“The Boys of Summer” are in full swing and sportsbooks everywhere are bracing for another six straight months of baseball betting. For sportsbooks, the sad truth is that baseball is the most difficult sport to earn a profit.
Between the twin demons (or twin blessings, depending on which side of the counter you’re standing) of unstoppable favorites – there’s no pointspread to alter the ultimate outcome in baseball – and the bettor-friendly dime line, sportsbooks have little defense against the savvy player.
That’s especially true nowadays when sophisticated players are as adept as bookmakers at analyzing the six core factors that influence Major League Baseball betting lines:
No individual player in any team sport has as substantial an impact on the betting line as any of a limited number of high quality pitchers in baseball. Because they are the only players involved in their team’s every play, it is primarily starting pitchers who have the most profound impact on a baseball game’s odds. A dominant pitcher on a good team, such as Houston’s Roy Oswalt or Minnesota’s Johan Santana, would be favored in almost every matchup situation. And even on those rare occasions when an Oswalt or a Santana would not be the betting choice, such as facing the Cardinals Chris Carpenter in St. Louis or the Blue Jays Roy Halladay in Toronto, for example, either might only be a +115 underdog (bet $100 to win $115) where almost any other pitcher would be +150 or more.
Although platooning is common, many teams still have left-handed or right-handed dominated batting lineups that perform significantly better against lefty or righty pitching. This can be especially true for teams that rely on left-handed power hitters who often have a notoriously difficult time hitting southpaw pitching. Sportsbooks are acutely aware of these statistical variations and adjust their prices accordingly.
The major impact here is on the game’s total. In general, batters see the ball better during the day, a factor that, coupled with warmer temperatures, often results in more run scoring. Interestingly, weather can also play a role in domed stadiums such as those found in Houston, Milwaukee and Arizona. A closed dome usually favors hitters while an open dome gives the advantage to pitchers. The biggest problem here is securing that information.
“Good pitching stops good hitting,” contends the old baseball adage but offense, especially in ballparks favorable to power hitters, counts for something too. So does defense, particularly up the middle (catcher, shortstop, second base, centerfield). In general, if the pitching matchup is even, the team with the best overall talent will be favored.
The Home Field
The absence of travel and a familiarity with a ballpark are worth something but the home field advantage is a relatively minor factor in betting baseball. More importantly, park configuration and weather conditions vary greatly from stadium to stadium, affecting totals.
Pitchers, batters and even teams encounter those periods where almost everything seems to go wonderfully right or terribly wrong. Streaks occur in all sports, of course, but because they are so pronounced in baseball, both sportsbooks and bettors have learned that it is far more profitable to ride a streak than try to buck that trend.
BETS AND PIECES
Although an increasing amount of sports wagering is done via methods that do not involve direct human interaction, it’s important that when such one-to-one transactions do occur that both sides of the counter understand one another.
In betting baseball, there are a number of prices that can be misunderstood simply because they sound alike. In order to avoid confusion, sportsbooks all use the same “language:”
– Because “15” sounds so much like “50,” sportsbooks always use the term “three nickels” for -115 or +115.
– Because “50” sounds so much like “15,” sportsbooks always use the term “half a dollar” for -150 or +150.
– Because “55” sounds so much like “65,” sportsbooks always use the term “five-five” for odds of -155 or +155.
– Because “65” sounds so much like “55,” sportsbooks always use the term “six-five” for odds of -165 or +165.
– Sportsbooks always refer to odds with the number 25 in them as a “quarter.” Thus, it’s “minus a quarter” for -125 and “plus a quarter” for +125.
Follow the six rules of wagering and learn the lingo and betting baseball may become your national pastime, too.