Betting on Baseball 101

July 08, 2007 | WNST Interns

When Andrew and I first started at WNST we planned on doing a lot of gambling related stuff.  Whether it’s poker, black jack, ponies or sports, 30 million Americans gamble on-line.  A few months back, legislation was passed designed to make it tougher to fund off shore accounts.  It ain’t working, folks! Good.  

Anyway, baseball is a tough bet for a lot of people and some just don’t understand how to do it.  It’s easy.  Remember  you’re not betting point spreads.  You can.  In baseball they have the run-line but it’s a stupid bet. ALWAYS BET THE MONEY LINE IN BASEBALL!

Here’s how it works:

Today, the Texas Rangers are -130 over the Orioles. All this means is that, if you bet on Texas, you have to put up $130 to win $100. Of course, you can bet more or less and win (or lose) a proportionate amount.

If you take the Orioles (the underdog), you can get them at +110.  This means if you put a Franklin on the O’s, you’re getting a Franklin, plus a Hamilton back. ($110)

Now, let’s take a look at baseball handicapping strategies…

Making money during the second half of the baseball season is a much easier proposition than the first half.  Pitchers are more known and values are more in line with reality than they are in the early months. Take a look at teams like the Brewers, Diamondbacks and Mariners. 

If you were lucky and figured out that those teams would over-achieve you might’ve made some nice early profit.  However, I’m sure most of you steered clear of these teams and wound up getting stung going the other way. 

Pitcher Value

Most people bet pitchers.  This can be a terrible mistake.  It’s easy to think that, with Josh Beckett on the mound, you have a stone-cold lock.  Well, remember, great pitchers are still held to pitch counts and find themselves pulled in tight ball games. This is particularly true in the National League.  In the seventh inning, with the game tied and men on base, odds are Peavy’s getting pulled for a pinch hitter.  It’s nice if that pinch hitter drives in the winning run but if you bet Peavy at -240 and that utility infielder you never heard of grounds out weakly to short to end the inning, you may want to hang him and yourself.  Once your stud pitcher is out, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.

I would argue that handicapping the middle relief staff is the most important consideration in determining your wagers.  In the first half of the season it’s difficult to sort out which teams truly have reliable arms for the 7th, 8th and 9th innings. 

Another thing to look for are teams where key bats have been silenced during the first half of the season.  Generally speaking, guys will hit near their career averages.  Obvious, right?  I mean that’s why they call them averages!  If you can find a team (hint- New York Yankees) where two or three guys have struggled in the first half, you can expect wonderful things after the All-Star break. 

As we move into late August and September, certain teams will fall apart so completely while others remain in tight races.  PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS!  A baseball season is long and don’t expect the Kansas City Royals to do much late.  However, you also have to pay attention to which players are auditioning for other teams or a new manager.  You might find that a team like the Tampa Bay D-Rays, with a lot of young bats looking for bigger contracts next year, stay competitive all the way through.  You’ll get good value betting on the Devil Rays and they may play spoiler for the rest of the year.

It’s all about value, folks.  Everyone knows this but it’s tough to follow.  Never be afraid to bet underdogs.  The best teams in baseball win only 20-25% more games than the worst teams. There’s no better feeling in the world than betting the Orioles, for instance, with Trachsel on the mound against, say, Dan Haren. If the game’s being played in Oakland, you can expect the A’s to be about a -220.  Trachsel is one of those guys who, at any time, can give you a quality outing and Orioles bats are heating up lately.  If you bet $100 on the O’s and things fall the right way, you’re sticking two bills in your pocket. 
Who doesn’t love that?

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Here’s a couple of games today I think look strong.

Orioles +110 over Texas- Cabrera should benefit from his meeting with Jim Palmer and Bedard’s "lights out" performance last night should have the Rangers swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. 

Padres -135 over Atlanta-  A little ESPN tv action for you. Maddux is pitching well, Davies isn’t.  Simple, right?