Baseball is hugely popular in all parts of North America, with Major League Baseball (MLB) by far the biggest, most prestigious and most lucrative competition in the world. It features mainly American teams along with – in the current season – one Canadian team, although the sport is also massive in Cuba, Puerto Rica, the Dominican Republic and Japan, among others.
Whilst the World Series (MLB final) may have a slightly erroneous name, given the limited area from which teams are drawn, it is undoubtedly one of the world’s grandest sporting spectacles. It is also a fantastic betting opportunity, as is baseball in general. The MLB is the most watched league in any sport anywhere in the world, with over 75m attending games in the 2012 season. This is due to the huge number of fixtures played, with each team scheduled to play 162 regular season games each year, meaning that there are a huge number of games to bet on and to profit from. With minor US leagues and other countries’ baseball too you’re never short of baseball action, which is just the way we like it.
How To Bet On Baseball
Baseball is a great sport to bet on as, not only are there loads of games, there is also a great choice of markets within any given match. To the uninitiated the sport can be hard to grasp but in essence it’s simple enough and so is betting on it.
- To win – As with most US sports, this is usually called the money line, and is a bet on which side will win a particular game. There are no draws or ties in baseball, teams just play extra innings until there is a winner so it’s a very simple bet.
- Run line – The run line is baseball’s version of a handicap, with one team usually being given a 1.5 run start and the other a 1.5 disadvantage, though on occasion it can be 2.5. This means that the team with the “head start” can lose by one run and still win and so their odds will be much shorter on the run line.
- Alternate run line – Many bookies will also offer different run lines, or handicaps, as well as the standard 1.5, so a very strong favourite may be offered with a -4.5 run handicap.
- Total runs – A bet on how many runs there will be in total during the game. Usually offered as a half-run amount, for example 8.5, with the option of betting over (nine or more runs) or under, (eight or fewer) and odds of just under evens on both outcomes.
- Extra innings – A simple yes or no bet on whether extra innings will be required (that is to say, the scores will be level after nine innings each).
- Total runs (bands) – Another option for betting on total runs in the game is to bet on bands. For example “less than five”, “six or seven”, “eight or nine” or “10 or more” may be given as options.
- Outright betting – You can also back your team to win the given competition overall, whether it be the World Series, one of America’s minor leagues or anything else.
In addition many bets are offered that relate to the individual innings, so which team will win any of the particular innings or how many runs will be scored in it, as well as other such bets.
Baseball Betting Rules
The main thing to look for in baseball is whether a bookie is naming a pitcher. If a specific pitcher is named for each side then many bookies will only allow bets to stand if both of those men play. Some bookies will give the option of selecting different odds depending on whether it is for any pitchers or named pitchers or one of the two named pitchers starting. A change to the pitchers will often cause a massive change in the odds so it’s crucial to check you know what rules will be applied to your bets in case this happens.
Another important thing to be aware of when betting on baseball is that the teams play many games very close together, sometimes even on the same day. You need to make sure you know which match you are betting on as it could be very annoying to watch the first of a team’s doubleheaders and “win” your bet before realising the same two teams are playing later the same day… and your bet has lost.
Any handicap or totals bets that aren’t specified in half runs and result in a draw will be a “push”, with stakes refunded. Games that are postponed or abandoned will usually be voided, subject to the terms and conditions of the bookie, with relevance to if and when the match is replayed and/or how much of it was completed. Finally, unless otherwise specified most bookies include extra innings.
Baseball Betting Strategy
Baseball is often regarded as one of the best sports to bet on due to the huge wealth of statistical data that is created. Sabermetrics, the name given to a particular type of statistical analysis used in baseball, has become a key component of the game from a coaching and scouting perspective and similar, related theories have been used with regards to betting.
Because teams and players play so many games there is a huge wealth of data about how any player or team performs in any given situation. By studying and researching this information you should be able to gain a critical edge and make a long-term profit. Of course, the bookies also have access to this same data but as there is so much out there it is possible, in fact easy, for them to miss or overlook something – and that’s your cue to cash in.
Because baseball betting is relatively new and limited outside the US and a few other major baseball nations, the bookies are less able to spend the time or money developing a perfect odds model. As such, by looking at the styles of various pitchers and teams, where, when and how they score and concede their runs, not just how many, you have a great opportunity to make a profit.
One more specific tip is to understand the link between the run line and the total runs odds. For example, a 1.5 run head start should be worth a lot more in a game with a total runs number of 6.5, than it would be in a match where the bookies are expecting 11.5 runs. This gives you an opportunity to find some real value on the underdog at times.
Cheatsheet: What Actually is Baseball?
Glorified rounders? Men in Pyjamas swinging bats at balls? What exactly is baseball? Whilst the game certainly does seem to have its roots in a number of European games – including rounders and similar – there is a little more to it than its simpler ancestors. Watch a game of baseball and you will soon pick it up, but here we take a quick look at the basics, as well as betting on the sport too.
Two teams of nine apiece do battle on a baseball field, also known as a baseball diamond, with the four points of the diamond being known respectively as first second and third base, and home plate. The aim of the game is simply to score more runs than the opposition. Easy right?
The two teams alternate between batting and fielding, with players from the batting team each facing the pitcher in turn. A batting order specified pre-game determines the order in which the batters will take their place “at bat”. A team’s turn at bat is over as soon as three players are out.
A baseball game is divided into nine innings, with an innings consisting of a turn at bat for each team. Note that whilst a game is designated to last nine innings, as with many US-based sports, draws aren’t permitted in baseball so should the scores be level after these nine innings, extra innings will be played until a winner is determined.
There are various ways in which a batter can be designated as out. One of the most common being a strike out. This is where the pitcher throws the ball three times into the designated strike zone – an area above home plate and approximately between the batter’s shoulders and knees – without the batter being able to hit the ball into play.
Note that a swing and a miss counts as a strike regardless of whether the ball was actually in the strike zone or not. Any pitch which does not enter the strike zone and which the batter does not swing at is designated as a “ball”. Should the pitcher throw four “balls” before he throws three strikes, then the batter is allowed to advance automatically to first base, this is designated as a “walk”. Much like cricket a batter can also be caught out.
A run is scored when a player manages to advance around all three bases and return to home plate. This can be done in stages i.e. one base at a time, or in one fell swoop should the batter hit the ball into the stands in the in-play area, known as a home run or “homer”. Note that should a home run be hit, all players on bases are designated as scoring a run.
The dream scenario is for a home run to be hit with players already on first, second and third bases. When the “bases are loaded” like this and a homer is scored this is known as a grand slam and results in four runs being scored.
Leagues & Competitions
Major League Baseball
Widely known as “America’s Pastime”, baseball has been one of the most popular sports stateside, in terms of both participation and spectatorship since the late 1800s. The game is now also played elsewhere, but it is still America which plays host to by far the biggest league in the world.
Baseball’s big league in the USA and Canada is the oldest from amongst all of the four major US sports (Baseball, American Football, Basketball and Ice Hockey). Made up of the National League, formed in 1876, and the American League, which came into being later in 1901, the league consists of 30 teams in total. In addition to the National and American League segregation, the league is broken down further still, with both the National and American League containing three divisions, namely East, West and Central.
The season runs from April to November each year, with each team playing a whopping 162 regular season games. With so many matches there is plenty of time for the cream to rise to the top over the course of the season, meaning the very best teams invariably reach the post season. Following the regular season, the six divisional winners plus four best performing “wild cards” advance to the standard US knockout format. It all comes to a head in the best of seven World Series itself which takes place in late October/early November each year.
Way out in front as the most successful team in the history of Major League Baseball are the world famous New York Yankees. With a whopping 27 World Series wins to their name, the Yankees have more wins than the second placed St. Louis Cardinals (11) and Oakland Athletics (9) combined.
The Houston Astros were at the other end of the scale headed into the 2017 season, with no wins to their name. They changed all that though when seeing off the L.A. Dodgers in a thrilling game seven of the World Series to claim a long awaited first title.
The All Star Game
One interesting feature of American sports – including baseball – is the addition of an all-star game to the season. The best of the best from the American League face off against the top dogs from the National League in a one-off showpiece contest. The leagues managers select the starting pitchers, but with the rest of the line-ups voted for by the fans, this is always a much hyped and anticipated match-up.
Also known as the “midsummer classic”, the event takes place shortly after the midway point of the season and is supported by a number of other events including the always popular Home Run Derby which sees the biggest bats in the game square off in a battle to hit those home runs.
Baseball: It’s Big In Japan
Major League Baseball may be far and away the biggest league worldwide, but the US isn’t the only country where the game enjoys immense popularity. Japan has boasted its own professional league since way back in 1936 and the game continues to be a big deal in the land of the rising sun.
The Nippon Professional Baseball league is similar to Major League Baseball in that it is segregated into two divisions, in this case the Pacific and Central Leagues, and in that the teams compete in a marathon 144 game season beginning in April, with the winners of the Central and Pacific leagues squaring off in the season ending Japan Series.
The actual mechanics of the game do vary a little in Japan though. The baseball used is smaller in size, and whilst they don’t do tied games in America, a draw is permitted in Japan should the scores still be level after the maximum 12 innings allowed.
Baseball At The Olympics
Baseball’s global appeal has waxed and waned over the years, resulting in a somewhat intermittent relationship with the world’s largest multisport event, the Olympic Games. Having first appeared at the games back in 1904, baseball appeared sporadically at subsequent games, being made an official sport of the games in 1992, only to be voted off the schedule once again in 2012. Fans will no doubt be pleased to learn that baseball is once again back in vogue with the IOC and will reappear at the 2020 games in Tokyo.
A Few Final Notes on Betting on Baseball
Betting on baseball may not be on the same level of popularity as football but even so, more and more people are taking an interest in the sport. Most, if not all, UK- and European-facing bookmakers now offer odds on Major League Baseball, with some offering other events and leagues too.
From a punting perspective the fact there is such a huge number of matches (in the MLB alone) provides ample opportunity to employ a selective approach. One word of caution though. With teams often playing the same team on successive days, and sometimes even twice in the same day, be careful when placing your bets to ensure you are betting on the match-up you want. Teams very rarely start the same pitcher on successive days, and the pitcher is the single most important player on the field when it comes to influencing the outcome of the game.
As with most sports, there are betting rules that apply specifically to baseball. One of the most important to be aware of concerns the pitcher. With some betting sites, bets will only stand if the named pitchers play. On the other hand, some bookies will let bets run irrespective of the starting pitchers.
As with most sports, there is far more to bet on here than simply the result of the game. Amongst a plethora of options, we have handicap betting, where one team receives a head start, over or under a specified number of runs in the match, and also who will be leading after the first six innings.