Simple Guidelines to Navigate the MLB Run Line
by Adam Richard - 7/2/2012
Novice bettors may be unaware of the nuances involved with the MLB run line. Below is a short tutorial on what you need to know to navigate the MLB run line to better results and higher profits.
The first thing you need to know is how to read the lines. Most baseball games will have a “spread” of -1.5/+1.5 and the moneyline odds associated with each will appear after. These odds will pay out at different -- and possibly more preferable -- rates than the moneyline may have to offer. See the below example for a game on today’s MLB schedule:
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Pittsburgh (James McDonald) -1.5 (+120)
Houston (Jordan Lyles) +1.5 (-140)
Pittsburgh (James McDonald) -175
Houston (Jordan Lyles) +155
If you are a player that believes the Pirates will not only win, but will win by more than two runs, then you could get a payout of +120 rather than betting the moneyline at -175. This is where players need to beware.
On an average year, around 25-30 percent of MLB games result in a one-run game. You can look more specifically at the teams as well. From the above example, the Pirates have had a one-run game in an amazing 41 percent of their games this season. The Astros average is within the standard at 29 percent of their games.
So, while you may have confidence that James McDonald will continue his hot streak and out-duel Jordan Lyles in PNC Park, you must remember that the Pirates are only trying to win the game, not cover the pointspread. The game could easily finish 4-3 or 3-2. So, when taking the Run Line, the player automatically decreases their odds of a win by 25-30 percent.
Another factor to consider is late-game style of play. When a team has a two- or three-run lead, the relievers (or starter) are more likely to pitch around the plate because they have the luxury of giving up a home run while still maintaining the lead. Closers like Jose Valverde are known for this type of behavior, turning three-run leads into a one-run save.
Sharp players will usually play the moneyline for the favored team and take the points (bet the +1.5 line) when they like the underdog. Remember, it is better to still gain profits off lesser odds than take a loss on a one-run game with greater odds.
The MLB Run Line, however, can offer a tremendous advantage when a player can properly diagnose when the statistical history of the two teams shows an overwhelming discrepancy from the posted odds. Now that we have established the dangers of laying the points (betting the -1.5 run line), here are just two quick statistics that should be investigated to take advantage of opportunities to play the run line.
A starting pitcher throws about 100 pitches, on average, in a given start, while a team, in total, will throw about 140-150 pitches. That means that over 60 percent of the at-bats in a game are against the starting pitcher.
Before playing on the projected winner, check that pitcher’s statistics against the opposing team’s lineup. Look at the statistics against the individuals in the lineup, not the team. A team’s lineup changes too frequently to rely on the historical team statistics. While investigating this, also check the starters trends within the ballpark where the game will take place.
When diagnosing how well an opposing lineup may perform, you should investigate the lineup’s K percentage. In a very broad sense, the more the ball is in play, the more productive the team’s offense will be.
As of July 2, of the five teams with the highest K percentage, four have losing records and the other, Washington, has played in the fifth most one-run games in the league (28 games.). When attempting to play the run line, if the team you are projecting to lose has a higher K percentage, the better your odds to win.
There are many statistics you may investigate when considering how to navigate the MLB run line. Investigate the two starters success against the opposing players, the ballpark trends and the lineup’s strikeout percentage.
These statistics are a good starting place to look beyond the simple stats of a team’s runs per game, but there are many more stats to consider to increase your odds, such as pitch type trends of certain pitchers, the lineup’s success rate against certain pitch types, or a team’s split stats against batted ball statistics in certain environments.
Now, you should have a solid base to start playing the MLB Run Line, carefully and only when the odds are overwhelming.
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