How to handicap baseball betting odds like a sharp

Handicapping Major League Baseball odds begins with starting pitchers but there are other factors baseball bettors must consider when placing their wagers on the diamond.

Steve Merril
Last Updated: Apr 1, 2020 7:39 AM ET
Nationals starter Max Scherzer prepares to deliver a pitch in MLB action.
Photo By - USA Today Images

MLB betting provides more investment opportunities than any other professional sport. NFL teams only play 16 regular season games, while NBA and NHL teams play 82 games. Basesball teams play almost twice as many regular season games with 162.

For six straight months (April-September), bettors have almost 15 games per day to handicap and find investment opportunities in the MLB betting odds. The biggest edge a baseball bettor has is selectivity.

Sportsbooks must post MLB lines on every game, however, bettors don’t have to wager on every game. A bettor can sit back and isolate the number of games per day which present value. Here’s how to find value when betting on MLB odds.

Starting Pitching

Baseball teams play more games than any other sport. This means as the season progresses, you have a substantial amount of statistical data to analyze. The starting pitchers are the most important factor in setting baseball lines. Two offenses could be equal, but if one team has a substantially better starting pitcher on the mound, they might be anywhere from a -150 to -200 moneyline favorite.

When analyzing the pitching matchup, there are three key statistical categories to analyze: 1. ERA (earned run average) tells how many runs per nine-innings the pitcher is allowing. Any number below 3.50 is solid, and below 3.00 ERA is All-Star quality. 2. WHIP (walks + hits per innings pitched) gives a good indication of how many base runners a pitcher is allowing each inning. A WHIP below 1.30 is solid and below 1.10 is excellent. 3. K/BB (strikeout/walk ratio) and K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) are also useful as this once again shows which pitchers are able to keep runners off of the bases by striking them out.


While starting pitching is still the key factor to handicapping baseball, it has become less of a factor in deciding the result of games. This is because most starting pitchers only last 5-6 innings per game, which means bullpens now play a bigger role in the outcome. For this reason, you must also factor in bullpen statistics such as ERA, WHIP, and save percentage.

Handicapping the bullpens is a bit tricky since you never know which actual relief pitcher(s) will be brought into a game. Therefore, using overall seasonal numbers for the entire bullpen is a good barometer. Also, look to play against teams that have used several relief pitchers in the past one or two games as fatigue often becomes an issue.


When analyzing offensive statistics, you can look at the overall team numbers such as runs per game, team batting average, and OPS (on-base + slugging percentage). Be sure to break down the offensive numbers for home and road games, as well as the difference when facing right-handed pitchers (RHP) and left-handed pitchers (LHP). Some teams often exhibit extreme home/road dichotomies or perform substantial better against righties or southpaws.

Current form/injuries

With the long 162-game regular season, momentum and current form are important handicapping factors. Look to back teams playing well and avoid teams that are struggling, until they turn the corner. This is especially true with current offensive momentum (good and bad). Also, keep an eye out for injuries or teams that might be resting starters.

Money Management

The nice thing about betting the moneyline in baseball (and no pointspread) is that you only have to pick the winner. However, money management remains the most important element to long-term success, therefore you want to avoid betting big moneyline favorites. Once the moneyline reaches -170 or higher, you are better using the -1.5 runline instead.

When playing moneyline odds favorites you should play to win one unit. For example, on a -120 favorite, you risk $120 to win $100. When playing moneyline underdogs, you should risk one unit to win more. For example, on a +140 underdog, you risk $100 to win $140.  This will keep your money management system consistent. While some plays are stronger than others, you should still keep your unit sizes between 1 to 5 percent of your total bankroll.

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