All sports have unique factors that are conducive to live betting, but none of them compares to Major League Baseball. The fact that a team swaps out far and away the most important player of the game multiple times creates opportunities for astute observers. There are also fatigue factors present in baseball that are not the same nor as obvious in other sports.
One constant with live betting is that you can see how a game looks to be taking shape, regardless of sport. When it comes to baseball, you can see what kind of zone the umpire is calling or how sharp a starting pitcher looks. You can see how the ball is carrying with those first few hard-hit balls in play. These can all be important factors in a game that could be a little bit of a mystery before things get going.
There are a lot of considerations when placing a live bet, but here are five tips for live betting baseball that I subscribe to:
1. Know the TTO
TTO stands for “Times Through the Order.” This is crucially important as teams and managers around the league are trying to protect their starting pitchers as much as possible from the “third time through the order” penalty, or 3TTO as I call it. Using “slash lines,” which are batting average (BA)/on-base percentage (OBP)/slugging percentage (SLG), we can see how a starting pitcher’s effectiveness dwindles during a start.
In 2021, here were the average slash lines when hitters faced a pitcher a first, second and third time during a game:
Here are the early numbers in 2022 (through Monday):
Admittedly, I was shocked to see nearly identical numbers the second time through the order. That should change as sample sizes increase, but the biggest takeaway is the penalty for the third time through the order in both seasons. Starters fatigue and hitters adjust, so pitchers are more likely to allow runs or be replaced. If you can isolate a pitcher with some bad splits that third time through the order, you might be able to fade him with a live bet. Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs have those kinds of stats for every pitcher.
2. Know the better bullpen
It’s the fifth inning and the game is tied 2-2. Does one team have a bullpen advantage over the other? In a one-game sample, anything can happen, but knowing before the game which bullpen is more trustworthy is an important part of the handicap. If you are betting full games and not just the 1st 5 wagers, you are already handicapping this. If you are one of those people that only wants to bet 1st 5 and shies away from the full game, you’ll have to be aware if you want to live bet.
I wrote about how to handicap bullpens in last week’s Point Spread Weekly, so this is just a continuation of those talking points and how to apply them to live betting. Reliever availability is also a huge part of the equation. You may handicap that the Brewers have the better bullpen, but how rested are Josh Hader and Devin Williams? You may want to take the plus-money price on the Pirates, but are David Bednar and Wil Crowe available? A team may not have the better bullpen if its top options are not going to pitch or won’t be as effective because of their workloads.
A deeper bullpen will have more pitchers capable of getting outs to either keep the game close or maintain a lead, even if the top guys aren’t there. You really need to zero in on this tip because you have to know what you’re getting into when you hit submit.
3. Know the schedule and understand the game state
A team down 7-1 after three innings in the last game of a road trip may not fight all that hard to come back, so it could be a spot for a live Under. The same with a blowout in the first game of a doubleheader.
When it comes to game state, a lot of managers will only use their high-leverage relievers with a lead, so a tie game or a deficit means lesser pitchers will be called upon in hopes of keeping the score where it is. That won’t always work out, so the team with a lead may very well be able to add on. It can take a lot of observation and box score study to analyze the managers, but some will be much more aggressive than others, while some will just blindly go with conventional norms. It can make the difference between winning and losing a game, so knowing how those guys react to certain situations and game states is important.
4. Place your bets during commercial breaks ONLY
Sportsbooks are updating their odds in real time with every pitch. Whether you stream or have cable, you are at a disadvantage. The books are ahead of viewers, which means your only course of action should be to place your live bets during commercial breaks when they don’t have the advantage. You might be 10 seconds behind a pitch and the batter may have already popped out while you’re locking in a wager. Wait until play has completely stopped to place your bet.
5. Stay within your means
Live betting can be a rabbit hole that becomes a canyon for the undisciplined. Make smart, sound wagers and leave it at that. Don’t go chasing games because you’ve had a bad day or start making bets out of spite. Pregame wagering opportunities end when the game starts. Live betting opportunities can really get you in trouble.
Do what you can to make a good investment. Use these tips and others that work for you. Be responsible and cognizant of your bankroll. In the long run, you should find some good money-making opportunities just by watching and analyzing.