COVERING THE BASES
A Bettor’s Guide to Wagering on Baseball
By Sean Chaffin
The scent of the grass, the crack of the bat. The smell of hot dogs and popcorn wafting through the air, and a cup of ice-cold beer – baseball season is back and bettors are ready. Looking to get in on the action? Here’s your guide to betting those matchups.
A TRIP TO THE SPORTSBOOK
What all goes into betting on baseball? Is it different than other sports? Like every sport, do some homework and look at matchups that offer some value. That includes starting pitchers, bullpens, and team records including home versus away and head-to-head. Look at those offensive numbers and make your best predictions.
This is where most baseball betting takes place. When making a Moneyline bet, a bettor is simply betting a game winner. Payouts can be less, however, depending on the odds in the matchup. Odds are usually posted as such: Oakland +150, Houston -200.
A negative number means the amount you’d have to wager to win $100. A player betting on the Astros would need to put down
$200 to win $100. However, a wager on the Athletics would return
$150 on a $100 wager.
In a sport in which even the best lose plenty of games, sneaky plays on underdogs can do well on the Moneyline. Look for good pitchers on poor teams for some value.
This is a bet based on the total number of runs scored between two teams in a game. If the Yankees play the Red Sox, the Over/Under might be listed by the sports book as 8.5 with odds of -130 for the Over and +110 for the Under. The Over is favored so a player would need to wager $130 to win $100.A player betting the Under would win $110 for his effort.
If the game ended 6-5, for a total of 11 points, the Over bettors would get paid. A score of 4-3, for a total of 7, and the Under bettors take the win.
Bettors more accustomed to football wagering may find the Run- line an interesting bet. In baseball, each game has a traditional 1.5- point spread. A matchup might look: Houston +1.5 (-130), NewYork -1.5 (+110).
In this scenario, the Yankees are a slim favorite to win by two runs or more, betting $100 to win $110.The Astros are the favorite to lose by less than 1.5 (or win) and would cost $130 to win $100. Betting the Runline can be tougher than it may appear. About 30 percent of games are decided by one run and the home team must win by at least two. Also consider, the home team may be up one run by the end of the top of the ninth inning. Bettors lose that half inning for the home team to cover.
Which teams roll through the playoffs to the World Series? Bettors have a plethora of options when it comes to futures wagering and that includes division winners, league pennant winners, and of course the World Series champion.
Futures bets can also be made on League MVP, Cy Young winners, etc. No doubt quite a few bets will be wagered on the Red Sox to repeat as champions in 2019.
Just like most sports, parlay wagering is available in baseball. These are bets in which a players selects more than one outcome that must happen. The payout will be higher based on the number of events, but if one part of the bet doesn’t come through then the entire bet is a loss.
AN ANALYTICS APPROACH
Shawn Samkon (who asked that his real name not be used) is a regular sports bettor who offers some of his picks for free on his Twitter feed – @SamkonModels. Like many MLB teams, Samkon takes an analytics approach to his wagering and picks for fans. He makes use of predictive modeling to reach outcomes on games – looking to spot opportunities that might not be available in the media or through sports betting services.
“My approach with modeling has always been to avoid looking too deeply into what’s out there and what people have done or are currently doing,” he says. “I take this approach because I think emulation or even drawing substantial influence can lead to building some- thing that returns a diluted or stale edge, which is obviously not a good profit-generating proposition.”
Samkon offers some advice that want to do their own modeling. He believes a self-reliant approach is the best option on building some- thing independent and free from outside influence – key to profitability in the long run. That includes:
- Creating a self-sufficient method of learning
- Finding resources yourself
- Learning the material with little to no assistance
- Putting the model into practice on your own until you get it right
“No one immediately ever created anything new by following someone else’s lead,” he says. “And since the market moves fast you need to always be leading yourself.”
“The whole process takes some fine-tuning and focus. Paying attention to your own system objectively will help determine its viability and help make adjustments. A bettor might find a stat or data point that seems valuable, but needs contextual value.
“That contextual value is something you need to identify, understand, and extract in order for it to have importance. Sometimes it’s your own manipulation of the data is what generates the contextual value.”
Those who find flawed or ineffective system shouldn’t be deterred from scrapping the system and starting over. Even failures offer a chance to gain new perspective and find other approaches to consider just by taking a fresh look. The process adds to a bettor’s knowledge base, which can certainly lead to new breakthroughs.
On the other hand, more recreational bettors may want to check out his picks at SamkonModels.com or onTwitter @SamkonModels.