The focus of this article is on how to bet on Major League Baseball, specifically, runline betting. For those of you who are unfamiliar with what the “runline” is, think of it as betting the point-spread in sports like football or basketball. Instead of wagering that a team will win the game straight up (moneyline), you are betting with a runline (a type of point-spread) of 1.5 in baseball.

A favorite would be listed at -1.5, meaning that they would need to win by at least two runs to cover the runline. On the flip side, an underdog would be listed at +1.5 and would need to either win straight up or lose by one run for a bettor to cash in.

A runline is offered by sportsbooks to provide a wager with odds closer to 1:1, allowing bettors to avoid the higher odds often found in moneyline wagering. Bettors like this strategy because many times it allows them to get plus money on the favored team.

The run line is almost always -1.5, but you might see -2.5 in some instances, if there is a huge mismatch between the two teams on paper. The runline as a whole helps neutralize the matchup from a betting perspective. The runline for each MLB game is set by the oddsmakers, along with the moneyline and Total.

A typical runline wager will look like this:

Team Moneyline Runline
Chicago Cubs -150 -1.5 (+130)
Philadelphia Phillies +140 +1.5 (-135)

In the above example, the Cubs have a moneyline of -150, meaning you have to wager $150 to win $100, but a runline of -1.5 with +130 odds, meaning that you need only risk $100 to win $130. Remember that in this scenario, the Cubs must win by at least 2 runs.

If you feel strongly that the Cubs (favorite) will win by at least 2, then the runline offers a good opportunity to increase your payout rather than taking the moneyline with worse odds. If you don’t think the Phillies have a shot of winning straight up, but see them hanging around, then taking them on the runline would be a good option.

Suppose the final score of the game mentioned above ended: Cubs 7 – Phillies 5. If you bet the Cubs runline, you would cash your ticket. If you bet the Phillies runline, you would lose your money.

That’s honestly all there is when it comes to MLB runline betting. A lot of gamblers are used to placing point-spread bets, so most can easily pick up the concept of betting on the runline as opposed to the moneyline.

Tips to consider before betting MLB runlines:

Bet against the public

Now this is an angle a lot of “sharp” guys believe in. It is well known that when betting, recreational bettors always gravitate toward the favorites. Because of this, underdogs have more value in certain instances because bookmakers know the everyday “Joe” bettor will bet on the favorite regardless. This just adds value for these so called “Wiseguys”.

If the public is all over a specific team, but the money is on their opponent, you might want to look into that a little further. This gets amplified even more during primetime games like Sunday Night Baseball and during the MLB Playoffs. If you are stuck, go contrarian, because, more often than not, the public loses. Especially when a bet seems too easy.

These types of bet versus money percentages are available to track on multiple apps nowadays. Some apps that come to mind for tracking these percentages are The Action Network and Scores and odds.

Look at the Totals

If you are betting runlines daily, you want to check out every Total (Over/Under) on the board, before submitting your wagers. The key is to look for high totals, because those types of scenarios increase the unpredictability of the game. Generally, this tends to benefit the underdog.

Pitching Matchups

Analyzing Starting Pitchers and Bullpen’s can help with your runline bets. With the amount of data and statistics out there nowadays, you can use that to your advantage while betting. For Pitchers, the best stats to look at before placing your runline wagers are: SIERA, K/9, BB/9, xFIP and FIP versus ERA. Another good data point to check out is the team’s batted ball data to see their hard hit, soft hit, and medium hit rate percentages.

Injuries and Streaks

A rule of thumb I like to follow when it comes to gambling is: Buy on bad news, sell on good. For instance, if teams are in the midst of a losing streak, they tend to be undervalued. If some injury news comes out a day before the game, the public tends to overvalue that sometimes. The bookmakers have taken the injury into account, so you might also find some runline value in these types of situations as well.

Divisional Dogs

No matter how good the matchup looks on paper, divisional dogs do well year in and year out when it comes to baseball. It makes sense, as teams within the division play each other 19 times per year. This breeds familiarity and levels the overall playing field, which inevitably benefits the underdog.

Rebuilding teams also treat these games like their “World Series” later in the year, so you can easily pick up some units betting on them late in the season.

Shop for the best lines

Make sure you use more than one sportsbook. Open multiple accounts at several different sportsbooks so you can shop for the best line.

For example, say you want to bet the Atlanta Braves. Your book is posting the Braves runline at +110, but another offshore book is posting Braves -1.5 (+125). By having access to more than one book, you just got an additional 15 cents for free.

It may not seem like a lot at first glance, but in the long run it can make a world of difference. Baseball gambling involves volume betting. These types of small profits lead to increased payouts and diminished losses in the long-run.

Umpires

Another variable to consider when betting runlines is the home plate umpire. Umpires are human (for now before robots take over) and have tendencies.

Some umps have very tight strike zones. More balls, lead to more walks, which leads to more runs scored. Other umps might have looser zones, which run the opposite way. Every run counts when you are betting the runline, so it is important to analyze the umpire situation just as closely as monitoring the pitching matchup. If you can figure out umpire tendencies, that is just another way to find an edge if you are throwing some money on the game.

So there you have it, folks. The bookmakers are very good at setting the odds, so you’ll rarely find spots where it’s obvious which way you should bet. You’ve got to do your research and try to make genuinely informed judgements. You need to be patient too, and wait for the right opportunities. Now, go get them!