MLB Wagering: Finding An Edge On The Runlines

Thursday, April 11, 2019 12:28 PM UTC

Thursday, Apr. 11, 2019 12:28 PM UTC

Baseball can be very difficult to bet successfully, so here's a trick to identifying valuable games

I saw a statistic the other day that was very interesting, even if it wasn't very surprising: out of all the sports -- take your pick, college basketball, college football, NBA, NHL, etc. -- it is baseball that contains the highest number of underdog upsets. Surprised? Don't be, because baseball is easily the most volatile sport to wager on and try to turn a profit. Starting pitchers fall apart for seemingly no reason, hot hitters go on unexpected cold streaks, bullpens implode at exactly the wrong time.

As I often say in situations like this, it's best to forget the individual teams you're betting on and focus on the numbers instead. Put another way: don't bet on teams, bet on lines, on payouts, on value.

Which brings us to runline betting, where you either bet the favorite at -1.5 runs, or you bet the underdog at +1.5 runs. This is similar to spread betting in other sports, with one important difference: in other sports, it's the spread that changes and the payout stays constant (usually -110), but in baseball it's the spread that stays constant at 1.5 runs, and the payout changes depending on how the sportsbook is valuing each team.

There's an interesting truth being communicated here, if we look closely. A difference of 1.5 runs is a slim margin, and if a team is going to come within 1.5 runs of the other team's score, they're as likely as not to simply win the game outright.

So is there a correlation between runline payouts and moneyline (outright) wins? It seems that there is.

The first thing you need to know is that runline underdogs (teams getting +1.5 runs) typically cover and cash about 60 percent of the time, so if you're going to bet on the runline, go with the underdog and not the favorite. (Remember what I said about the high number of underdog upsets in baseball? That plays out in these numbers.)

The second thing you need to know is that underdog runlines at -140 through -105 mirror this overall number of 60 percent success. Betting underdogs at those prices so far this year in baseball has yielded +3.5 units already.

The third thing you need to know is that those same runline prices correspond to a 46 percent win rate on the moneyline -- meaning that 46 percent of the time in these cases, at these prices, the underdogs have won the game outright and cashed on the moneyline bet. That's a great deal of profit when you consider that, as underdogs, the moneyline prices are nearly always well over +100, so you're getting better than even money for your wager.

Moneyline bets on runline underdogs where the runline price is between -105 and -140 has yielded +8.9 units in profit this season. Combined with the returns on the runline wagers themselves, the grand total is nearly +12.5 units. Not bad for only two weeks worth of games.

Good luck on your bets, and be sure to check out my other sports analysis on Twitter at @HooksPicks and on Patreon at!

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