The debate for those loving major league baseball or not will go on forever. Baseball is known as "America's Pastime". But with populating aging and football & basketball getting more popular, many say "it's past its time". One thing's been proven however. People don't love betting Major League Baseball the way they used to.
That's likely due to our passion for wagering football and its enormous focus in the overall conversation of the game. Nobody says "I had the Dodgers last night but they didn't cover". But surely we've all heard some guy screaming he got screwed betting the Steelers on a meaningless back-door touchdown by the Bengals. Maybe it was you?
Baseball doesn't offer that type of frustration with the simple pitching line determining who wins or loses. The problem lies more in the drama or excitement of your wager especially during the MLB playoffs where the games take a mind-boggling length of time. Where a game could average 3 to 3 and ½ hours in the regular season, many playoff games often stretch 4 hours or more for a regular nine inning game.
Imagine you've bet on Team A and they're behind 8-1 in the 4th inning. You're likely to turn the game off, assume you lost your bet and lose interest. Or conversely if ahead 8-1 over-confidently think you've won the game and focus on your next wagering assignment. That would never happen in a football game, where there is always a bit of doubt until perhaps the fourth quarter.
Alas, there is an alternative.
Many elite offshore sportsbooks including Diamond Sports, Bovada and BetOnline have seen increased interest over the past few years with serious players devoting their wagering to the Over/Under Runs Line for baseball – baseball totals. And for good reason despite the changing nature of our impatient, fast-paced culture.
Often pitching match-ups will feature a dominant starter that will cull a majority of the action and command a dominant price. For example, a Jake Arrieta for the Cubs or a Madison Bumgarner for the Giants mostly come with imposing -180 to -220 odds attached and sometimes higher versus teams that are not featuring their number one or two starters. Without dipping into the exact winning percentages, it's a risky proposition to recover your money should these top pitchers be part of losing these games. If you lose a -220 bet, you might need two winning games or more to break even or simply recover your funds from one loss. Basically, is the risk worth the gain despite the high probability of their win?
The run line featured at all top offshore sportsbooks offers a more equitable chance and at less overall risk. It is usually available at the popular "dime line" and most often at the simple -110 for either side. In cases of one-sided wagering, some teams may be available at -105, etc.
A majority of Major League baseball games fall between 7 to 9 runs Over/Under with a smaller percentage of outstanding pitching match-ups at 6 to 6.5. It would be unlikely to see a game in the MLB playoffs over 9 runs due to the quality of pitching that landed these teams a spot in the playoffs. The runs line for the Cubs/Pirates, Gerrit Cole-Jake Arrieta pitching match-up held steady at 5.5 at Bovada and most all other major sportsbooks. The lowest number for any baseball game in recent memory. As they say, "the line tells you something" and did as Jake masterfully shutout the Bucs 4-0 to enable Under bettors to cash in.
The 5-Inning Fix
Even more satisfying and often more successful for some savvy bettors is the increasingly popular 5-inning Over/Under Runs Total. All top sportsbooks have this interesting option available, especially for the playoffs. Again, considering the extended length of time for playoff and World Series games in the evening, the 6th inning is not likely to begin until approximately 10:30 PM EST. This bet shortens the game and helps measure the starting pitchers in a more head to head evaluation. Stats are also available to see which teams have the best performance ratings in the early or first 5-inning portion of a game. Similar to betting the first half of a football game, this can be a profitable alternative under the right circumstances or a good add-on to your game wager.
One differentiation though versus the nine inning total. There often seems to be more unbalanced action similar to bettor's behavior in the second half of NFL football games. It is more likely to see a "20 cent" spread or more depending on the game. Most likely due to the pitching match-ups and the likelihood that the starting pitchers will remain for the first 5 innings of a playoff game.
Bettor Shop Around
Wagering on O/U totals for MLB baseball games offers even more legitimate support to be a member of at least TWO or more sportsbooks than betting football totals. A surprisingly high percentage of baseball games fall amazingly close to the total runs number. An extra ½ run for a little diligence often makes the difference, especially during the playoffs where every team is clawing for the opportunity to win a championship every inning. And conversely, the dozens of extra pitching changes means that they are looking to prevent one single significant run.
Therefore, no knock whatsoever against tradionalists wagering the pitching line and betting on the team they feel will win the game. But as a highly effective baseball handicapping alternative, consider the Over/Under Runs Line as a potential choice with the 5-inning selection as a go-to choice in the right spot, especially throughout the MLB playoffs. Or perhaps when heading to bed early.
Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, inlcuding NFL previews and picks from Glenn, click here.