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Betting Major League Baseball
The page will endeavor to give the recreational baseball bettor advice on the various bets. I have no handicapping skill in baseball whatsoever, so the best I can do is steer you towards the best type of bets. There are three primary ways to bet on baseball, as follows.
- Money line: Bet on which team will win.
- Total: Bet on whether the total number of runs will fall above or below a stated number, usually between 7 and 12.
- Run line: Similar to a bet against the spread in football or basketball. However, in baseball the better team is always favored by 1.5. If the money line indicates neither team is favored, then either team could be the favored team.
Source of Data
The data this analysis is based on is from the Major League Baseball games played over the 2016 and 2017 seasons. I had to remove two games because of incomplete data. The total number of games this page is based on is 4,929.
The following table shows the average number of runs, hits, errors.
MLB Averages 2016-2017
1. Totals may not appear to agree with sum of the parts, due to rounding.
Money Line Bets
When it comes to betting money lines in baseball, or any sports bet for that matter, what is number of basis points, or "cents" between the lines of the two teams. For example, a 10-cent set of lines would be +120/-130 or +105/+105. Following is the theoretical house edge by number of cents in the lines, assuming the probability of each team winning is close to 50%.
- 10 cents: 2.38%
- 15 cents: 3.49%
- 20 cents: 4.55%
As of this writing (Sept. 20, 2018) here are which sports book groups offer which sets of money line bets in baseball.
- 10-cent lines: Westgate, William Hill, South Point, Stations, CG Technology, Golden Nugget, Jerry's Nugget, Boyd
- 15-cent lines: Stratosphere, Caesars, Wynn
- 20-cent lines: MGM/Mirage, Treasure Island
Home or Road Teams
I show money line bets on road teams perform slightly better than home teams. Here are the expected return for both:
- Road teams: 98.30%
- Home teams: 97.99%
I do not think this 0.3% difference is statistically significant.
Favorite or Underdog
Following is the expected return for both underdogs and favorites against a 10-cent line:
- Underdogs: 98.49%
- Favorites: 97.79%
Not surprisingly, the underdogs did better. This seems to be true in every American sport.
The following table shows the number of times the total runs was over, under, and exactly on the over/under line. The return column shows the house edge, assuming a 20-cent line. Note that the house edge is 2.25% less on Under bets.
Over/Under Bets in MLB
Run Line Bets
Based on sets of 20-cent lines, I show the following expected returns:
- Underdog +1.5: 96.34%
- Favorite -1.5: 96.90%
I must say I'm surprised to see favorites outperform underdogs on the run line. This is not the case in the NHL on the puck line. The difference is fairly small at 0.64% so I would not trust the favorite side to continue to do better.
- Obscure Topics in Betting Major League Baseball — These are some tables I didn't bother to update when I updated this page with new data. Use the tables in this page, based on data from 2000 to 2009, with a grain of salt.
- Betting the NFL In-depth look at betting professional football.
- Betting the NBA In-depth look at betting professional basketball.
- Appendix 1 Comparative study on who has the best lines in Vegas.
- Appendix 2 Various topics in sports betting.
- Appendix 3 List of Las Vegas sports book families.
- Appendix 4 Fair prices to buy and sell points in the NFL.
- Appendix 5 Explores sports futures in greater depth.
- Appendix 6 Lost and expired tickets.
- Appendix 7 Companion to appendix 1, showing NFL money line pairs from several Internet sportbooks.
- Appendix 8 Comparitive study on who has the best lines offshore.
- Appendix 9 Companion to appendix 8, showing NFL money line pairs from offshore sportbooks.
- NFL Teasers.
- Total number of kickoffs in Super Bowl 43. Were there 9 or 10?
- Vegas sports book comparison at WizardOfVegas.com. Who offers what odds on parlays and teasers, as well as rebate percentages.
Written by: Michael Shackleford