For some of you, this appears to be an article meant for someone else. You’re not losing betting baseball this year. You’re confident in your hardball handicapping and you’re banking on a summer of bountiful betting profit. Feel free to bail out now. However, remember this article. You may want to circle back later this summer. Baseball, if you haven’t learned already, is a grind. Many aspiring sports bettors struggle in the summer. The sports schedule starts to thin and baseball is the only major game in town. They try and try, but end up frustrated each season. If that resonates with you, let’s explore some of the reasons why you are losing betting baseball.
Betting Baseball Angles That Are Priced In
Baseball is somewhat of a solved game. Without a game clock and with the gameplay being very structured, everything has been done before many times over. Played in a vacuum, baseball can be quite predictable. Fortunately for bettors (and I suppose for players as well) games aren’t played in vacuums. In fact, in many cases, games are played outdoors in unique ballparks. This has always led many aspiring sports bettors to attempt to beat baseball based on weather.
I could write many articles about weather effects in MLB. For years, this was the main angle I used. Everything from the wind and temperature to the barometric pressure. Atmospheric conditions have a huge impact on baseball played outside. However, as I discovered a few years back, I wasn’t the only one using this angle. These days, the effect of the weather is factored into the line. Sometimes it is factored in as early as the opening number. When an inefficiency makes it through the overnight hours, it is typically hammered into place early on gameday. You can’t beat baseball solely on weather information anymore. Weather is still a major factor in a game total, but it’s no longer strong enough to ignore other factors.
For years, getting an edge on MLB by handicapping the umpires was a viable play. You’ll often hear of umpires referred to as an Under Ump or an Over Ump. It has less to do with batted balls and more to do with the pitches that never make contact. An Under Ump typically has a larger strike zone as well as a high number of called strikes. An Over Ump conversely issues a higher frequency of walks in relation to strikeouts. Those baserunners generate potential runs.
Again though, umpires are largely factored in when the line originates. Umpires rotate clockwise for each game in a series. The home plate umpire today was the 1st base umpire the game before. The only time when the home plate umpire is not known ahead of time is the start of a series. Umpire tendencies definitely find their way into the line. If you’re not noticing who the home plate umpire is until game time, it’s too late to act on it.
Lineup information is another angle that was a solid handicapping angle for years. The starting lineup and the batting order can have a big influence in team performance. A 162-game schedule played in roughly 185 days means that players sometimes will be purposely rested. A big bat or two kept out of a lineup can move the line. Just like the umpire angle above, if you’re late to know, it’s too late to act on it.
In recent years, with the advent of legalized betting, MLB has taken steps to standardize lineup release information. No longer is it posted in the clubhouse for a beat reporter to see. It gets filed with the league first and then disseminated. Lineup information leveraged into overnight lines is strongest, but it is also possibly faulty. If a line moves about four hours prior to game time and you don’t know why, check the lineups.
Not Factoring In Enough Betting Angles
You can also find yourself losing because you’re not factoring in those same tired angles listed above. Damned if you do; damned if you don’t. That underlies what I was saying with those angles. They’re part of the puzzle but they’re not the entire solution. If you’re attempting to handicap a game, you need to be reconciling the weather, umpires, and lineups. Or, conversely, you need to accept that the market already has that factored in and find what the market is missing.
Finding what the market is missing can sometimes be a frustrating pursuit. However, with all the statistics and sabermetrics available in baseball, there are ways to find fresh angles and inefficiencies. If you’re looking to find something the rest of the betting world is missing, I recommend diving deep into the plentiful statistical resources available in baseball. Every serious baseball bettor should be familiar with querying at least the two major stat sites: fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com.
Sometimes what the market is missing doesn’t even need to be on the field. Rufus and I have both talked about using barometric pressure in handicapping baseball totals in the past. One of the reasons that was successful for so long was due to everyone just looking at wind and temperature alone. Check this recent livestream for more about our experiences betting barometric pressure. From meteorology to aeronautical engineering.
Getting And Betting Bad Advice
The advent of legalized sports betting in the US has created a grand stage where everybody feels the desire to make picks. I don’t understand it. Suppose you worked at a factory. Each Friday, paychecks would be handed out. However, before you received your paycheck, you were given a choice:
A standard deck of cards is shuffled. You can choose to pick a card and if you can accurately predict if it’ll be a red suit or a black suit, you win 1.9x your paycheck. If you’re wrong, you lose your paycheck this week. Of course, you can also choose not to take the gamble, and just keep your paycheck.
Most sane people would choose to take their paycheck recognizing the gamble is not worth it. However, before you make your choice to play or pass, what if there was an “expert” there? He’s seen the last 10 picks and while the complete deck is shuffled after each play, he feels confident he can give you good advice on what color to choose.
Again, a sane person would pass. What this expert has seen has no bearing on future results. Besides, wouldn’t you feel incredulous that this person can call themselves an expert when it is clear they have no real knowledge of the randomness underlying the event they’re confident they can predict?
See where I’m going here?
The Basics Of Knowing Who To Follow
People who have followers and give sports betting advice or picks should have a moral obligation not to lead their followers astray. Sadly, most don’t. I wrote a detailed article about how to discern good touts from bad. However, sometimes the advice you’re following is not from someone looking to sell you picks. They’re just a social media influencer looking for clout. Perhaps they are employed by a sportsbook to drive engagement (red flag) or an affiliate site to drive clicks (another red flag). Do they accurately track their record? Give reasoning behind their picks? Do you get a sense they even care about the outcome of their picks?
More often than not, they don’t even know the damage they’re doing. They’ve been told sports betting is just recreational fun and the money is disposable for everyone involved. A large number of people that are marching their followers over the cliff have no idea the harm they cause.
Beyond Picks – Some People Just Don’t Understand Baseball Betting
A while back I got annoyed at the constant cliff march being demonstrated by people falling in love with NRFI’s. No Run In First Inning (the acronym is pronounced “nerfy,” which adds to their appeal). I wrote a quick Twitter thread about how the probability of a run being scored in the first inning is actually weighted towards the Yes (the YRFI – “yerfy”). That thread took off and I realized there were a lot of people who had never even thought about it that way. That’s a problem. There are a lot of people who don’t think logically about sports betting.
If you don’t have a logical reason behind everything you bet on, your future in sports betting is perilous. If you’re going to follow someone else’s advice (including mine), do yourself a favor and try to figure out if the person you are following has a sound approach to their craft.
Here are a few warning signs to look out for that might indicate this person isn’t thinking logically about betting baseball:
Are they advising you to take a line that is not available?
Do they base their research on a ridiculously small sample size?
Are they advising a same game parlay (really at all) without noting the greatly reduced odds?
Do they just try to drive engagement with “What’s your lock of the night?” & “How did everyone’s bets do?”
Do they ever advise a NRFI?
Have they advised parlaying a -1.5 runline road team with the under?
The Logic Of Betting Baseball
Baseball might just be the most logical of all the major sports in terms of betting. If a pitcher is going to exceed their projected strikeout line, they’re going to need to stay in the game longer. Similarly, the more at-bats a batter gets the higher probability of exceeding a batting prop. As a result, batting order matters. Do yourself a favor, before blindly tailing someone, try to rationalize their bet with logic first.
How To Fix Your Baseball Betting Leaks
For some of you, the leak in your game is that you’re trying too hard. Seriously, you’re making it harder for yourself by trying to beat relatively efficient markets. You’re trying to beat markets with more moving parts than you can keep track of. Reiterating what I said at the top of this article, betting baseball is a grind. 15 games a day almost 7 days a week for 6 months straight. If you’re going to attempt to get the edge on this sport you need to work smarter, not harder. Let’s explore some ways to help avoid burn out and increase profitability:
It’s Summer – Put The Top Down
The lineups, the starting pitchers, the bullpens, the weather, the ballpark, the umpires, the managers – it’s a lot to factor in! Earlier I alluded to the option of just assuming all of that is already baked into the line. Commonly referred to as the Top Down Method, you leave the handicapping to the market. Simply, you look for pricing inefficiencies in the lines. Use the lines at sharp books to be your guide at weaker books. Fortunately for you, Unabated has tools to make this very easy.
From our Game Odds Screen to our integrated Compare Lines and Alternate Line Calculators, finding value in the market is pretty straightforward. A recent article provided a step-by-step guide with applications to basketball and hockey. However, it is also very applicable to baseball. The Top Down Method is applicable to any sport and is a proven effective strategy. Plus, taking the handicapping out of betting baseball can make it far less taxing on your summer.
Shorten The Game
Sometimes the most nerve wracking component of betting baseball is the randomness of nine innings of play. However, in today’s sportsbooks you can bet on just the first 5-innings, or first 3-innings, or even just the first inning. Really you can slice the game up in many different ways. If you struggle factoring in bullpen performance, look for bets that don’t need that in the equation. If you struggle with handicapping two teams, cut it in half. Team totals allow you to handicap just one team’s scoring.
Then there are props. Game props and player props offer a path to profitability when betting baseball. Of course, with prop heavy action comes the risk that a sportsbook will grow tired of your action. Remember, the summer is typically a slow time for the sports betting industry. There’s a much higher chance of action sticking out if you’re simply attacking props. If you are going to play props, you need to vary up your action and mix in some straight bets.
Shorten Your Week
Betting baseball is relentless. However, just like star players, you need some days off as well. The baseball schedule is lightest on Mondays and Thursdays. Instinctively, that may seem like the ideal days to miss action with minimal FOMO. I’d recommend looking at Saturdays though. The MLB schedule is typically all night games on Fridays. Saturday tends to get some wacky lineups if it is a day game after a night game. Either way, you need to schedule in some off days.
Another option is to vary your approach. Target totals some days; sides on other days; props on weekends. The monotony of betting baseball can be the biggest drag when trying to last the entire season. This will allow you to take a fresh approach each day.
Shorten Your Season
Lastly, there’s no shame in deciding to quit on the season early or pass on betting baseball altogether. Some of my most productive times have been when I’ve put aside active betting to work on another project. If you’re having trouble winning at baseball now, I’m sorry to say it’s only going to get tougher in July and August. The weather becomes very homogenous across the country and the motivations of teams and players sometimes diverge. Taking a couple months off to prepare for football or basketball can be time well-spent.
Many betting angles are already factored into the line; you’ll need to find something the market overlooks.
Conversely, don’t overlook something that is a key factor.
Be careful of following advice. The betting landscape is littered with bad betting advice. Think logically.
Explore other ways to beat the game. For instance, using a top-down method to find value.
To avoid the grind, find ways to shorten your game, shorten your week, or shorten your season.
If you have any other ideas on a better approach to betting baseball, we’re always discussing topics like these in our Unabated Community Discord. Generate your free invite link here if you haven’t already joined.
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