Betting on Baseball – Razors 5 Tips to making smart MLB bets

April 04 2015: Cleveland Indians pitcher Corey Kluber (28) delivers the pitch during the game against the Houston Astros.

When it comes to betting, every sport has its unique features. Betting on baseball is no different. In fact, some will argue that the MLB has the most variables to work with when it comes to betting a sport. For those who like a challenge in critical thinking ability, betting on baseball can be a very capper-friendly sport that can really showcase one’s research effectiveness. However, handicappers and bettors must be very careful when considering different betting approaches, as things can get very tricky. Even worse, your capping style could completely backfire on you.


Five MLB Betting Tips that will lead to smarter bets being made:


1. Don’t Lay the Juice

Although avoiding betting on baseball games with minimal value is already a rule of thumb to many experienced bettors, this should be a major emphasis when betting on baseball. In the NFL, you will get teams that go 14-2, 15-1, 16-0, or vice versa, 2-14, 1-15, 0-16. In the NBA, it is not unusual to see at least one team win 75% of their 82 games every season. 

In MLB, not so much. Baseball is a grueling daily grind which sees far more games being played than any of the major professional sports in North America. Not every game is played with a do or die approach. In fact, most probably aren’t.

To put things into perspective, last September the Los Angeles Dodgers lost to the bottom feeding Philadelphia Phillies, and this was with arguably the best pitcher in the world going for the Dodgers. Nobody made a big deal out of it, because it was just one out of 162 games.

The Dodgers had a jaw dropping regular season in 2017, but in doing so, they only won 64% of their games. In essence, the worst team will still win at least 60 games, and the best team will usually lose around 60 as well. With the frequency of games being played in baseball, it makes absolutely no sense to make really low value bets.

The day that you take a -350 is the day that Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers squad might decide to take the Phillies lightly. You won’t see that in the NFL, due to the importance and preparation leading up to each game. You won’t see that in the NBA because of the gap difference in team skill. If the Golden State Warriors lost outright to the Sacramento Kings, we would all be shocked. If the Dodgers lose to the Phillies in a pitching mismatch favoring the Dodgers, meh..it’s just another game.

Don’t sell yourself short on value when betting on baseball. It will almost never be worth it, considering the fact that being the best team in any given year won’t even guarantee that you don’t lose at least 40% of your games.

If you don’t believe me, let me put things into perspective. If you would have put $100 on the Chicago Cubs every game in the regular season and playoffs in 2017, you would have been -$824 in profit. Yes, you would have lost nearly a grand over the course of seven months on a team that was a full 20 games above .500.

If you would have put $100 on the Los Angeles Dodgers every game in the regular season and playoffs in 2017, you would have profited a measly $8. With a team that practically had a 2:1 win to loss ratio, you would have invested nearly 18 grand over an entire season only to walk away with enough for a footlong sub. Let that sink in.

What do these two teams have in common? They have both been high profile contenders for the last three years or longer, but more importantly, they both have a plethora of Aces that have a shot at the Cy Young award year in and year out.

This brings me to my next point.


2. Look for value in Non Strikeout Pitchers.

So if you aren’t going to take heavy favorites, then how do we get an edge in a matchup? Well one way is to look at where you can get a handicapping advantage. Vegas oddsmakers often put high emphasis on strikeouts. After all, a fast pitch is by far the best rebound weapon when all else fails. This does not mean that a pitcher needs strikeouts to be successful.

At the end of the day, winning and losing is what matters. However, some pitchers bring in so much more money in their wins than others. These would be the pitchers who do not have high strikeout tendencies.

The top five most profitable pitchers from last season were: 1) Parker Bridwell 2) CC Sabathia 3) Jhoulys Chacin 4) Jason Vargas 5) Zach Davies. All five of them averaged less than 7.75 Ks per 9 innings in 2017. With all due respect to the teams being able to pull off wins whenever any of these five were pitching, the value really comes with the lack of strikeout expectancy.

In the 20 starts that Parker Bridwell pitched for the Angels, he was only favored in six of them, and he was a +120 or more underdog in at least seven of them (six of which the Angels won). Bridwell only averages 5.43 Ks per 9 innings, meaning that in any given realistic start, you can expect an average of around 3-4 Ks. He was able to generate outs through his cutter, and groundballs through his sinker, and as well as through his curveball. Who needs a four seamer?

Yu Darvish on the other hand ranks in the top ten pitchers in money lost, but was 12th in Ks per 9 with 10.80, despite having a near .500 team record. Strikeouts do matter when it comes to handicapping.

At worst case, if you are blindly betting MLB, please take the good pitcher that doesn’t rely on strikeouts. Believe me, you will do fine.

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Parker Bridwell (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Parker Bridwell (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)


3. Don’t take statistics too seriously.

Before anyone jumps on me for this, I’m not saying do not use them. Obviously they do matter, to an extent. However, they are not everything. It is easy to get carried away with MLB betting, as it has by far the most statistical variables of any sport.

This can range from Pitcher Vs Batter matchups, to team success against left handed pitchers, to player success in certain ball parks. The list goes on and on, and quite frankly, the sky is the limit when breaking down trends and stats in baseball.

One thing you will start to learn though as you acquire more numbers is that they may begin to contradict each other. For example, the Colorado Rockies may be a really good homerun hitting team against lefties, but they do terrible against sliders. The Detroit Tigers may have trouble against CC Sabathia career wise, but let’s keep in mind that CC has changed his arsenal quite a bit since the Tigers last saw him…and, the Tigers are really good at hitting lefties.

When following trends, you still have to pick and choose which ones fit what you are looking for. At the end of the day, the situation should be the main focus. Are teams looking hot coming into this one? because if they are, it might not matter what past numbers say.

Is a pitcher coming off short rest, or coming into a stadium that does not suit his arsenal? Is a team looking to readjust against a pitcher that they just faced ten days ago? if so, then maybe things will be different this time around.

If you are a number cruncher, don’t stop…but take things with a grain of salt. Look at the bigger picture, and consider why trends happened the way that they have so far, and also all the possible reasons as to why they may start to take a turn. Don’t get caught up in the stats hype, because even Daily Fantasy Players will tell you that simple head to head breakdowns do not necessarily get you the Win.


4. Take advantage of First Five Inning Bets.

It is a traditional understanding that a full game bet is most often the purest wager you can make, but when betting on baseball, it can be far from the most genuine.

I understand that a full game bet can be the most appropriate in many situations, and it also gives you the cushion that you may be comfortable with. By no means am I telling you to sway from what gives you the best edge. However in many instances, the research we do in MLB betting only leads us to essentially handicap the activity that occurs before the bullpens come in.

When looking at pitcher versus batter numbers, we don’t consider bullpens typically. When looking at totals with the current pitching matchup, we are also not generally considering bullpens. There are many occasions where I do lean on the bullpens and late substitutions for my analyses. I have learned over time though that when the research and analysis I’ve acquired does not involve any late game activity, it does not make sense to make a full game bet.

A lot of handicappers and bettors make their bets based on factors regarding the starting pitching matchup. If your research is on the foundation of this basis as well, don’t look any further than the fifth inning, as looking at full game lines can add unnecessary variables and reduce the accuracy of your specific handicapping.

Jose Altuve Houston Astros

Jose Altuve Houston Astros


5. Don’t get rattled.

I will be the first to tell you that baseball can have some of the most unexpected things happen late in the game. A baseball game is very long, and involves a wide range of personnel influencing your bet. Don’t let a 9th inning grand slam leading to a loss mess with your head. There are many baseball games being played every day, and an epic loss can have you looking to the next piece of action to make it back on. Stay level headed, understand that you had the right idea, and just keep your head up.

Or…subscribe to my MLB package in 2018 and you will not have to worry about trying to make emotional handicapping decisions ;).


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3 thoughts on “Betting on Baseball – Razors 5 Tips to making smart MLB bets”

  1. Dave says:

    Thanks for the info. I’ll look forward to the picks

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