This article looks at wagering the runline on Major League Baseball games, otherwise known as baseball runline betting. Read on to find out what this entails and tips for winning your runline wagers.

What is the runline in baseball betting?

The runline is equivalent to betting the point spread in sports like the NFL or NBA. Instead of wagering that a team will win the game straight up (betting the moneyline), in baseball you bet with a type of point spread — called the runline — of 1.5.

A favorite is typically listed at -1.5, meaning that they would need to win by at least two runs to cover the runline. An underdog is usually listed at +1.5 and would need to either win straight up or lose by one run for a bettor to cash in. The runline as a whole helps neutralize the matchup from a wagering perspective, as betting on either side will give you a roughly equal chance of winning. It is almost always 1.5 either way, but you might see 2.5 in some instances, for example, in the instance of a huge mismatch between the two teams.

Why are baseball runline bets so popular?

A baseball runline is offered by sportsbooks to provide a wager with odds closer to 1:1. This has become particularly popular, as it allows people to get plus money on the favored team, which isn’t always the case with moneyline bets. However, because the runline is almost always +1.5 and -1.5, bettors have more of a cushion on their wagers, especially on the underdogs. Even if they lose by a single run, a runline bet on the unfancied side will still come through.

What do baseball runline bets look like?

A typical runline wager looks like this:

TeamMoneylineRunline
Chicago Cubs-150-1.5 (+130)
Philadelphia Phillies+140+1.5 (-135)

In the above example, the Cubs (the favorites) have a moneyline of -150, meaning you have to wager $150 to win $100. But with their runline of -1.5 and +130 odds, you need only risk $100 to win $130. Remember that in this scenario, the Cubs must win by at least two runs. So, if you feel strongly that this will happen, the runline offers a good opportunity to increase your payout rather than taking the moneyline with worse odds.

On the other hand, if you don’t think the Phillies have a shot of winning straight up, but you don’t see them losing by more than two runs either, taking them on the runline would be a good option. Should the final score of the game end Cubs 7 – Phillies 5, you would cash your ticket on a Cubs bet, but lose your money if betting the Phillies runline.

Baseball Runline Betting Tips:

As simple as runlines are to wager on, there’s plenty to consider if you want to consistently win your bets. You’ve got to do your research and try to make genuinely informed judgements. Here are some of the main things to take into account.

Bet against the public

It is well known that recreational bettors gravitate toward the favorites. As a result, underdogs can sometimes have more value because bookmakers know the everyday Joe bettor will bet on the favored team regardless. So, 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.

Look at the totals

If you are betting on MLB regularly, you might want to check out the total (over/under) set by bookmakers before submitting your runline wagers. A game with a high total will indicate a more unpredictable game, since both teams are tipped to score highly. As a result, this generally suggests that you should bet on the underdog to get more value from your wager.

Pitching matchups

Analyzing starting pitchers and bullpens can help with your MLB runline bets, especially considering the amount of data and statistics out there nowadays. For pitchers specifically, the best stats to look at are: SIERA, K/9, BB/9, xFIP and FIP versus ERA. Another good data point to check is the team’s batted ball data, which lets you see their hard, soft, and medium hit rate percentages. All of these stats can help show which way a game is likely to go.

Injuries and streaks

A rule of thumb to follow when gambling is: buy on bad news, sell on good. For instance, if a team is 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 can sometimes overvalue it. The bookmakers will take the injury into account, meaning you might also find some runline value.

Divisional dogs

No matter how good the matchup looks on paper, in MLB, the underdogs do well year in, year out. 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.

Shop for the best baseball runline

Make sure you check more than one sportsbook so you can shop for the best line. Say you want to bet on the Atlanta Braves, and your standard book is posting the Braves runline at +110, but another one offshore has them at  -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, and 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, and 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 with baseball runline betting, so it is important to analyze the umpire situation just as closely as the pitching matchup. If you can figure out an umpire’s tendencies, then you can find a considerable edge when betting.