Major League Baseball kicks off its 2012 regular season this week. And while it may not garner the same level of betting action that the NFL and NBA does, it remains an extremely viable option to supplement your sports wagering endeavors.
The most attractive aspect of betting on baseball is the sheer volume of opportunities the sport presents. There are 30 teams playing a 162 games a season, so from now until late September, there will be a daily dose of matchups to chose from. In order to get you started in the right direction, the following is a couple of tips and strategies to maximize the return on your MLB handicapping efforts.
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Understanding the Run Line
Similar to other major sports, baseball matchups have a spread (which is referred to as a run line), a money line, and a total line. While the money line and total line work the same exact way as in football and basketball, there is a bit of a unique twist to the run line.
In baseball, the run line (or spread) usually remains a constant 1.5 runs. The odds are tweaked through the use of a separate money line that reflects the 1.5 runs the favorite has to give up. For example, Bovada’s run line for Wednesday night’s opener between the Cardinals and Marlins is listed as follows:
St. Louis +1 ½ (-150)
Miami -1 ½ (+120)
This simply means that you would have to risk 150 for every 100 you wager to get the Cardinals and the 1.5 runs. If you take Miami and give the 1.5 runs, the return would be 120 for every 100 wagered. St. Louis is actually a +160 underdog on the game’s primary money line with the Marlins favored at -180, so it is easy to see how the extra spread really comes into play.
The run line is a great MLB betting strategy to employ when you are extremely confident that the favorite is going to win straight up by two or more runs as demonstrated in the example above.
Know your Starting Pitchers
A football team’s quarterback or a basketball team’s leading scorer can have a huge impact on the lines for a game, but there is no sport where one player has as much impact on the oddsmakers’ lines than the starting pitcher in baseball. MLB odds are not released until each team’s starter has been announced and most times the game will come off the board and all pre-existing bets cancelled if there is a last-minute substitution by either side.
You should get in the habit of spending a good portion of your handicapping efforts on analyzing the pitching matchups in a particular game, as this is a great way to uncover value in not just the money line but in the total line as well. There is a wealth of information available on past performances, past head-to-head matchups (if applicable), and current form that can be used to help predict which starter has the best shot at outdueling his counterpart that day.
Study the Intangibles
Pitching will always be the most vital aspect in any baseball game, but there are certain intangibles that can also provide an edge in handicapping a particular contest. Ballpark dimensions can have an influence on an opposing road team’s hitting performance depending on the strengths and weaknesses of its lineup.
A team’s recent schedule can have a huge impact on the outcome of its next game, especially in the first game of a new series when one team is playing at home on a day’s rest against a team that is on an extended road trip with no day’s rest.
The home plate umpire can often dictate whether it will be a good day for the pitchers or a good one for the batters depending on the size of his strike zone. While a MLB strike zone is supposed to be as uniform as possible, each umpire uses his own interpretation of the actual dimensions to call balls and strikes. There is ample information available on all active umpires past called games that can provide a better understanding of his overall tendencies.
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