This article is part of our MLB Betting series.
Betting baseball used to simple, but very stale. For me it started 25 years ago, it was going to the newsstand and going by the published money lines for the starting pitchers off the sports page. There were no over/unders, no strikeout props, or first five innings options. You did not have the starting lineups ahead of time. Fast forward to 2021 in which we have a plethora of legalized sportsbooks that take in-game action. What a world we live in.
Baseball is different than football or basketball in that there is no "point spread" per se. You have a money line which is also used in hockey and soccer. If you want to bet the favorite it will come at a price of anywhere from -100 to as high as -500 in some rare instances. Baseball can be a very dangerous game to be because taking high-priced favorites can put you in the poor house fast. You have to win 67% of the time when you are betting on a -200 favorite, which is impossible over the long term.
The best part of betting baseball in 2021 is the menu of options. You can literally bet on any part of the outcome of the game. The key is finding the value and soft lines to exploit.
In this article, I will cover some of my favorite alternative bets.
1st Five Innings Team Side – This has quickly become my go-to bet with baseball these days because I want to know my pitcher will be in the game for five or six innings and help determine the outcome of the bet. When you bet a full game, oftentimes your pitcher leaves the game in the 6th and it is left up to the bullpen. The key here is knowing the strength of each teams' bullpen along with who is available. Also, nothing worse than your starting pitcher leaving with runners on base and the bullpen blows the lead immediately. Look at the average innings per start for starting pitchers to get a gauge on the best options. I do lean to American League pitchers in this instance more often due to pinch hitters for the pitcher in the National League.
Starting Pitcher Strikeout Props – Great prop when you have a huge favorite at starting pitcher and can not lay the -200 or higher. I lean towards games in the National League as you get the extra strikeouts usually facing the pitcher. Finding a home pitcher going against a heavy same-handed lineup with a low team total is the ideal situation. Another angle is when the opposing team has a star hitter out or is resting a few starters. A good example of that would be a day game after a night game. This is also a more predictable stat vs. others as we can quickly get a gauge on a pitchers' K rate vs. the opposing lineup K rate.
Team Run Totals – Another instance in which you can get in on a heavy favorite but without having to pay the huge price of the money line. The key in this bet is taking a look at the total for the game vs. the team totals because oftentimes they do not equal each other. Sometimes you will see a game total of 9 but a team total of 5 and 4.5. In this case, you want to make sure you are getting the better side of the number. You have a game total of 9, but in the case of a very lopsided pitching matchup it will more likely be a 6-1 game or 9-2 game, not a 0.5-run difference. In one case the game would go under the total and in the other it would go over, but the team total would be over on both.
Best to take when you have a lineup vs. a weak pitcher, the opposing pitcher is heavy fly ball / low strikeout, and heavy splits edge (majority right-handed hitters vs. left-handed pitcher or vice versa).
1st 3 innings Run Totals – I like this bet when I can find two solid starting pitchers in which I don't think the total lines up. An example of this was Sunday when Ian Anderson was facing Zach Eflin in the Braves/Phillies game. I did not want any part of the game total of 8.5, but u 2.5 first three innings and u 4.5 first five innings was very enticing because the pitchers would dictate the outcome. The game ended up being 1-0 after three innings and 1-0 after five innings. I can not stress it enough that I try to avoid baseball bets in which the game will fall into the hands of the bullpen and put the team in a worse situation.