Major League Baseball (MLB) gives sports bettors a huge number of wagering opportunities. With two leagues, 30 teams total, and a 162-game season, MLB is the ultimate Golden Hen of betting. Despite this, it is an under-bet sport – which is a shame, because there are profitable bets out there just waiting to be made.
If you understand the game, know the players, and get the organizational aspect of the sport, you can make cash. You have seven months of betting available to you, so learn how to make the most out of every day of the MLB season.
If you’re not convinced that baseball can pay off big, then think about how many more chances you have to make money on MLB than you do when wagering on any other sport. By game count alone, baseball has almost double the wagering opportunities of basketball and hockey and about ten times the number of chances found in the NFL.
Along with the sheer volume, there are also some consistent elements in the game which savvy bettors can exploit, such as certain starting pitchers and team relief staffs, teams that tend to dominate specific clubs, and franchises that post dismal losing records. What’s great about MLB is that the season is so long that you have plenty of time to identify such trends and profit from them.
The Sport of Baseball
Baseball is the only team sport that is not governed by the clock. That means that each team, with 27 at-bats each, has a set number of chances to score. The game first pits the hitter against the pitcher, and if the ball is put into play, the runner against the defense. When you think of it in those terms, it’s a fairly simple game to understand. If you are handicapping a baseball game, it’s best to think of it in basic terms, as this will help you focus on the essential matchups.
Understanding the Importance of Each Player
Baseball is all about pitching. It begins with starting pitching. After that, it’s about relief pitching, and, after that, hitting. Always remember that great pitching will beat great hitting. Of course, fielding is an important aspect of the game. There are nine players in the field, each of whom is entrusted with specific defensive duties. A fielding error can result in one or more runs for the opposition.
What are the most important aspects to consider when evaluating pitchers? Along with looking at their physical gifts such as velocity and ball control, and their health and age, you should always perform statistical analysis. Key stats include ERA, strikeout ratio, opponent batting average, and WHIP.
Here are a few questions to ask about the pitching staff:
- How good is the ace?
- Is the starting rotation four or five deep – is there quality throughout the staff?
- Are there any lefties starting?
- What are the strengths or each hurler (power, finesse, experience)?
- What are the weaknesses?
- How solid and diverse is middle relief?
- Does the team have a real setup guy for the eighth? How dependable is he?
- How good is the closer? Does he have the stuff and the mentality to be a closer?
- What do the minor league prospects look like? Anyone who might come up and contribute this season?
You’ll repeatedly hear that great pitching beats great hitting. Percentage-wise, this makes sense. Think about the fact that .300 is considered to be a good hitting percentage – and that many times, hitters excel against mediocre or struggling pitchers to give their average a boost. Always remember that when handicapping a ball game.
In terms of hitting, for the starting lineup look at BA, OBP, and RBI as well as hits, extra base hits, and homeruns. Of course, how many times a batter strikes out is important too, as are stolen bases.
Here are some specific, important considerations to look at when evaluating hitters.
- Are the guys at the top of the order .300 or better?
- How much speed does the lead-off hitter possess?
- Can the number two guy manufacture a way to get on base?
- Are the three and four hitters a formidable duo? Do pitchers fear them both?
- Can the middle part of the batting order (5 through 7) do any damage? Is it possible for them to keep a rally going or to even start one?
- Do either the the 8 and 9 guys offer the team any type of clout at all?
- Are there any utility guys who can come off the bench to provide some needed hitting and base running when needed?
Defense and Winning
Defense is not the easiest aspect of a baseball team to evaluate, especially the effect a defense has on wins and losses. Fielding percentage is a good place to start, but then you have to also evaluate each position in terms of speed, arm strength, and accuracy. There are specific elements and attributes to consider for each player and position.
A corner outfielder with a rocket arm can be a huge asset for a team because opponents will be afraid to run against him. Similarly, fast outfielders can mask pitching deficiencies by chasing down long fly balls that otherwise would have dropped in for doubles.
Positioning is also key, particularly their ability to read and track fly balls. If they play on a home field with an unusual configuration, you need to consider if they have learned how to deal with the nuances of the park. If they have, that can be a real asset.
The infield involves a little more specificity when it comes to evaluating players. First base will be analyzed differently than second, short and third, and the catcher must be considered separately.
The first baseman needs to have dexterity, some quickness around the line, and an excellent glove. Arm strength and accuracy are not as important for this position as they are for the other infielders. A first baseman without the mobility to dig out tough throws or stretch to beat a fast runner can be a detriment to the team.
Second base, shortstop, and third all need to have accurate arms. Short and third require quick releases and strength. The shortstop usually has the most territory to cover in the infield, and their ability to play each hitter from the correct position on the field is a determining factor in their effectiveness. The pivot and transfer for second is essential in making the double play. A third baseman’s ability to guard the line can often mean a one or two run difference in a game.
A solid catcher who can call a good game and handle the guys on the mound is like having a coach on the field. He tends to be the field general and has to be tough, durable, and smart. A strong accurate arm and quick release can mean the difference in a ballgame. Still, his ability to handle pitchers and to know how to pitch to each hitter is even more important; those two aspects of his game can result in multiple wins or losses.
Although clutch players can be difficult to analyze, they are often easy to identify. These are the guys who routinely step up with the game on the line. They are the relief pitchers who shut down potential rallies, starters who can halt a losing streak or pick up a must-win game, and hitters with the innate ability to get the big hit with the game on the line. These guys will be identified less by their stats and more by what you see on the field.
By “the organization,” we mean everything from the front office personnel to the manager and coaches to the farm system. You can often determine how a team will do during the season simply by evaluating their front office. If they are pushing to win now, they will make the necessary trades for star talent, often trading assets and taking on big contracts. However, rebuilding teams routinely gut their rosters and develop prospects at the minor league level.
The Business of Baseball
Baseball is an interesting game as far as business is concerned. The salary cap in baseball is a soft one, which means that teams may surpass spending limits imposed on them by MLB. Certain teams, such as the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers, have gained a reputation for over spending in order to buy the best talent so that they can win another World Series. If a team goes over the cap, they simply pay a tax that is divided among the other clubs.
Whether or not a team can actually buy a championship is debatable. Each year there seems to be a low-budget team that defies the odds and makes it into the postseason, and some actually win the title.
Baseball has four seasons, and each is important:
- Spring Training and Preseason Games: This is the time to evaluate a team’s potential.
- Regular Season: It’s a very long 162-game season with many ups and downs. Be ready for the long run.
- Post Season: Pitching, pitching, and more pitching. The guys on the mound must offer peak performance.
- Hot Stove Season: After the World Series, as winter makes its way across the country and owners and GMs travel to Florida for their winter meetings, those who follow the sport look for indications that a big trade will be made and a MLB team may go through a major transition without one pitch being thrown.
This page offers sports bettors a good start toward understanding baseball. The game is, overall, simple. When you bet on it, make sure that you consider the various details that we have mentioned above, and that you utilize them in your handicapping. Stay away from the Gambler’s Fallacy, and keep a practical eye trained on the specific game and two teams in that game that you are handicapping.