More often than not,
look for difference of one run

Apr 20, 2004 5:25 AM

EDITORS NOTE: The late GamingToday columnist and author Huey Mahl wrote informative baseball articles nearly a generation ago that still apply. In Mahl’s memory and as a service to our readers we are reviving his successful gaming advice over the next few months.

The reason I love baseball betting is because the major quote on a side is based on the money line (odds).

This is dictated by the fact that baseball games are relatively low scoring and hardly adaptable to pointspreads as the pick’em equalizers we find in hoops and foots. In bases if your team wins outright, you win.

But wouldn’t you know it? Some diehards from the spread wars want a run line too in baseball! A few Nevada bookies are right there with propositions to accommodate those with such a penchant. They have opted for the plus-or-minus 1½ run line, but varied odds quotes still go with ’em.

However, it’s a very deceiving proposition. It appears most attractive, especially for the favorite bettors. The fact is you can get dog prices on your favorite (at minus 1½ runs), when you ask your favorite to win by two or more runs!

A few years ago, I did some extensive research on baseball scores, and surprisingly found that 51 percent of all games were decided by one run. So it’s about a 50/50 chance that all games, favorite or dogs, home and away, will end in a one-run difference. Quite significant.

On the dog side, the run line doesn’t appear as attractive pricewise, but at +1½ runs, your dog can win outright or lose by only one run, and you still win your bet. Of course, most of the time, you are laying the price, and your payoff is less than even money.

Therefore, most of the action on the run line is on the favorite, and understandingly so. (Why lay minus $1.80 when you can get plus $1.10 and give up 1½ runs). The bookmakers have juggled their quotes based on empirical evidence, and come up with run line quotes based on a 20-cent line. So the vigorish will vary between 4.55 percent to 2.33 percent, right there!

In the graphic, the money line favorite quotes in the left column can apply to what you see on any line, whether it be 5-, 10-, 15- or 20-cent straddle. Run line version is generally made from the favorite’s line base since that’s where the action is.

Notice that the favorites home/run line quote (at minus 1½ runs) is generally made by adding plus .90-cents to the money line quote. (Minus $2.00 becomes minus $1.10 etc.) The favorite’s road quote (right column) likewise only adds plus $.50 to the money line quote.

This seeming inconsistency accounts for the advantage of the home team. That’s because they bat last in the bottom of the ninth or overtime innings. Most often when the home team leads by one run, the game is over, or the bottom half is not played at all. This accounts for the predominance of one-run finishes.

These run line opening quotes are merely a guideline for the bookie. He may adjust it up or down depending on the circumstances. Action will also move the line, but not necessarily the money line. Each line is autonomous, in separate pools, and moves on their own action.

Particular teams or ballparks can also cause run line adjustments. As an example when the wind blows out at Wrigley Field, the Cubs are likely to have a high scoring game, and one-run margins are less likely. Conversely, low scores (and one-run differences are more likely in stadiums with its faraway fences, etc.

Dog prices (on the 20-cent line) are easily determined from the home-or-road favorite run line prices on the table. If the favorite price is a plus, then add plus $.20 to the price and change the sign for dog’s price at plus 1½ runs (+140 favorite is -160 dog). If favorite price is a -100, then subtract minus $.20 from the price and change the sign again (-130 favorite is +110 dog). Remember, no price number is less than 100 (even), it bounces up.

Deviation of the basic run line is not that mysterious. If you can remember "90 cents home, 50 cents road, and 20 cents dog," You can look at any money line and do a pretty good run line in your own noggin.