How To Bet On Baseball Run Totals

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What is the best baseball betting strategy for betting on MLB run totals? What is the best way to predict the run total for a baseball game? In this article we discuss the five keys to making money betting baseball run totals. 

Predicting MLB run totals and profiting betting on baseball over/under markets has become quite challenging. Trends toward run suppression (the lack of steroids, smarter uses of middle relievers, expanded applications of defensive shifts) are making it tougher to bet Overs with confidence. But, betting Unders based on elite starting pitching is far from safe because the best starting pitchers aren’t allowed to throw as deep into games as in the past

If you like betting Overs, you’re dealing with a sport that has lost much of its explosiveness. If you like betting Unders, you have to cross your fingers with bullpens once your stud pitcher has left the game after his 100-110 pitches.

So what's the best strategy for betting on baseball run totals? What should we keep in mind when betting MLB over/unders? Here are five tips to help you improve your baseball betting picks and enhance your chances of making money betting baseball run totals.

#1 - Only Bet Overs If You Expect Both Teams To Score In Bunches

The lack of explosiveness compared to the recent era has lowered the number of instances where a game goes Over with one team doing most or all of the heavy lifting. There are still occasional 11-1 or 8-3 type games. Generally speaking though, if one offence is lined up to have a big outing against an opposing pitcher, they’re only going to win 5-1 or 6-2 if things go as expected. 

For Over bets, you want both teams positioned to do well. Then, ideally, those teams will drive each other to additional scoring at ties of 3-3 and 4-4. Those ties force additional runs to score because baseball games can’t end in a tie. A team leading 6-2 can focus on run suppression the rest of the way to seal its win. Teams tied at 4-4 must keep scoring. Both games have eight runs at the moment of the snapshot, but only one is guaranteed to move higher. 

#2 - Look To Bet Unders with High-Strikeout Pitchers vs. High-Strikeout Offences

Strikeout totals continue to rise in the current era because the emphasis in pitching is on throwing smoke (high velocity), while the emphasis in hitting is on taking pitches to drive up opposing pitch counts. The higher number of strikeouts makes it more difficult to string together contact in a way that causes runs to cluster. A ball can’t fall between fielders or scoot to the wall if it’s not hit in the first place! And, high strikeout pitchers can get themselves out of a jam just by blowing the ball by the hitter. They don’t need defensive gems from fielders to bail them out.

The market seems fully aware of who the high strikeout starting pitchers are. Elite starters get a lot of respect in the line. The market seems less aware of high strikeout bullpens, and high strikeout offences. You’ll still see posted Over/Unders of 6.5, 7, or 7.5 in games that are destined to be 2-1 or 3-2 type pitching duels because true scoring opportunities are going to be so rare when high strikeout starters backed by high strikeout bullpens are facing high strikeout offences.

#3 - Study Bullpen Depth And Usage

Speaking of bullpens, we’re in a transitional period right now in Major League Baseball where some managers have created a locomotive of stingy relievers to throw in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings, while others have failed to define roles amidst a lack of quality arms. This factor is often a difference-maker whether you’re handicapping team sides or totals.

It’s dangerous indeed to bet an Over in a game involving one or two strong bullpens. Even if both starting pitchers are vulnerable, scoring may die so much in the later innings that it can’t reach the full-game number. And, you don’t want to bet an Under with quality starters if relievers are just going to come in and get lit up near the end.

Study bullpen stats, read boxscores to get a sense of manager usage, and make sure the bullpens will be helping your preferred pick rather than presenting a late road block.

#4 - Pitcher Injuries

Starting pitchers are toughest to evaluate when they’re dealing with an injury. It’s easy to pencil in standard numbers for a starter who’s in his typical form. That’s why there are so many “modelling” efforts that do well within the market. Stats reflect skill sets. Success on the field is based on skill sets. But when a starting pitcher is dealing with an injury, his true skill set at that moment is much more of an unknown. And, typically, it’s an unknown that’s going to lead to worse performance and more “Overs” in his games.

Study injury reports for all starting pitchers. Avoid Unders with guys who aren’t at 100% healthwise. Consider Overs if there are additional indicators suggesting a good run environment.

#5 - Try to Find “Cocktails” Of Indicators That Magnify Potential 

We’ve touched on this theme in degrees already. You’ll hear many in baseball betting suggest that few smart opportunities are really available these days on Over/Unders because the market is so well-informed. It’s easy to find top quality state-of-the-art analytics on pitchers and offences. There are few secrets about ballpark effects (the market knows the good pitching parks from the good hitting parks). Weather forecasts are easily available. Maybe it’s not a “perfect” market in terms of efficiency. But, it’s so close to that there’s little reason to try and bet totals according to this pessimistic view.

It's our opinion that the market is very well-informed, but still has trouble fully accounting for what we call “cocktails” of indicators. Meaning, when influences combine together, the market doesn’t fully account for explosiveness on the high end or dearth of scoring on the low end.

Firstly, the market can see the potential for run scoring when it posts a number of 9.5 of 10 …but it doesn’t fully anticipate the scoring onslaught that happens when elite offences are facing mediocre (or worse) starting pitchers backed by mediocre (or worse) bullpens in a good hitting park in good hitting weather. Those indicators magnify each other in a way that causes scoring to really blow up. Sometimes that 9.5 of 10 is correct when just a few of those factors are in play. Sometimes, 12 or 13 is the “right” number for true scoring potential when they’re all in play.

Secondly, the market can see the potential for a pitcher’s duel when it posts a number of 6.5 or 7…but it doesn’t fully anticipate the run suppression abilities of elite starting pitchers backed by elite bullpens when facing mediocre (or worse) offences in a poor hitting park in poor hitting weather. It’s very tough to get much of anything on the board in that scenario. The “right” number of true scoring potential may be as low as 3 or 4. 

The sport of baseball evolving before our eyes because of breakthroughs in innovation amidst an explosion of analytics. Smart bettors must put that in their favour by betting Unders when multiple run suppression factors are in play, and Overs when conditions favour various elements working together to create offensive potential.

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Head of Localisation at bettingexpert