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Last Updated: January 21, 2019

Betting Major League Baseball

Introduction

 

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.

Fun Facts

 

The following table shows the average number of runs, hits, errors.

 

MLB Averages 2016-2017

Item Away Home Total1
Runs 4.47 4.64 9.10
Hits 8.71 8.64 17.34
Errors 0.58 0.58 1.16
Total 13.76 13.87 27.61

 

Notes

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.

Over/Under Bets

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

Outcome Number Probability House
Edge
Over 2315 46.97% 5.45%
Under 2373 48.14% 3.20%
Push 241 4.89%  
Total 4929 100.00%  

 

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.

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