Betting Baseball Totals
by Trevor Whenham - 03/30/2007
Bettors that are already familiar and comfortable with betting totals in football or basketball may want to expand their range to betting baseball totals. Though some of the concepts are the same between baseball totals and those other sports (the public loves the over, for example), the decidedly smaller range of scores decreases the margin of error and makes your calculations and certainty more important.
When you are handicapping totals there are five factors you need to consider if you want to come to a conclusion quickly with a reasonable chance of success - pitching, offenses, trends, ballpark and weather.
When you look at the pitchers you want to determine how many runs they generally give up along with their overall consistency and the form they are currently in. It is more likely that a lot of runs are going to be scored in a game when two fourth or fifth starters are matching up than if two aces are heading for a showdown. A total stands a better chance of getting passed if one or both bullpens have been struggling, or if an injury means that a key reliever won't be available. The pitcher is probably the single biggest factor contributing to the total of a game.
Comparing the offenses of the two teams can often uncover total opportunities. If two teams have struggled all year to score runs then they may be more likely to go under. Two potent offenses will often score enough runs to trump any total that bookmakers could set. When a strong offense meets a weaker offense, then no likely outcome is immediately clear, and other factors will have to be considered instead.
Baseball is a game of streaks and trends. If a team is clicking offensively then they are usually going to pile up the points several games in a row. If a team starts struggling it can often get stuck in a rut and find it difficult to score for an extended time. When two teams on similar streaks clash, then betting magic can occur.
The ballpark can make a significant difference in the potential outcome of a game. Petco Park in San Diego with its cavernous outfield is one of the harder fields for teams to put runs on the board. Anaheim, Oakland and Washington are also stingy. Coors Field in Denver, on the other hand, is a very easy place to score. Putting the balls in the humidor has helped, but it is still a pitcher's nightmare. Kansas City, Arizona and Baltimore are other venues where runs are comparatively easy to come by. Some ballparks lend themselves more to overs or unders than others, and those effects can be compounded when you add strong or struggling offenses, or pitchers that are doing well or are struggling.
The weather can have a very significant impact on the total in some situations. A strong wind over the outfield fence can turn easy fly balls into home runs. A wind towards home plate can render the greatest slugger useless. A clear day allows teams to play as well as they might. A cold day won't allow pitchers to be at their best. An especially hot day may cause problems with energy for both teams. Spending the time to investigate the weather before you make a bet is easy to do thanks to the Internet, and it can be well worth the effort.
In football, betting centers around the key numbers of three and seven. Baseball has its own key numbers that, though not as strong as three is, certainly need to be considered when handicapping totals. Almost a third of all games end with totals of seven, nine or 11. The reason for the commonness of those numbers is extra innings. A game that is tied after nine innings is most often going to end with a team winning by one run. A 3-3 tie, then, would likely end with a total of seven, a 4-4 tie would hit nine, and a 5-5 tie would finish at 11. Those results, along with the different ways those totals could be reached in a regulation game, account for their regular appearance. This is relevant in two ways. First, if a total is moving due to heavy betting, then you will want to time your bet to best take advantage of your belief compared to a key number. 9.5 is way better than 9 if you are betting the under, for example.
This also means that shopping for the best available line is just as important here as it is in all other betting. Some books may set or move their line a half a point ahead or behind other books. Finding the best opportunities for your vision of the game can save you huge amounts of money over the long run. Over the long term it makes sense to move down the half point even if it costs you a few cents extra juice because of the extra wins.
Because baseball betting is all about grinding out a profit with a large number of bets over the course of the season, totals can play a significant role in your arsenal. The biggest advantage in many cases is the price. Totals are offered at prices close to even. That can be a way to find action on a game at a reasonable place when you are dealing with a favorite that you are confident is going to win, but which is at a price that doesn't warrant a bet.