USA Today Sports

How to safely bet MLB spring training action

Editor's note: This article was originally published March 2011. Records and stats have been updated.

Heading south to catch some MLB spring training action or even tuning in during a lazy afternoon is harmless. You get to check out the newest crop of players and pitchers while catching up with some of your old favorites.


But the second you start betting on spring training baseball, you might be in trouble. The majority of sharp bettors stay clear of spring training because there is no discernible edge over the sportsbooks. And that’s a big red light when it comes to pro handicappers.

“While logic would tend to dictate playing on the team putting more of its better players on the field, that is not really the way that many of the games play out,” pro handicapper David Malinsky says of the exhibition baseball. “When starters are on the field, they often lack any real urgency and instead just focus on slowly getting into shape, not risking injury. Meanwhile, when younger players were on the field they would be playing much harder, trying to either win a job immediately or create a favorable impression that could lead to an earlier call-up later in the season.”
 
The sharps’ logic makes percent sense. But there is one colossal conundrum: Sports bettors love action.

If we all did the right things we would be thinner, not smoke or drink, eat more fruits and vegetables and watch Dancing With The Stars with our significant other every week. Guess what, maybe half those things happen for awhile and then, faster than a line drive, we do what we want. 
 
If you are going to wager on spring training baseball, place yourself in the best possible situation to win by following these tips.
 
Start cautiously

Be very limited the first week because managers will experiment a great deal, trying a few players in different positions and mixing veterans and potential rookies in the starting lineup for the first four or five innings. Always stay away from games with split squads, as nobody but the skipper and his staff know how the team will be divided.
 
Find the right situations

Starting the second week of spring training, it is imperative to know the starting pitcher, as he will frequently start throwing all his pitches and work three to five innings depending on pitch counts. What bettors are seeking is a staff ace matched against a No. 5 starter. This does not guarantee success, but this shaky hurler might be more hittable under the pressure of trying to make the show.

“I have never bet preseason baseball since there are too many variables that can get in the way,” says Covers Expert Matt Fargo. “Yet, one advantage that bettors have in these exhibition games is information. Similar to NFL preseason games where coaches give out their player rotations and game plans, managers in baseball are very up front on how long starters will be pitching for and what sort of lineups they are going with.”
 
Betting the better “team”

Bet on the more talented roster, taking into account the entire makeup of the team. It’s not a coincidence that the New York Mets finished 9-20 while Detroit went 20-8 last spring. 
 
Ride hot teams and fade bad clubs

Because you are betting money lines, if any squad is winning game after game or losing in similar fashion, bet for or against the respective teams, since the outcome means nothing to the manager who is making certain his club is ready to start the season.

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Posted by mylife23
1 year ago

spring training has one good thing about it if you are going to bet it.....naturally low lines...but they are low for a reason....i don't ever think i've seen a spring training line with a fav higher than -155/-160......unless it got bet up to that of course...
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Posted by Skubishack
1 year ago

I will do this for the pre-season Covers contest... so you can check that and see.
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Posted by Skubishack
1 year ago

If you must... Bet every game and ALL DOGS... You will come out ahead.
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Posted by tomnolan
1 year ago

if you need to bet pre season baseball i think you might have a little problem. its just like pre season football. a big waste of time!!
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Posted by gold6185
2 years ago

Betting preseason is beyond idiotic.
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Posted by suckerg
3 years ago

i find that guessing works best in spring training.
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Posted by byonusho
3 years ago

Agreed. I have been doing this for 7+ years and I follow every second of baseball and I honestly say that it isn't worth the time studying the matchups all night to find out nothing useful. Closer to opening day it is a little better, but really not worth it even then. Very few matchups have a discernable edge.
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Posted by dawniewags
3 years ago

I know how to BET MLB spring training and WIN 100% of the time ! BY NOT BETTING it ! anyone who bets games where teams are practicing is a moron in NFL we know preseason games ahead of time what cocahes plans are MLB we have no clue what they are going to do !
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Top Response

Posted by byonusho
3 years ago

"Agreed. I have been doing this for 7+ years and I follow every second of baseball and I honestly say that it isn't worth the time studying the matchups all night to find out nothing useful. Closer to opening day it is a little better, but really not ..."