Over the next few weeks as we approach the mid-point of the regular season the topic of betting baseball on the run line will be discussed.
This week’s column presents the basics of run line betting and how it differs from the usual way in which baseball is bet. Next week we delve more into the numbers involved in betting to place the run line into more of a recent historical perspective.
There are many similarities in betting both baseball and hockey. The primary similarity is the basic wager in both sports simply involves wagering on which team will win the game. No pointspreads are involved so the objective of the team is the same as the better – to simply win the game regardless of score or margin of victory.
This, of course, differs from the principal way of betting on both basketball and football in which pointspreads are used to effectively equalize the chances of each team being the betting winner.
In pointspread wagering the objective of the team is not necessarily the same as that of the better who backs that team. If the Cowboys are favored by 7 points over the Rams and win the game by just a field goal, non-betting fans of the Cowboys are pleased whereas those who backed the ‘Boys are disappointed as their team failed to cover the 7 point line.
In contrast to the pointspread wagering that comprises the bulk of football and basketball wagering, hockey and baseball are based on the Money Line in which the bettor must lay more money to back a heavily favored team than to back a more modestly favored team. Conversely, to back the underdog those bettors will win more when backing a big dog that wins the game than when a smaller priced one wins.
Whereas wagering on the money line in baseball and hockey has long accounted for most of the Side action, a form of pointspread wagering has been adapted and applied to both sports.
In hockey this wagering option is called the puck line in which the better can lay a puck and a half with the favorite or take a puck and a half with the underdog. Its baseball relative is wagering on the run line with the bettor either taking or laying a run and a half to back the underdog or favorite.
The “spread” or difference between the regular money line and the run line varies depending on whether the favored team is at home or on the road.
For example, in a recent game in which the home team was a -140 favorite on the regular money line that same home team was +140 laying the run and a half. The road underdog was +130 on the regular money line but was a -160 favorite taking the plus run and a half.
On the same day a road favorite of -140 on the regular money line was only +115 laying the run and a half. The home underdog, +130 on the regular money line, was -135 taking the plus run and a half.
Of course the reason for this difference and why home favorites carry a bigger plus price when laying the run and a half than do road favorites is that road teams are guaranteed their at bats in the top of the ninth inning and thus have nine opportunities to create a lead of two runs or more.
The home team is only assured of eight at bats as if they are leading after the road team bats in the top of the ninth the game is over, whether the home team is leading by one run or by two runs or more.
Another impact comes from the fact the home team often wins games in the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings by just a single run, the exception being when the game winning hit in the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings is a home run in which case all baserunners and the batter are allowed to score.
The only time taking the run and a half benefits the bettor is when the favored team wins by exactly one run. Conversely, the only time a bettor laying the run and a half is worse off than just playing the favorite on the regular money line is when the favored team wins by exactly one run.
In next week’s column some key questions will be answered, including how often teams win by exactly one run versus the number of games decided by two runs or more.
Here’s a preview of three weekend series.
Pirates at Cubs: The Cubs swept a three game series in Pittsburgh and then took 2 of 3 at home in the rematch. The first 5 games all went OVER. The Cubs have been dominant all season and are playing at a pace that projects to 114 wins.
In approaching this series the primary way to look will be to play the Cubs with one exception. If Gerrit Cole is a +125 underdog or more against any Cubs starter the Pirates are playable. Otherwise, when Cole is not starting, look to play the Cubs minus a run and a half in starts by Jake Arrieta, John Lackey or Jon Lester or playing them straight in starts by Jason Hammel or Kyle Hendricks if laying no more than -140. Of the Cubs’ 43 wins through Sunday, 36 have been by 2 runs or more (83.7 percent).
White Sox at Indians: These teams have played two series thus far this season, all in Chicago. The teams split a two game series in early April but Cleveland won 3 of 4 on the road in late May. Totals were 3-2-1 for the OVER. Chris Sale and Jose Quintana have been Chicago’s best starters but each has struggled lately. Still, those are the only two Chicago starters worth backing in this series, especially as underdogs.
Otherwise look to back Cleveland against other than Sale or Quintana in starts by Trevor Bauer, Carlos Carrasco, Corey Kluber, Danny Salazar or Josh Tomlin when laying -140 or less. Other than in a start by Jose Quintana, the OVER might be the way to look with Cleveland games averaging 9.8 total runs per game at home versus 7.8 rpg on the road while Chicago’s games have averaged 8.6 rpg on the road versus just 7.4 rpg at home.
Rangers at Cards: Normally known for its pitching strength the Cardinals have fashioned their record largely due to an offense that is averaging 5.6 runs per game, second only to Boston’s 6.0. Their starting pitchers have been below average, however, with Carlos Martinez’ 3.47 ERA leading the rotation and only he and Mike Leake having WHIPs below 1.34 (1.13 and 1.14 respectively).
Texas’ starting pitching has been nicely above average with only Derek Holland posting an ERA above 3.22. And even Holland has shown signs of turning things around with 4 very solid consecutive starts before last Friday’s poor outing at Seattle. The preferred approach will be to play the Rangers as underdogs in any matchup and to also look OVER Totals of 8 or lower.
Andy Iskoe, and his Logical Approach, provides his popular and unique handicapping statistics to GamingToday readers and online visitors. He has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football. Email: [email protected]