Every baseball season takes place over the course of six months, featuring thousands of games. Sportsbooks are forced to set lines for every game on the schedule, and because the sport involves so many individual games, a major opportunity for finding value exists. You can use that advantage along with this list of seven baseball betting strategies to beat the sportsbooks.
How important is starting pitching in baseball?
So important, that books will often cancel all baseball wagers if either of the posted starters gets scratched.
Think of the most dominant pitcher you've ever seen. I watched both Roger Clemens and Nolan Ryan when they were at their best. When Clemens was at the top of his game I would bet on him against anyone in the game.
Now think of some of the worst starting pitchers in the game. Having a hard time remembering their names? There's a reason for that.
In baseball, a team's most valuable starting pitcher starts in the number one spot in the rotation, while the team's weakest starter sits in the fifth spot. Because of variation between team schedules, it's not unheard of for one team's best pitcher to compete head to head against another team's worst pitcher.
Think of Roger Clemens in his prime starting against some nobody from the other team's fifty spot. Regardless of where the game is played or what the circumstances are, it's difficult to bet against Clemens. The game could be played outdoors at the North Pole and Roger Clemens is still the smart money.
Generally speaking, the difference between the best and the worst teams in the game are small enough that an off-balance pitching matchup like the one mentioned above is difficult to overcome.
This all boils down to one fact – if you want to win more baseball bets over the long term, you'll have to become a student of the game's starting pitchers.
Here's a powerful fact for you – all things being equal, the home baseball team wins more often than it loses. This is the basis of "home field advantage" we talk so much about come playoff time.
Unfortunately for sports bettors, on most days, everything else isn't equal.
You can't blindly bet on home teams and expect to show a consistent profit, in part because books adjust lines to account for things like home field advantage. But you can and should consider how strong the home team is at home and how weak the road team is on the road when you are handicapping games.
What's one of the rarest occurrences in the game? A visiting team completing a series sweep of the home team. You can check this out for yourself – look at the statistics going back through the decades, and you'll see that a home team losing an entire series just doesn't happen that often.
You can turn this fact into a betting tip when handicapping the last game of a three-game series.
Baseball teams tend to lose more often after traveling from coast to coast. This is easy enough to explain – cross-country trips are a drag, regardless of how cushy the conditions on the chartered plane. Baseball teams at the end of a long road trip also tend to wear down a bit. The numbers aren't largely different than normal road winning percentages, but this fact can swing a game from neutral to a solid betting opportunity.
When casino gamblers talk about a deck of cards or a slot machine "running hot" or "running cold," they're just whining because they're losing. Cards and games don't have streaks – they're programmed to be random. What if I told you that baseball teams can actually go through hot and cold streaks?
Baseball tends to produce streaks more often than other sports. You'll see hitters who can't touch the ball for weeks suddenly rip off four homeruns and ten RBIs in eight games.
What's the science behind hot and cold streaks? Theories abound, but no one has figured out the mystery. You can use this knowledge to your advantage when handicapping baseball games by tracking the statistics of individual players who you believe are experiencing a streak.
Remember – losing breeds losing, winning breeds confidence, and both of these emotions are highly contagious in the controlled atmosphere of a professional sports locker room.
Starting pitchers develop an average number of pitches thrown per start over the course of their careers and the course of the current season. You need to track these to see when a starting pitcher exceeds his average pitch count by a great amount.
When a pitcher goes well over his average I usually avoid betting on his team in his next three starts.
"Over his average" is a subjective judgement - I don't have an exact amount that I use to consider a pitcher "over," but these days I'd say it's somewhere around 20% more than his usual count. For example, if a guy usually throws 100 pitches and he throws 125 I want to watch him closely his next few starts.
Surprisingly, most of the time if the pitcher struggles it will be in the second or third start after throwing too many pitches, not the next start. Start tracking pitch counts and see if you can find patterns that help you win more often.
Strong closers and bullpens are starting to be almost as important as starting pitchers.
The pace of the game, and the prevailing style of management, say that starters should throw less often, with bullpens taking up the bulk of the labor.
A team with a strong bullpen and closer keeps their team in the game longer when the starting pitcher stumbles and holds onto more leads when they enter a game with a lead then other teams.
When you combine a strong starting pitcher with a strong bullpen you've often found a winning betting opportunity. You also need to be aware of the best starting pitchers who have the worst bullpens and closers. A poor bullpen can quickly negate the advantage a starting pitcher gives you.
Each of the tips included above will help you win more baseball bets. Notice that many of them can be combined to strengthen your overall MLB wagering strategy. Combine all of the strategies listed above with your own research to develop your own winning baseball system.