Baseball may be known as America’s favorite pastime, but when it comes to betting, it generally takes a backseat to football and basketball.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made on the diamond. The summer can be a profitable time of year, as long as you’re willing to put in a little time and effort.
Playing the odds
Moneyline betting requires a much different approach to that of pointspread betting. Discipline is the key and not making a habit of investing in big favorites is paramount.
You can win 60 percent of the time and still see your bankroll shrink if you’re not careful. That’s not to say that you must strictly bet underdogs and totals, but you have to pick your sports wisely when laying chalk.
As a rule, many bettors will avoid backing favorites priced higher than -160.
Perhaps the most important notion to drill into your head is that even the best teams lose close to 40 percent of the time. The Pittsburgh Pirates finished with the worst record in baseball in 2010, but still won 57 games, or 35 percent of the time. That’s why laying big prices on a regular basis is a sure ticket to the poorhouse.
Know your limits
Be smart about your wager amounts. It may be clichéd, but the MLB season is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t lose your shirt in April when many of the best opportunities to cash in on the diamond come in the dog days of summer.
Unlike other professional sports, which top out at 82 games, teams are on the field almost every day over the course of a 162-game season. There are going to be spots where they don’t bring the proper level of focus.
Scouting pitching matchups has to become as much a part of your daily routine as brushing your teeth. There’s a reason why starting pitchers are listed right next to the game lines at every sportsbook. You won’t find an individual player with as much control over the odds in any sport.
With that in mind, starting pitchers are only part of the equation. Solely basing your wager on who’s taking the ball on that particular day can lead to frustration.
With today’s pitch counts, starters will often work six innings or less, leaving at least a third of the game in the hands of the bullpens. You can’t count on a starter to toss a complete game every time he takes the hill, so you’re more than likely going to be relying on a team’s relief corps when the game is on the line. Pay attention to those bullpens and how teams fare in one-run ball games.
Who’s in? Who’s Out?
It’s important to keep your eye on lineup cards, particularly when teams are playing a day game following a night game. Star players are given the day off from time to time and you should be cognizant of that. Lineup cards are usually available about a half hour prior to the first pitch at most major sports websites.
Don’t doubt defense
Defense might just be the most overlooked area of the game when it comes to baseball handicapping. Teams that avoid those costly mistakes in the field win more often – it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
The three worst teams in the league in terms of fielding percentage in 2010 were Pittsburgh, Chicago (Cubs) and Washington. All three of those teams finished the season in the red in terms of units gained/lost. If you backed all three for the entire campaign, you would have finished down 47 units.
Of the league’s 12 worst defensive teams (according to the fielding percentage rankings), only the Atlanta Braves would have put money in your pocket. By contrast, five of the top six teams turned a profit over the course of the 2010 season.
Hot and cold
Make sure you pay attention to streaks. It’s not uncommon to see teams go on extended winning or losing runs lasting 10 games or more.