Betting Baseball Alternate Run Lines
by Trevor Whenham - 05/02/2008
As summer starts to seem like more of a possibility more people are looking towards betting on baseball. Though most people use the money line to make their bets, the run line, and its cousin the alternate run line, are viable alternatives in a number of situations. The run line is a bet that assigns a spread of 1.5 runs to the game and then adjusts the odds accordingly. That means that the favorite has to win the game by at least two runs for a bet on them to pay off, whereas the underdog can lose by a run and still allow their bettors to cash in. The alternate run lines are just the opposite - the spread is still 1.5 points, but the underdog is now favored according to the spread and vice versa.
Because a lot of people don't visit with the run line family as often as they should they can be confusing. As a refresher, then, here are five circumstances where you might want to look at the alternate run line instead of the run line or the money line:
Strong feeling about an underdog - Sometimes you just like how the underdog matches up with the favorite. It could be that the favorite's pitcher is struggling or is overrated, or that the favorite is a public team that gets too much credit. Or it could be that the underdog's pitcher is coming into solid form, or that their bats are hot and you don't think that the line is giving them enough credit. Whatever the reason, the alternate run line is a great way to capitalize on your feeling. Because you are giving up 1.5 runs compared to the money line and three compared to the run line you obviously get a much better price. The better price means that you don't have to be right as often as you would with the other bets to make a profit. If you are disciplined about only using this option when you feel the underdog has a strong edge then you could find it to be very profitable.
Like a favorite, but are nervous about it - Sometimes when you look at a game you feel that the favorite is the best choice, but you don't feel that the edge is significant. If you don't want to bet on the underdog then using the alternate run line on the favorite could be a way to go. You sacrifice quite a bit on the price, but because your team is +1.5 you have a cushion in place in case the favorite is, as you feared possible, not quite good enough. The return on these bets is going to be relatively low so you have to be careful where and when you use them, but if they help you win at a high percentage the they could make sense.
To really take advantage of a line that seems off - Whether you have a strong opinion about one team or the other in a game a bet can sometimes make sense if the line doesn't make sense or it doesn't accurately reflect what is going on in the game. The alternate run line is a particularly good place to look for lines that don't necessarily make sense because the volume is relatively low on the bets. That means that you may be able to catch errors before they are caught by the books. That's a good way to make money.
To leverage an opinion about a pitcher - This is not particularly different than the first two possibilities, but it does reflect a different way of thinking about things. If you are a bettor who puts particular importance on the starting pitchers then the alternate run line can be a way to aggressively pursue a perceived edge that you see in a game.
Used along with one of the other two to alter your risk - The sophisticated bettor will realize that you don't have to choose just one of these bets to use in a particular game. If you take the amount of money that you are willing to bet on a game and split it between a couple of these bets then you can effectively create your own run line at a number that makes you comfortable. You can use a spreadsheet and some experimentation to figure out what works best for you. You might find, for example, that a run line of +1 is more attractive than one of +1.5, and you could create that situation by betting on both the alternate run line and the money line.