What Are Runline Odds in Baseball Betting?

What Are Runline Odds in Baseball Betting?

Learn how to read baseball odds when betting the runline. Learn the challenges and strategies of runline betting and make your MLB picks with confidence.

The typical way of betting on Major League Baseball games is by simply picking the winner. There will be odds on how much money you can win based on how much that team is a favorite or underdog. This method is called betting on the moneyline.

But did you know that there is point-spread betting in baseball just like in football or basketball? For baseball, this is called runline betting. Just like in other sports that have a point spread, to win a bet on the runline in MLB, you will wager that the favorite will win the game by a certain number of runs or that the underdog will not lose by more than a certain number of runs.

What Are the Challenges of Runline Betting in MLB?

Runline betting is fundamentally more difficult than MLB moneyline betting, which is why the payouts can be more generous when betting on an overwhelming favorite. Most oddsmakers will offer runline bets with a 1.5-run margin. So the team that’s favored on the moneyline will be offered on the runline at a -1.5 point spread, meaning they must win the game by two runs or more to cover the bet. Meanwhile, the underdog on the moneyline will be offered at +1.5 odds, so in order for that bet to win, the team must either win the game or lose by just one run.

This bet is a bit more confusing for novice bettors because it does not directly relate to a team winning or losing the game. So you will have to determine several risk factors, which we will explain later, if you’re considering runline betting. Other baseball bets are straight-forward: moneyline bets depend on if your team wins or loses the game. An over-under bet is also simple—the total number of runs either goes under or over the number that you have in your wager. And another tricky thing to figure out is whether you’re getting good odds on a runline bet. The factors we will talk about below will determine how much the odds on a runline bet will change from a simple moneyline bet—there is no set formula compared to moneyline odds.

Here Is an Example of Runline Odds in the MLB

Example of Spread Odds for an MLB game
Example of Spread Odds for an MLB game | Sidelines

Here is an example of how spread (or runline) odds will look for an MLB game. In our example, Boston is listed at point spread odds of +105 at a -1.5 spread. On the moneyline, Boston would most likely be an approximately -150 favorite, so you can see how the Red Sox winning by an additional run will mean more money for you. If you make a $100 wager on Boston -1.5, you will win $105 in addition to getting your $100 investment back. This is compared to having to bet $150 to earn $100 in winnings on the moneyline, so you’re betting less money to win around the same amount in this case.

The Orioles here are slight favorites on the runline, so on the moneyline, they will be around +150 underdogs. You would bet $110 to win $100 if the Orioles either win the game outright or lose by just one run. On the moneyline, you would risk $100 to win $150 if Baltimore won the game. So you can see how you are paying a premium to get that extra run, as the money you would win on the bet decreases significantly by having that one-run cushion.

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Strategies for MLB Runline Betting

On the surface, it seems like one run isn’t that much, but there are several factors to consider before making a runline bet. They include:

  • Home-Team Disadvantage: Yes, disadvantage. If the team you’re considering a -1.5 bet on is the home team, they essentially get fewer chances to score and win the game by more than one run. Based on the rules of baseball, if the home team is either losing or tied after eight innings, the only way they can win by more than one run is if they hit a home run with a man on base. Otherwise, the game automatically ends when the home team takes the lead either in the bottom of the ninth inning or in extra innings. Take these two examples: San Francisco is tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-5. The Giants are the home team and batting in the bottom of the 10th inning. The bases are loaded, and a batter hits a ball into the gap that would normally be a double and score multiple runs. But the game ends as soon as the first runner crosses the plate, so the final score is 6-5, and a bet on the Giants at -1.5 would be a loser. The other example is the New York Mets at home against Philadelphia, with the Phillies winning 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Mets have two runners on base and the batter hits a three-run home run. The home run is the exception to the rule where the game ends when the first runner crosses the plate, so the Mets get all three runs added to their score here, as the game comes to an end with a final score of 5-3 in favor of New York, meaning the Mets would cover a -1.5 runline spread.
  • Odds of One-Run Games: A look at the expanded MLB standings will give you the teams’ record in one-run games. For example, in 2019, the Cleveland Indians were 93-69 overall and 15-16 in one-run games. That means 31 of their 162 games, or 19.1%, were one-run games. San Francisco, meanwhile, was 77-85 but 38-16 in one-run games. With 54 of their 162 games (33%) being decided by one run, you might be more willing to bet on the Giants if they were getting +1.5 on the moneyline and less inclined to do so if they were laying -1.5.
  • Risking Less on Favorites: Using our example above, you can see that betting on the favorite will allow you to risk less for a similar payout. In a more extreme example, on May 7, 2021, St. Louis was a -210 favorite on the moneyline at home against Colorado. On the runline with a -1.5 spread, their odds are +104. Several factors go into this calculation, including the starting pitchers, the weather forecast (odds of whether a game will be shortened due to rain), who is the home team, and the team’s odds of playing in a one-run game. But this is a good example of the potential value of a -1.5 bet, as a moneyline bet on St. Louis will force you to risk $210 to win $100. On the runline, you can wager $100 to win $104.
  • A Chance for More Profits on Underdogs: On average, around 30% of all MLB games are one-run games. So many experienced bettors tend to lay more bets on the teams getting a +1.5 spread on the runline in order to maximize profits. If you’re trying this, you’ll want to look for teams that don’t have as big of a drop in odds from the moneyline to the run line. In the example above, Colorado goes from +194 on the moneyline to actual favorites at -115 on the runline. This is not a good value. In the Seattle vs. Texas game on May 7, 2021, Texas was -102 on the moneyline and -150 at +1.5 on the runline. You can see that the odds disparity is a lot smaller here, giving you better value on your investment.

Try Betting on the Runline

A bet with a point spread can seem intimidating, but as long as you’re familiar with the rules of your wager, it can be a fun thing to root for that’s independent of the result of a game. This is especially true if you are an experienced bettor that is looking for some variety from the straight-forward moneyline or over-under bets.

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