Run line wagering in baseball is similar to point spread wagering found in basketball and football. You either lay a run and a half with a favored team or take the 1½ with the underdog.
It is similar to laying points with a football favorite or taking points with a football underdog. Simply stated, when you lay the 1½ with the favorite that team must win the game by 2 runs or more. When you take the 1½ with the underdog that team must either win outright or lose by exactly one run.
There is debate as to whether the greater edge is in laying the 1½ or being on the receiving end. In most cases, when you lay the 1½ you get a plus price with the favored team, collecting if winning by at least 2 runs.
When you take the 1½ you generally are laying a price with the underdog, collecting if that team wins outright or loses by exactly one run.
As you can see, the value in this wager comes from the additional half run.
As an example let’s use a pair of games from this past Sunday, one involving a home favorite and the other a road chalk. Boston closed at -130 at home against Baltimore with the take back on the Orioles +120. The price for Boston laying 1½ was +155. If taking the 1½ with Baltimore you had to lay -175.
Also on Sunday the Yankees were -135 at Minnesota with Twins backers getting +125. On the run line the Yankees were +130 laying 1½ while you were required to lay -150 to take Minnesota at +1½.
Forget the results of these two games. They are used simply to illustrate the difference between the run line price for a home versus a road favorite.
There are three possible outcomes to consider. First, the favored team wins by 2 runs or more. Second, the favored team wins by exactly 1 run. And third, the favorite loses outright, by any number of runs.
In the first outcome, when the favorite wins by 2 runs or more, those laying the run and a half win their bets. Bettors taking +1½ lose their bet. With this outcome those laying 1½ profit more than if they had just bet the favorite straight up.
In the first example above, if Boston had defeated Baltimore by at least 2 runs their backers would have collected $155 for every $100 risked rather than collecting $100 dollars for every $130 dollars risked by simply laying the straight price with the Red Sox.
At the same time, those who took +1½ with the Orioles fare worse than had they just played Baltimore straight. Bettors on the O’s would have lost just $100 for every $100 bet (since they were +120). But bettors who took the 1½ would have lost $175 for every $100 bet.
If Baltimore won the game outright, bettors who backed the Orioles would have collected $120 dollars for every $100 wagered on the straight play but just $100 for every $175 bet if they took the 1½. Stated another way, Baltimore backers who took the 1½ would have had to risk $210 to collect the same $120 that straight backers received by risking just $100.
Thus, in these first two situations the difference in playing the run and a half versus playing the game straight affects only the payout, not the bettor who collects.
When the favorite wins by 2 runs or more, those who backed the favorite straight and those who laid the 1½ each collect. When the underdog wins the game, by any margin, those who bet the underdog straight or took the +1½ each collect.
The true impact of playing the game straight or on the run line only occurs when the favorite wins but does so by exactly one run. In that situation winning bettors are those who played the favorite straight and those who took the 1½ with the underdog.
The statistics for each of the three situations will be shared next week but one point is worth noting and often not mentioned by advocates of taking the 1½ with the underdog.
Often those who support taking 1½ point to the significant percentage of games that are decided by one run. But what usually does not accompany that statement is that in a portion of those one run games it is the underdog that wins by exactly one run, in which case the 1½ does not matter.
As discussed above, when the underdog wins by exactly one run everyone who bet the underdog collects although those who played the underdog straight will fare better than those taking the 1½, “paying” a bit for that added insurance of a one run loss.
Thus the impact of one run games is limited to those in which the favored team wins by one run.
It’s from this point the run line discussion will pick up next week.
The second half of the season is underway for all 30 teams. Over the next few weeks, leading up to the deadline on July 31, several trades involving key players will be consummated as teams that expect to contend for the playoffs seek to strengthen their rosters for the roughly 60 game stretch from August through early October.
Two trades were completed this past weekend. In one Oakland acquired a pair of solid starting pitchers (Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel) from the non-contending Chicago Cubs in exchange for prospects.
In the other the New York Yankees traded away a young and inexperienced starting pitcher in the midst of a rough season (Vidal Nuno), also to a non-contender (Arizona) for a more experienced veteran starting pitcher also in the midst of a rough season (Brandon McCarthy).
The Oakland trade is much more likely to have an impact on the chase for the Playoffs than is the Yankees trade. That said, it is quite likely the Yanks will be making moves over the next few weeks.
Heading into the final week of play before the All Star break no division lead is greater than 4.5 games and 11 teams, or nearly 2 per division, are within 6 games of first place.
With nearly 70 games still to be played, this season continues to shape up as one of parity. Oakland is the only team playing better than .600 baseball but the team just behind them in the West standings, the Los Angeles Angels, have the second best record not just in the AL but in all of baseball.
Here’s a look at four series to be played over this final weekend before the All Star break.
Pirates at Reds: Cincinnati has won 7 of 10 games between the teams this season, including 2 of 3 in their only prior series in Cincinnati back in mid-April. The OVER is 5-5. The 10 games have produced an average of 9.0 total runs per game. Cincinnati has been a below average team offensively, scoring just 3.8 runs per game both at home and on the road. Pittsburgh has been closer to average but has been more productive at home (4.4 rpg) than on the road (3.7).
The Reds have gotten outstanding pitching from Johnny Cueto and Alfredo Simon all season and after starting the season on the DL Mat Latos has been sharp in 4 of his 5 starts. The Pirates are not getting outstanding seasons from their starting pitchers although Charlie Morton has been solid and, in limited starts, Jeff Locke and Vance Worley have pitched well with each allowing less than a runner per inning in their 7 and 4 starts respectively.
Note: The home/road splits suggest a low scoring series. At home Cincinnati has gone 22-14-3 to the UNDER while on the road the Pirates are 22-15-1 to the UNDER.
Plays: Cincinnati -130 or less in a start by Cueto against any Pittsburgh starter; Cincinnati -120 or less in starts by Latos or Simon against any Pirates starter; Pittsburgh +110 or more with any starter not facing Cueto, Latos or Simon; UNDER 7½ or higher in any matchup.
Cardinals at Brewers: The Cardinals and Brewers have played two prior series this season with each team winning 2 of 3 games in the opponent’s ball park. But the teams have not met since the end of April. Their first three games, played in Milwaukee, all stayed UNDER the Total. The 6 games have produced an average of 9.3 total runs per game.
Through Sunday the Cardinals have played 28 UNDERS and just 15 OVERS away from home (with 4 pushes). St. Louis has also been hit hard by pitching injuries with Jaime Garcia and Michael Wacha sidelined and their replacements not faring well. But Adam Wainwright is at the top of his game and is clearly the top pitcher in this series.
Note: Only Marco Estrada has been a drain on the rotation and would be the one “go against” starter on the Brewers.
Plays: St. Louis with Wainwright -140 or less against any Milwaukee starter; Milwaukee -120 or less with any starter other than Estrada against any St. Louis starter other than Wainwright; UNDER 7 or higher with Wainwright not facing Estrada; OVER 8 or lower if Estrada doesn’t face Wainwright or Lance Lynn.
Tigers at Royals: This four game series begins Thursday. After Detroit won the first 5 games against the Royals, KC won 3 straight in Detroit in mid-June before the Tigers won the series finale. Following that series the Royals went into a brief slump while the Tigers bounced back and began this week leading KC by 4 games. The OVER has gone 5-3-1.
The teams combined to average 9.3 runs per game. The Tigers have the more productive offense, averaging 4.8 runs per game on the road. Kansas City is below average at home (3.7 rpg).
Note: This series does provide the Royals a chance to narrow the gap with the Tigers heading into the All Star break.
Plays: Detroit -125 or less in starts by Anibal Sanchez or Max Scherzer against any Kansas City starter; Royals as underdogs with any starter not facing Sanchez or Scherzer; OVER 8 or lower in a start by either Verlander or Kansas City’s James Shields; UNDER 8½ or higher if Jason Vargas, Danny Duffy or Yordano Ventura do not face Verlander.
Athletics at Mariners: The teams have split their 10 meetings this season, combining to average a paltry 6.4 total runs per game. The UNDER holds a 6-4 edge. Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir have been Oakland’s most effective starters. But even with the trade the two best starters pitch for Seattle, right-handers Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.
Oakland has been one of the highest scoring teams in baseball, averaging 4.9 runs per game at home and 5.1 rpg on the road.
Note: Seattle is averaging just 3.7 rpg at home, nearly a full run less than their road average.
Plays: Against any Oakland starter, Seattle -150 or less in a start by Hernandez; Seattle -130 or less in a start by Iwakuma; Oakland -120 or less or underdogs of any price not facing Hernandez or Iwakuma; UNDER 7½ or higher in any matchup except in starts by Oakland’s Brad Mills.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to Gaming Today readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Contact Andy at [email protected]