Research has its place in all forms of sports betting, but baseball's setup is unique. Throughout a six-month campaign, extensive sample sizes and opportunities for emerging trends can really assist your wagering decisions.
If you’re looking for insights related to game results, props, futures and more, our MLB betting strategies guide will arm you with the information you need before placing your next wager.
MLB betting strategies
Thanks to the mainstream embrace of sabermetrics, MLB generates more publicly available data than any other sport. Acronyms like WAR, FIP and wRC+ fill digital stat sheets. Spin rates, exit velocities and launch angles tell another story altogether.
To avoid information overload, you might want to focus on just a couple of research techniques and tactics. We’ll provide a thorough review of different betting strategies.
Moneyline and run line strategies
Who’s the starting pitcher?
Much like goalies in hockey, starting pitchers in baseball wield a great deal of influence in betting odds. That’s because starters are expected to cover more than half the innings in a game and they possess the opportunity to shut down the opposition.
When considering how a starting pitcher will affect a particular game, ask yourself a couple of key things: How has he performed in recent starts? Has he recently dealt with any injuries? Is the lineup he's facing fully healthy?
Baseball Reference’s MLB probable pitchers menu is a great resource to answer your most pressing questions. You can also check out individual player pages at sites such as FanGraphs.
If a pitching matchup looks particularly lopsided, you may prefer to bet on the game’s first five innings (all but ensuring bullpens won’t be involved). Bettors can find moneyline, run line and totals markets for this shortened portion of the game.
Keep in mind that an influx of openers — who only work the first inning or two — has altered the role of some starting pitchers. If you don’t know who’s throwing the majority of the game’s innings, betting on a game becomes more difficult.
Some teams who use openers will announce their long-relief pitcher for the day. Some, frustratingly, will not. Review that team’s bullpen stats to gain a sense of how it might fare on the pitching side.
Who's in the lineup?
Injuries are a crucial factor for any sports wager. The long-term absence of Fernando Tatis Jr. (wrist) certainly affects the San Diego Padres on futures markets, but we see the same type of influence in game-to-game odds.
If a star like Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. went on the injured list, the ramifications would be felt across a number of betting markets. A weakened Blue Jays team may not be favoured as much or their team totals could be set at a lower number if their offence stalled as a result of Vladdy's absence.
When three-time MVP Mike Trout is in the Los Angeles Angels’ lineup, for example, the team is 661-627 (.513). Without Trout, the Angels are 184-208 (.469).
Hot and cold streaks
Ups and downs are inevitable in baseball. As we know, even the league’s top players fail at the plate well over half the time. On the team level, facing the same opponent in bunches can lead to excellent or unsightly streaks, too.
When a team is on an offensive heater, watch out. During the Blue Jays’ 12-1 stretch at the start of September 2021, they slashed .331/.410/.636 as a team. That’s MVP-calibre hitting, as a collective, for nearly two weeks.
Immediately after that tear, however, the Blue Jays went on a 6-7 slide with a .209/.274/.373 slash line. That’s a borderline replacement-level player, and hardly recognizable from the group we just described.
If a team’s bats start scorching, jump on the moneyline train. Just know that a derailment is possible at any time.
Where's the star power?
On both sides of the ball, star players will most likely shape the outcome of a game. When it comes to totals betting, a stud pitcher can keep the lid on a matchup, while a couple of sluggers can break it open.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ run-scoring potential, with a lineup featuring eight former all-stars and three former MVPs, is mesmerizing. The Dodgers have enough skill and depth to go over on a game total all by themselves.
But starting pitchers can make a world of difference, too.
When guys like Jacob deGrom, Max Scherzer or Gerrit Cole are on the hill, you should think twice about taking the over, no matter what offence lies on the other side.
It’d be nice if high-scoring offences always succeeded in surpassing run totals, but the formula is more complex than that.
Bolstered by a pair of MVP finalists, the Blue Jays scored 846 runs in 2021 (third in MLB). But their games only hit the over at a 45.1% rate, which was 27th in the majors. How could that be?
For one thing, the Blue Jays only accounted for half of the offensive innings in their baseball games. Secondly, their high-powered offence frequently forced sportsbooks to ratchet up the game’s run total.
Toronto saw a double-digit run total in 38 of its games, according to TeamRankings. The Arizona Diamondbacks, who led MLB with a 57.4% over rate, only saw a double-digit run total 14 times.
If you're only bullish about one side's offence in a particular game, you can bet on that team's run total alone.
MLB betting strategies for props
Who’s hot and who’s not?
We’ve spoken about streakiness already, but allow us to repeat for emphasis. When you see a player on a massive 0-for streak, or you see them crushing everything, ride that wave on prop markets.
Shortly after being traded to the Dodgers last season, Trea Turner became one of baseball’s hottest hitters.
In mid-August, he registered five multi-hit performances in a six-game span. Not long after that, he notched separate 16-game and 19-game hitting streaks. Put your faith in players like that until they give you a reason not to.
As with anytime touchdown or goalscorer props in other sports, home run props may be particularly enticing to some baseball bettors. These are tricky, given that even the best hitters only go yard in 25-30% of games, but finding a homer-friendly ballpark helps.
Using Statcat’s park factors, we know the Cincinnati Reds (30% above average) and Baltimore Orioles’ (27%) home stadiums have yielded the most home runs over the past three years.
On the opposite end, the stingiest parks belong to the San Francisco Giants (25% below average) and Kansas City Royals (24%).
Based on wall distances and dimensions, some ballparks are great for extra-base hits — just not homers. In Boston, the Green Monster at Fenway Park has led to an MLB-high doubles rate (37% above average) and a lesser homer rate (7% below average).
MLB futures betting strategies
How to interpret expected stats
Batted ball and pitch-tracking data create a treasure trove of expected stats for bettors to explore. But don’t get carried away. What should happen, based on exit velocity, launch angle and other metrics, is not always what comes to be.
Still, expected stats can help us identify busts and bounce-back candidates. Few players represent this notion better than Milwaukee Brewers ace Corbin Burnes.
In 2019, Burnes had an 8.82 ERA while allowing a .417 wOBA, which is a similar stat to on-base percentage but weighted by how a player gets on base.
According to Statcast’s expected metrics, Burnes was one of baseball’s top-five unluckiest pitchers in both categories.
Sure enough, he dominated during the shortened 2020 season before winning National League Cy Young honours in 2021. In essence, Burnes' actual stats caught up to (and surpassed) his expected ones.
On a team level, Baseball Reference’s catch-all luck stat is the Pythagorean record, which estimates winning percentage based on run differential.
The Blue Jays’ 183-run differential in 2021 netted a 99-63 Pythagorean record, good for fifth in the majors. But some poor luck, among other factors, led to an actual record of 91-71 — just outside the playoff picture.
Given each team’s roster turnover from one year to the next, Pythagorean records are likely most helpful in the context of each season individually.