As with any sport, there are also prop bets to be found in baseball. Who will hit the first home run? How many homers will Player X hit? What is the over/under on Pitcher Y’s strikeouts? These bets add a little spice to the game, especially in the postseason or the All-Star Game. They are also popular in the Sunday night game, which is the only game playing in that time frame.
Proposition betting became popular in the mid-1980s, when Caesars Palace offered a fun way to get in on Super Bowl XX between the Bears and Patriots in January 1986. By offering 20-to-1 odds on William “Refrigerator” Perry to score a touchdown in the Big Game, Caesars ushered in the modern era of the prop bet.
But these boutique bets are not just for football. Baseball prop bets are just as popular come October as football props are that first Sunday in February.
Unlike an actual bet on the outcome of a baseball game, with its moneyline, run line and game total, the proposition bet offers odds on a particular aspect of the game, both on-field and off. In almost all cases, the actual outcome of the game plays no part in factoring into a prop bet. Indeed, what makes prop bets so popular, especially for championship games or a World Series, is that you don’t really need to be a hardcore gambler or sports fan to make a prop wager and enjoy rooting for your winning outcome.
To get a sense of what a baseball prop bet looks like, I offer from my own personal betting experience from the 2018 World Series:
While enjoying a weekend of football betting in Las Vegas in October, 2018 — and while watching my beloved Boston Red Sox rally to win Game 4 of the World Series from the sportsbook at the MGM Grand — I spied on the big board a prop bet already available for Sunday’s Game 5.
Which Player Will Score The First Run in Game 5
Regardless of which team would win Game 5 and how many total runs would score, Vegas understood that eventually at some point in the game – even if it lasted 18 innings like Game 3 — somebody would have to touch home plate first.
With that reality implied, the sportsbook offered odds on each player expected to be in the starting lineup for each team and assessed, largely through anticipated spot in the order and left- or right-handedness against the two probable lefty starting pitchers, which players were most likely to score that first run.
My eyes were drawn to Red Sox first baseman Steve Pearce, who was heating up as the series wore on and would be the kind of power righty bat who might launch one off lefty Clayton Kershaw. At 20-to-1, I liked the chances of Pearce slotting third in the batting order, garnering a guaranteed first-inning at-bat, and popping a solo shot to left to score the first run. I made my wager.
Sure enough, the next night, first inning of Game 5, Pearce batted third and blasted a Kershaw offering into the seats for a home run. My prediction was right on the money.
But I lost the bet.
Unfortunately, my analysis did not call for left-handed batting Andrew Benintendi to hit a one-out single just before Pearce stepped to the plate. So, as Pearce trotted around the bases with my called home run, Benintendi strolled in ahead of him, touching home plate for the first run of a 2-0 Red Sox lead.
Win some, lose some.
This particular prop bet contained odds like you might see in a futures bet – 10-to-1, 5-to-1, etc. – but most baseball prop bets are wagered on a moneyline.
For instance, you might see an individual player prop bet that looks something like this:
- Total Hits, Runs and RBI – Manny Machado (SD)
- Over 3.5 (-115)
- Under 3.5 (-115)
If you believed Manny Machado would combine for four or more hits, runs and RBI in the game, you would take the over. If you saw an 0-for-4 in his immediate future, you’d bet the under.
In this instance, you would be required to bet $115 to win $100 on either outcome. But often the moneylines are set to favor one outcome over the other, to encourage wagering on the “underdog” side of the prop.
In MLB prop betting, there are two types of props: the team prop and the player prop. In both cases, it is the individual or team accomplishment that is being wagered, regardless of the actual outcome of the game.
Some team props might include:
- Team to score first in the game
- Will there be a run scored in the first inning?
- Total Hits, Runs and Errors for both teams combined (over/under)
- First team to reach 3 runs in the game
- Specific team’s total runs (over/under)
- Total Home Runs hit in the game combined (over/under)
Some player props include:
- Total Hits, Runs and RBI (over/under)
- Total Strikeouts (over/under)
- Will a player hit a Home Run? (over/under 0.5)
- Most Hits, Runs and RBI (player vs player)
- Most Strikeouts (player vs player)
As with any wager, the more research you put into your prop bet, the more likely you’ll have success. Unlike a point-spread bet in football or even a daily moneyline bet on a baseball game, a prop bet is more likely to be set a bookmaker without the same scrutiny and detail. So having knowledge of the player or team being wagered, their recent performance, BvP between a hitter and pitcher, weather forecast and park effects, can enhance the chances of placing a winning bet.