Specifications of Spread Odds in Baseball

Specifications of Spread Odds in Baseball

Learn how to read and understand baseball betting lines, spread betting tips and strategies, and more to start making smart MLB picks against the spread.

At first glance, you’ll notice that betting on Major League Baseball (MLB) is different from other popular betting sports like football and basketball. In those two sports, a point spread is set by oddsmakers in order to try and keep the amount of money bet on each team as even as possible.

The standard MLB bet is made on the money line, and MLB odds are set accordingly. If you delve deeper, however, you’ll find what’s called MLB run line odds. This works similar to a point spread but instead of a number that oddsmakers derive to get equal betting on each team, it usually just requires a favorite to win by more than one run or have an underdog lose by just a run. In turn, the odds are more favorable to bet on a favorite to win and since you have a better chance of an underdog losing by a run instead of having to win, the odds on them won’t be as long as they are on the money line.

How to Read Baseball Betting Lines

In order to understand the differences between the money line and the run line (AKA betting against the spread), let’s talk about how to read the odds. Using an example of a recent game between the Kansas City Royals and New York Yankees (taking place in New York, so the Yankees are the home team), the odds are as follows:

  • Money Line: KC, +190 / NYY, -200
  • Run Line: KC +1.5, -110 / NYY -1.5, -110

Starting with the money line, the plus indicates that the Royals are the underdog. The number is based on a $100 bet; when you’re dealing with underdogs, the odds number is the amount you can win, so a $100 bet on Kansas City would pay you $190 in winnings if they won the game. The minus sign indicates the underdog, so that number you see is the amount you have to wager to win $100. In this case, you would have to bet $190 on a money-line bet for the Yankees to win $100 if they are victorious in the game. In this example, the Yankees are a strong favorite to win the game, as they have the better record, have a favorable pitching matchup, and are playing at home. These are all factors oddsmakers consider when setting the money line.

For the run line, you not only win the bet if Kansas City wins the game, but you win if they also lose by one run, so naturally, the odds aren’t as favorable to the bettor. For the Yankees, not only do they have to win the game, but they have to win by more than one run. Because this is more difficult, the odds are more favorable to a higher payout. In this case, the Royals and Yankees happen to be even money on the run line, meaning you would have to bet $110 to win $100 for either outcome. In games with closer money line odds, the favorite on the money line will be an underdog on the run line.

How to Calculate Baseball Betting Probabilities

One thing you may notice once you start to examine run lines is that the odds do not increase or decrease on a specific team each time. Several factors are considered, including home and away teams, a team’s propensity to play one-run games, and now doubleheaders where games only go seven innings instead of nine.

Going back to our example above, on the same day, Houston was playing at Detroit. Here are the odds for that game:

  • Money Line: HOU, -220 / DET, +200
  • Run Line: HOU -1.5, -150 / DET +1.5, + 130

So in the Royals vs. Yankees game, New York went from a -200 favorite to an even-money -110 on the run line. Houston, meanwhile, only drops from -220 to -150.

This is because each scenario is run separately to factor in the percentages of winning the bet based on the factors listed above. Odds translate into percentages of success for that bet. So if you’re betting on -200 favorites, they would have to win 67% of the time for you to break even. A -125 favorite, meanwhile, needs to win 56% of the time.

In order to calculate this, take the line odds and divide it by the same number plus 100. So Houston at -220, you would calculate the odds as follows: 220 / 320 = .6875 x 100 = 68.75%. So, if you feel that Houston has a better than 68.75% chance of winning this game against the Tigers, that’s a smart bet for you to make.

On the run line, the calculation is as follows: 150 / 250 = .600 x 100 = 60%. So this tells you the oddsmakers feel more confident that Houston will win this game by multiple runs than the Yankees will win their game against Kansas City at 50/50 odds. You can use the Sidelines odds calculator to do this work for you.

You will want to do your own research to come to the conclusion of a final score and then bet where you are the most confident that the percentages are in your favor.

Just as a footnote: you may wonder why it’s an even-money bet for Kansas City or New York at -110 when you have to bet $110 to win $100. This is due to the vigorish, AKA the vig or juice. This is the edge that the sportsbook has manufactured so they get their cut of your bet; the house is getting $10 of your $110 even money bet. Look at it this way—if a house takes 100 bets on Kansas City +1.5 and the other 100 bets are on New York -1.5, the house will profit because they will take in $11,000 on the losing bets while paying out $10,000 to the winning wagers.

MLB odds calculator
MLB odds calculator | Sidelines

Betting Strategies and Tips on MLB

There are different factors you will learn to look at when determining if a run-line bet is a good option for you. With the surging popularity of MLB online betting, there is plenty of information readily available at your fingertips.

  •  Home-Team Disadvantage? The first is something to consider if you’re betting a home team at -1.5 odds. If a game goes past the eighth inning tied, you’re going to be looking at the home team most likely winning by just one run since the game automatically ends when the winning run scores. The only way the home team can win by more than one run at this point is if a home run is hit by the home team with a runner on base.
  •  Betting Against the Public on MLB Underdogs Betting on underdogs is a great strategy for the long run. This is because underdogs win in MLB around 44% to 45% of the time, meaning that you can be slightly profitable by winning just three out of every seven bets on underdogs.
  •  Great Pitchers on Not-so-Great Teams Look for hot pitchers that play on bad teams. Sometimes, the oddsmakers may not be aware of how a certain pitcher is performing, so you might be able to get great odds on that team, especially if that MLB team is getting 1.5 runs against the spread.
  •  Left-Handed Pitchers Since the majority of pitchers are right-handed, many teams will have lineups that are better suited for right-handed pitchers. If a team throws a left-handed pitcher, it could negatively alter the lineup of the opposing team, giving you better odds to win your bet.
  •  Head-to-Head Records As you do your research, you will want to see how the opposing teams performed against each other in recent seasons. This is especially useful for teams that play within the same division because they meet up to 19 times per year, giving you a much better sample size than you would get against non-divisional opponents that only play each other six times during the course of a season.
  •  Recent History/Streaks Teams certainly ebb and flow during the long MLB season. Try to take advantage of these by laying more wagers on teams that are currently on a hot streak.

Bet on Your Favorite MLB Team

You may want to gain experience betting on the money line before you enter the world of MLB run-line betting, but doing research and figuring out your percentages will give you the confidence to make a wager against the point spread in Major League Baseball. Just be sure to take into account the home and away teams, the pitching matchups, player and team history against the other, whether a team is on a hot or cold streak, and even outside factors like the weather.

By using Sidelines as a resource, you can also see what the various odds are available at different betting sites around the world. Be sure to check out the MLB betting odds page and then wager what you feel confident will be a winning bet!

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