Baseball season is about to begin, and with that, we would like to present to you our tips for betting on baseball. Chances are your state has just now legalized sports betting, so this will be your first chance to bet on a full season of MLB (legally anyway).
You have probably bet on a game or two one way or another, but being able to access it at your fingertips for a full season is entirely different.
We will cover some of the biggest components to look for when betting on a game. Baseball is full of stats, but some will give you a much better idea of who is more likely to win the game, or if they over or under will hit.
But, the biggest thing for us is to make this as fun as possible for you and give you a chance to make a little extra money. Every gambler goes through losing streaks, so you will also need to learn to have discipline, which we will cover later on.
Start With The Starter
The most important part of winning a championship in baseball is your starting pitching. It is no different when gambling on baseball. Looking at the starters for the game is just as important as knowing the two teams.
While the Yankees are much better than let’s say the Tigers, if it is the Yankees’ worst pitcher against Matthew Boyd, it is much closer to a toss-up.
The starting pitcher makes a huge difference when you are deciding which team to bet on. You do not want to just blindly bet on games not knowing who the day’s starters are.
Something else we encourage you to look at is past success. There are certain hitters who just really see the ball well off some guys. You may think that Jacob deGrom will just dominate the Marlins. Sounds like a pretty good assumption, but if you look at the numbers, maybe Miami has just had his number for some reason.
There are a couple of pay sites where you can really dive down into pitcher versus batter numbers, but for our purposes, the free ones will do. Dailybaseballdata.com is our site of choice, but there are plenty of good ones.
If you were playing daily fantasy, sometimes the next level stuff can help, but for a straight bet on the game, it’s definitely not necessary.
Earned Run Average (ERA)
If you aren’t familiar with baseball, ERA is the average number of earned runs a pitcher would give up if he pitched all nine innings of a game. Of course, it is now very rare for pitchers to ever pitch nine innings, so this definitely doesn’t tell the story, but it is a great indicator.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t account for unearned runs, and there are teams that are much more likely to give up unearned runs.
ERA is simply the number of earned runs a pitcher has given up divided by the innings pitched times by nine. For example, if Justin Verlander has given up 20 earned runs over his first 80 innings, his ERA would be 2.25 — 20 divided by 80 is .25. If you times that by nine, you get 2.25.
ERA is also very important if you are betting the total runs as well as just a regular moneyline bet on a game. If you see two pitchers who are really struggling and have ERAs in the high 4s or low 5s, an over-9 bet may be the way to go.
It isn’t the end-all indicator, but ERA should be one of the main factors you look at when deciding on which way to bet.
Walks & Hits per Inning Pitched (WHIP)
Big-time baseball fans will know that WHIP has replaced ERA as the stat that most fans track for pitchers. It is a better indicator of how good a pitcher really is, whereas ERA can be distorted by a team’s lack of defense or some untimely home runs.
WHIP, like ERA, is pretty easy to calculate. It is simply the walks and hits allowed divided by the innings pitched.
Yu Darvish has allowed 15 walks and 55 hits over 75 innings. You take 15+55 and then divide that by 75. Darvish’s WHIP is 70/75, which is .93. Anything under 1 is extremely impressive for a pitcher.
Only five qualifying pitchers last year had WHIPs under 1 (Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole, Jack Flaherty, deGrom and Zack Greinke). Obviously, if one of those pitchers are on the mound, their team has a much better chance of winning as they don’t allow many base runners.
While win-loss record is a little overrated when it comes to ranking starting pitchers, it is still a very useful tool when betting. Some pitchers work deeper into games, giving them a greater chance of getting their team a win.
They could also have a really strong bullpen behind them, meaning they could get more wins because their team isn’t constantly blowing saves when they give them the lead.
Another important bet in MLB is a first-five-inning bet. This is betting on the result after five innings of a game are completed. If you see a pitcher who has a great WHIP and ERA, but maybe very few wins, this might be a great chance to bet on the team for the first five innings instead of a full game bet.
deGrom a few years back won a Cy Young even though his win-loss record was not impressive. It wasn’t deGrom’s fault as his team didn’t produce very many runs, and his bullpen cost him a few wins. Betting the Mets for the first five-inning bet would have been a better strategy in games in which he started.
Pay Attention to Pitching Splits
We are going to cover a few pitching splits and why they should be important to you as a gambler. These are not the only ones out there, but they are the easiest to find and ultimately will help get you enough information to make a well-informed decision.
This is as simple as it gets. MLB.com or your favorite sports site will list a pitcher’s home and away statistics. Everyone assumes that a pitcher at Coors Field will have significant home/away splits, which is sometimes true, but a lot of pitchers really struggle at one place or another.
It isn’t always that a pitcher is better at home; it can actually go the other way. So take a look and see if you can find a matchup where the pitchers’ splits favor your bet. If you get a guy who is great at home and his opponent is terrible on the road, throw some money down.
This might take a little more digging on your part to find day game versus night game splits. MLB.com is usually the place we recommend for the day/night splits. I don’t get quite as into this exact split early in the season as there are fewer games to look at, and the numbers can really be skewed.
But, if you look at career day/night splits, you can definitely get some good information.
These splits work for hitters as well, and you can gain some great insight into how they may do based on time of day. If you see that a lineup has a lot of guys who excel during the day and have good career numbers against the pitcher, they are probably a good bet.
Lefty/righty is the most traditional split. As baseball fans, we have been looking at lefty/right splits for as long as we can remember. You can compare a team’s OPS against righties and lefties on multiple sites.
This is a great way to find an underdog based on lefty/righty splits and see if you can get a nice return without a lot of risks.
Ride the Streaks
Baseball is a game of streaks. Hitting a baseball has everything to do with confidence, and hitting can be contagious. During the last few years, there have been multiple 10-plus-game winning streaks.
Bookmakers won’t overreact to winning streaks, so you should be able to still find value with a team on a long winning streak.
This can also be true for pitchers. Starting pitchers can be just stringing together scoreless inning after scoreless inning. Good pitching usually trumps good hitting, so I would be betting on the pitcher who is dealing.
Don’t Forget about the Underdog
A rule of thumb is that you have to win more than you lose to be a good sports bettor. Betting the underdog keeps this from being true. If you are betting teams at +150, you only have two of every five to break even.
If you can identify value in an underdog, that is a great way to make money betting on baseball. Huge favorites in MLB have been one of the worst bets in sports for the last few years. Find a split that is to your advantage and play the underdog.
Discipline is the number one key to being profitable as a sports bettor. It is easy to get caught up and try and “chase” when you are on a losing streak. This is the easiest mistake to make and the number one cause of money loss in gamblers.
If things aren’t breaking your way, stop and re-evaluate. Don’t just keep betting to try and get back to even. Find a system that works for you and stick with it. Have a budget and look at as much data as possible.
Finding a split where you can gain an advantage and then setting amounts that you bet on a weekly basis is the best way to go.
Research, research, research. Baseball is a game where numbers are everywhere, and sabermetrics and data rule the day. It should work for you as well when you are doing your betting. Look at as much data as possible and then make a decision.
You may study the data until the sun comes up and not find anything that you see as an advantage one way or another. This is completely fine and usually the norm.
Bookmakers do a heck of a job with coming up with lines, and sometimes there isn’t a good play. But, after doing your research, you find an advantage, jump on it and don’t look back.