few that work. There are plenty of online pundits and anonymous internet commentators more than happy to debate their merits, and it can be challenging to know which strategies are worth paying attention to.

We took the time to highlight a few basic betting strategies that will help you bet on baseball more successfully. Whether you are new to the game or a seasoned professional, these tips should help you raise the bar for 2020.

Here is a look at the best baseball betting strategies for this season.

Approach Big Moneyline Favorites with Caution

Beginner baseball bettors make often spend way too much time wagering on massive money line favorites. It’s an easy and common mistake to make.

While betting on the teams that are most widely expected to win makes sense from a conventional perspective, such an approach costs bettors a lot of money when they fail, which happens a lot more than most people realize.

The mathematics of betting on big moneyline favorites just don’t hold up. For example, if you were to bet the same amount of money on three lopsided moneyline favorites in a row, with each of them listed at -300, you would technically need to win all three bets just to avoid losing money.

For example, let’s say that you bet $300 on three favorites at -300 odds. The first two favorites win, which nets you $200. However, the third favorite loses at -300. That costs you the $200 you just won as well as an additional $100, so you’d be down overall.

Let’s look at a surprising example to further illustrate how this works:

Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros was a Cy Young candidate going into the 2019 season while playing for a team that was expected to win the World Series. Bettors readily had to lay big numbers each time he pitched.

Verlander finished the season with an impeccable 21-6 record and won the Cy Young Award, yet you would have lost $234 if bet $100 on the Astros moneyline in every game he pitched that season.

As you can see, you need to achieve an impeccable win-loss record if you want to come out ahead betting heavy moneyline favorites. That’s why they’re almost always a bad value.

If you’re looking to quickly identify which teams consistently provide the best value, take a look at our SBD Sharp betting trends analytics platform. It’ll show you the return on investment for every major bet you could’ve placed during the current season, showing the most and least profitable teams over the course of the year.

While you have the potential to slowly build up your bankroll, it can all fall apart quickly should you lose a couple of those wagers.

Pay Attention to the Umpires

Monitoring and using umpire trends is one of the most overlooked factors successful veteran handicappers take advantage of.

For example, let’s say that you noticed two matchups where you felt good about the under. Lance Barksdale is the umpire in the first. In the second matchup, Ted Barrett is calling the game.

In 2019, games with Barksdale behind the plate went under 18/31 times (58% of the time). By contrast, games officiated by Barrett went under 13/29 times (45% of the time). If you wanted to capitalize on these umpire trends, it would clearly make sense to take the under in the first matchup but not the second.

Difference in strike zones is one of the biggest things that differentiates MLB umpires. Umpires with a tight strike zone might call more walks, ultimately resulting in more baserunners and more runs.

On the other hand, an umpire who’s more flexible with their zone might lead to more strikes called on the corners, less baserunners, and fewer runs.

The players aren’t the only ones on the diamond, and their tendencies aren’t the only thing you should consider when looking for the best baseball betting strategies.

Look for Overnight Lines

Some sportsbooks post betting lines earlier than others, and you can take advantage of the early value.

For example, say you’re watching a team play their Tuesday game when you see the Wednesday line has already been posted. Based on their performance, you might make a decision to jump on the odds before most bettors can get their money down.

This is particularly smart if you hear some news about the Wednesday starting pitcher or hop on a line after you see a key injury take place. Books open these lines early to attract business, and they are offering a value to players when they do so. We recommend taking advantage when you can.

Early line movement is another key indicator for your baseball betting strategy. Usually, it’s mostly professionals betting these overnight lines early. If you see a big line move on an overnight line, it might signal that the sharps feel there’s a significant edge to that side.

Track First Five Innings Lines

It’s worth considering the first five innings lines anytime you are considering betting on the outcome of a game. First five innings baseball betting allows you to bet on which team is ahead at the end of a complete five innings.

There are a number of reasons to consider limiting your wager to the first five innings, but the ability to focus your betting strategy on the starting pitching is by far the best one.

If your pick is based on the starting pitching matchup, then it likely makes sense to bet the five-inning line rather than the full game line. The former focuses on the innings in which those starters are likely to pitch in before the bullpen takes over.

Some teams – like the 2019 Washington Nationals – had excellent starting pitching paired with a terrible bullpen that surely ruined many a good bet.

Bet the five inning line if you’re worried that the bullpen is going to blow it for you.

Research Pitcher Trends

Researching pitching trends is the final baseball betting strategy every legitimate MLB handicapper should take advantage of.

There’s no way around it – every play starts with a pitch, and the quality of those pitches matters an awful lot. Closely evaluating each team’s likely pitching lineup is important whether betting on sides, totals or first five inning lines.

When you visit a site like ESPN to examine a pitcher’s profile, take a look at the ‘splits’ section. Splits provide a clear indication of how a pitcher performs in all sorts of various scenarios.

For example, maybe a pitcher performs better in day games than night games. Maybe they perform exceptionally well in certain stadiums but struggle massively at others. Most importantly, track the home-away splits. Finding pitchers who underperform on the road or shine at home can unearth some excellent betting gems.

Hyun-Jin Ryu, for example, was a stud for the Dodgers in the 2019 season. At home, he was 10-1 with a 1.93 ERA and .214 opponent batting average. On the road, he was just 4-4 with a 2.72 ERA – nearly a full run higher than at home – and allowed opponents to bat .253.

Trends like this develop over the course of the season, and they can provide crucial context around a pitcher’s overall statistics.

Put These Baseball Betting Strategies to the Test

Practicing these baseball betting strategies firsthand is the best way to determine which ones work well for you.

Once you’ve gotten a feel for them, check out the rest of the baseball advice in our guides to betting on sports. From there, you can identify the most profitable teams of the moment using SBD’s proprietary sports analytics platform.

Always remember to wager responsibly, and enjoy the action out there.

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