UNDERSTANDING BASEBALL BETTING ODDS
Baseball season is right around the corner so it’s a perfect time to discuss betting on the sport. I’ve never understood why more people don’t bet on baseball. It’s really a great betting sport—action every day, no pointspreads, a variety of different ways to approach handicapping among many other things. One thing is evident about baseball betting and that’s many people are intimidated by its odds format. That’s understandable, since they’re nothing like football pointspreads. The good news is that they’re easy to understand and knowing about baseball odds at TopBet Sportsbook will help you betting every other sport on the board. On this site you’ll find a variety of baseball betting guides to help you do so more effectively.
BETTING BASEBALL SIDES
Baseball is clearly a sport that doesn’t lend itself well to pointspreads. A 1-0 victory with an unhittable pitcher on the mound can be as dominant as a 10-3 win with the offense hitting the ball all over the yard. For that reason, all you need to worry about with baseball betting is winning the game. The bookmaker provides the ‘handicap’ between teams of varying quality by means of odds.
Moneyline odds—such as used in baseball—are a format primarily used in America. In fact, many European based sportsbooks refer to this method of odds demarcation as ‘US odds’ at US sports betting sites. In Europe, you’re more likely to see fractional odds or decimal odds. It’s important to remember that they all mean the same thing.
-150 = 2/3 = 1.66
+125 = 5/4 = 2.25
We’ll explain fractional and decimal odds in detail down the road—it’s a good thing to understand. For now, however, the important takeaway is that moneyline odds are just a different way of expressing fractional odds.
Once you understand this, baseball odds get much easier. Like every other sport, there’s a favorite and an underdog but the differential is found in the odds and not a pointspread. For example:
In this hypothetical matchup, Cincinnati is a -125 favorite over Atlanta. That means if you want to bet on the Reds you have to lay -125 to win -100. Another way to express this: you have to bet $1.25 for every $1.00 you want to win on the Reds.
If you want to bet the Braves you’ll get +105 for every -100 you bet. Alternately, you’ll receive $1.05 back for every $1.00 you bet on the Braves.
The differential between the price on the favorite and takeback on the underdog is where the sportsbook makes money. In this case, we’ve got a .20 cent line. The smaller the line differential, the better. The best you can really hope for is a .10 cent line (also known as a dime line).
HOW BASEBALL LINES ARE CALCULATED
Another source of confusion is the fact that baseball betting lines are primarily determined by the starting pitcher. Pitching is obviously a big part of baseball and this is reflected in the betting line. Even a bad team might be a prohibitive favorite if they have a dominant pitcher on their staff—perfect example, the Seattle Mariners have been an awful team over the past few years but Felix Hernandez is one of the best pitchers in the game. No matter how bad the Mariners have been you’ll typically see ‘King Felix’ as a betting favorite in most matchups. The opposite is also true—if a good team is forced to start a substandard pitcher it’ll be clearly reflected in the betting odds.
It’s impossible to overemphasize the importance of starting pitching on baseball odds valuations. For that reason, it’s important to have a very good knowledge of starting pitchers when betting baseball. Make sure you keep up on their recent form as well. It’s often possible to find good value on an underdog by going against an otherwise top quality pitcher that is in bad form. The flip side is also true—a pitcher may have bad numbers for the season as a whole but have good recent form. This is also a betting opportunity to get an improving pitcher at a value price.
A secondary consideration in pricing baseball lines—and in handicapping baseball—is the quality and performance of a team’s bullpen. Bullpen evaluation has grown in significance over the past few years to the point that even a beginning handicapper needs to be cognizant of factors like bullpen ERA and batting average against. This information is easy to find and is definitely a consideration of the bookmaker when he’s setting a baseball line.
Situational matchups are also important. Simply put, every team has advantageous and disadvantageous situations. A team might hit left handed pitching particularly well or they might struggle on natural grass. It’s important to be able to distinguish between factors that are salient to handicapping and ones that aren’t. It might be significant that a team has a bad record in night games. It’s probably not important that they have a bad record on Monday nights.
Home field advantage may or may not be a factor. Like every other sport, teams typically have a better record at home than they do on the road. On an individual game basis, however, home field is of little or no importance. There are some exceptions—general managers will sometimes build teams to take advantage of their ballpark’s unique characteristics. Other parks might be conducive to left handed hitters, power pitchers or anything else. The best answer is that home field advantage in baseball is very situational and is not as cut and dried as in other sports.
BASEBALL IS A CHALLENGING, COMPLEX BETTING SPORT
Baseball is a complex game to handicap. There’s no denying that. The bets themselves aren’t hard to understand but your handicapping of baseball can be as deep and complex as you’d like. Sharp bettors are always looking for new edges and unique approaches and hoping to take advantage before bookmakers catch up. Once you gain a familiarity with baseball betting you might very well find it the most enjoyable of all betting sports.