The baseball betting market is unique. Of the six major sports, it is one of two that predominantly feature moneyline wagering and the only one affected so much by a singular player — the starting pitcher. With 15 games per day most days and 162 games overall, the daily MLB grind is one that can take up a lot of your time.
Fortunately, there are some things that pop up in the betting markets on a daily basis that can help you get ahead of line moves or at least project which way a line is going to go before deciding whether or not you want to make a wager. I’ll discuss these things related to specific games as the season goes along, but here are some general thoughts before opening day.
Aces generally have their overnight lines bet up very quickly. Most of the influential bettors in the baseball market are looking to take positions based on the odds and then decide if they want to hold them or not. A Guardians game with Shane Bieber on the mound may go from -180 to -220 overnight before we start to see any resistance. We’ve seen Gerrit Cole’s lines go up 30, 40, 50 cents or more right at the open.
Public bettors typically piggyback these moves at worse numbers, putting the ace pitchers into moneyline parlays or chalky straight bets. If you see a line move against an ace on an overnight line, you should take notice.
Waiting for buyback
As I just mentioned, influential bettors are looking to take positions. In a moneyline sport like baseball, there is no spread to worry about. All you have to do is decide which team is going to win. It’s easier said than done and not as simplistic as it looks, but there are a lot of groups out there that manipulate the market in hopes of getting the best price on each side.
For example, with the Bieber line that goes from -180 to -220, sharp individuals and groups will get that line at -180 and may decide to bet back on the other side at 190. This is called “arbitrage.” If the group bets $180 to win $100 at -180, they can bet $100 to win $190 at 190 after the line move. If the favorite wins, they break even. If the underdog wins, they make 10 cents on the dollar.
The goal with this strategy is to get the best of the line both ways to make it worthwhile. It may not seem like much, but change $180 to $180,000 and you start talking about some more significant money.
As a result, we’ve seen a lot of big line moves one way come back down as a result of action on the other side over the last several years. If you miss a good line, you may see something close to it come back.
This is one of my favorite quick tips for MLB betting. With so many bettors now using sabermetrics to handicap, this one has lost some of its equity over the last five or so years because it is now just a race to hit the first sportsbook that posts a number.
Just about all baseball fans are familiar with ERA. FIP is a little bit different. FIP stands for Fielding Independent Pitching and the formula uses strikeouts (K), walks (BB), hit by pitches (HBP) and home runs (HR). The idea behind FIP is that it features outcomes that a pitcher can control.
ERA is subject to a lot of things — such as defense, sequencing (timing of hits) and also things like relief pitchers allowing inherited runners to score. Many believe that FIP is a better indicator of a pitcher’s talent and that a high ERA will positively regress toward a low FIP and that a low ERA will negatively regress toward a high FIP.
If you see a starting pitcher coming up with a 2.50 ERA and a 4.50 FIP, you can expect money to come in against that pitcher and his team. On the flip side, if you see a pitcher with a 4.50 ERA and a 2.50 FIP, you can expect money to come in on that pitcher and his team.
It isn’t foolproof and it won’t happen 100% of the time, but it will more often than not, so if you can isolate those games, you can get some line value or at least know which way the line will move. A lot of times we see this with ERA and xFIP as well, which is Expected FIP. If a pitcher’s xFIP is significantly higher or lower than his ERA, the line is likely to move accordingly.
These are some shortcuts and starting points for the MLB card to make it easier to digest and track during the long season. Bettors will go off of the previous season’s numbers for the first few weeks and then transition into the current season’s numbers with starting pitchers, so you’ll want to do some homework now and then keep tabs as the games get played.