Betting Strategy for the MLB Playoffs

Betting Strategy for the MLB Playoffs

Learn the best baseball betting strategies including how to read MLB odds and make the right MLB picks this playoff season in time for the World Series.

One of the biggest advantages you have in betting on a specific game of a series during baseball playoffs is the amount of data you have at your disposal to discover betting trends before making your picks.

In the earlier rounds of the playoffs, teams will have played each other during the regular season anywhere from six to 18 times, meaning that there’s a lot of data to pull from. Another advantage of the playoffs is that teams will generally stick with the same lineup—with the possible exception of switching out some left- and right-handed hitters depending on pitching matchups.

Teams tend to announce starting pitchers at least a day in advance as well, so you can see how they’ve performed over the past month or against that particular team during the regular season. It’s also good to know that some otherwise average pitchers excel in the playoffs while great pitchers during the regular season sometimes struggle when the pressure is on.

Another MLB betting tip that can pay off (literally) is knowing which offensive players are playing well as the playoffs approach. Has a star hitter really turned it on in August and September? Or alternatively, does a player have good statistics overall, but he was much better in the first half of the season and then slumped after the All-Star break?

Also take home-field advantage into account. Some teams win the vast majority of their games at home but are just a .500 club on the road. Odds will generally reflect this and give a bit of an advantage to the home team when all other statistics are equal, but looking back at how teams performed depending on where they played all season can be advantageous to the bettor.

These are all items you can research once playoff matchups are made, which is what MLB betting is all about.

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MLB Playoffs – How do they work?

The drama ramps up early in the Major League Baseball playoffs with the Wild Card games. There are three division winners in the American and National Leagues, and the two best teams in each league after the division winners are wild card teams. The AL and NL wild card teams play in a winner-take-all game to start the playoffs, and the winner faces the best team in each league in the Division Series. The other Division Series in each league pits the other two division winners in best-of-five series. In this series, the team with the better record hosts Games 1 and 2, goes on the road for Games 3 and 4, and the decisive Game 5, if necessary, is played back at the team with the better record. By and large, MLB betting lines tend to most be dependent on the location of the game and the starting pitchers.

The two Division Series winners in each league square off in the AL and NL Championship Series—commonly referred to as the ALCS and NLCS. These are best-of-seven series where the winning team must win four games to advance to the World Series. The homefield advantage is as follows: Games 1 and 2 at the team with the better record, Games 3-5 at the other team’s stadium, and then Games 6 and 7 back at the site of Games 1 and 2. It’s said that a team wins their league’s “pennant” by winning a League Championship Series.

The playoffs culminate with the World Series in a matchup between American League and National League champions. The World Series follows the same format as the LCS as far as home field advantage goes; the league champion with the better regular season record hosts Games 1, 2, 6, and 7.

At most stadiums during the season, teams play in front of crowds less than their full capacity, and the atmosphere is more relaxed. The playoffs, on the other hand, tend to be played in sold-out stadiums in front of excited fans, and every game is on national television. Making MLB picks and bets just adds to the excitement!

What type of bets can be placed during the playoffs?

There are several different ways you can make MLB bets during the playoffs. You can bet on an individual game, a set of games on a specific day (parlay), or the winner of a specific series or the World Series as a whole.

Here’s a description and an example of each kind of wager:

  • Moneyline Betting on MLB: Betting in football and basketball is reliant on the point spread—a tool that evens the playing field to try and bring on an even amount of action on each team. In baseball, the moneyline is used to try and entice betting on underdogs and limit the amount the house has to pay if an overwhelming favorite wins. For example, a favored team can be at -200 on the moneyline, which means that you would have to bet $200 to win $100. On the other side, you will be able to earn more than your initial bet on the underdog. For a game where a team is a -200 favorite, the opponent will be around +180, meaning a $100 bet on that team will get you $180 for the win.
  • MLB Parlays: A parlay is a bet, in other words, you select two (or more) teams, and both teams must be victorious in order to win the bet. The benefit of this is that you can win a much larger amount of money on a single wager. For instance, if you bet $100 on a team that’s at +110, you will win $110 to have a total of $210. If the other team you bet on is at -200, that $210 total is essentially a new bet on the other team, meaning that you would win $105 on that bet, for a total of $305 if both teams win on your initial $100 wager. As a note, there aren’t too many opportunities for parlays during the baseball playoffs, as it’s rare to have more than one game on a single day past the midway point of the League Championship Series.
  • Run Line Betting on MLB: If you’re looking to make things a little more interesting, especially to get better MLB betting odds on a big favorite, consider a run-line bet. The run-line bet puts the favorite at a bit of a disadvantage by making them win by more than one run, so essentially, there’s a point spread of 1.5 against the favorite. This changes the odds fairly significantly. In a game in early 2021, for example, Milwaukee was -135 on the moneyline at home vs. Pittsburgh. With a run line of -1.5, the Brewers’ odds shift to +150. On the opposite side, the underdog can lose by a run on the run line and still win, so their point spread is +1.5. In the example, the Pirates’ odds on the moneyline are +122 but at +1.5 on the run line, those odds shift to -168. To learn more about runline in baseball
  • Futures Betting on MLB: Baseball futures bets are wagers on specific MLB predictions that pays off sometime in the future. A futures bet can be made pretty much at any time. You could find a list of odds that every team has to win their division, league, or World Series. Many times, the team that isn’t a favorite early in the year will win a championship at quite large odds. For instance, the Washington Nationals were 12 games under .500 50 games into the 2019 season, and their futures odds to win the World Series were at 50-1. As you may know, they went on to win the series, so people who took a chance on the Nats when they were at their low point ended up being big winners. Other times, the overwhelming favorite all season wins the World Series, which is what happened in 2020 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. You can also make future bets on a specific series. For example, the Nationals were +112 underdogs to Houston (-132) at the beginning of the 2019 World Series. Those odds then fluctuate as the series goes on.
  • Over/Under Betting in the MLB Playoffs: Besides betting on the results of MLB playoff games, you can also try your luck at predicting the total number of runs that will be scored. This is known as an over/under bet. This number will generally range from 6 or 6.5 (for an excellent pitching matchup) to over 10 for a game that’s predicted to have a lot of offensive production. Remember that scoring output historically drops by a run per game during the playoffs. This is typically a bet that will pay -110 odds on both sides of the number, so you’re betting $110 to win $100. In the event that the over/under total is a whole number, you can also push on the bet (for example, if the over/under is 8 and the final score of the game is 5-3).
MLB futures betting during the playoffs
MLB futures betting during the playoffs | Sidelines

What are the recommended betting strategies for the MLB Playoffs?

As we discussed earlier, there are several factors to take into account before confidently taking advantage of your baseball betting opportunities. Throughout the course of a season, teams may be on long road trips, resting players, or starting an inferior pitcher. These are generally factors that don’t occur in the playoffs—teams are more likely to be on an even playing field. Some baseball betting tips you do want to consider are homefield advantage, their head-to-head performances earlier in the season, injuries, players on hot and cold streaks, and their league rankings over several different statistical benchmarks.

Research the Teams’ Offensive Scoring

You’ll want to take a look at not only how a team performed on offense during the season, but against the team they’re facing and also whether they’ve been hot or cold offensively in previous playoff rounds or at the end of the regular season. Remember, teams can meet up to 18 times during the regular season, giving you plenty of data on how they fare against their opponent.

Research the Teams’ Playoff Averages

Historically, scoring is typically down in the playoffs. From 2003-2018, runs were down from 9.5 runs per game during the regular season to 8.8 in the playoffs. Just taking the World Series into account, that number drops to 7.8. This is usually because there are better pitchers in the playoffs. Take a look at how the teams playing performed in previous playoff appearances, if applicable.

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Check Teams’ Home and Away Splits

We talked about how teams are nearly always better at home than on the road. Some may perform better than others, so do your homework to see how big the disparity is. In 2019, St. Louis made the playoffs but was only 41-40 on the road, compared to 50-31 at home. That same season, Minnesota was 46-35 at home and a surprising 55-26 away from home.

Take Momentum Into Consideration

Because baseball is played every day, it’s possible for momentum to carry over from one game to the next. A good example of this is that once teams fall behind in a series, it’s very difficult for them to catch up. Teams that fell behind 0-2 in a seven-game series lost 73 of 87 times in MLB history. Of all the teams that fell behind 0-3, only one ever game back to win that series, which was the Boston Red Sox over the New York Yankees in the 2004 ALCS. Houston attempted to become the second team to do it last year and became the second team to even reach a Game 7 under that scenario, but they lost to Tampa Bay in the final game of the ALCS.

Watch for Line Movements

Oddsmakers will pay attention to these trends and shift the line if a team ends up having a bigger advantage. The biggest reasons for this to occur would be for a change to the starting pitcher or a major player being left out of the lineup due to injury. If there is any reason that you find about a player being a game-time decision, you may want to wait until the starting lineups are posted (generally three to four hours before the game’s first pitch) before placing your bet.

MLB Betting Odds
MLB Betting Odds | Sidelines

Bet on the MLB Playoffs

A confident and informed bettor is (hopefully) a winning bettor, so we hope you’re able to use these strategies and information to use as an outline as you do your research before making informed MLB playoff bets. And even if it’s not playoff time when you’re reading this, please check our MLB futures betting page to see if you want to try your luck on any division winner, league champion, or World Series futures bets—it can give you a great reason to root for a certain team throughout the season!

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