How to Read Baseball Betting Lines – What You Need to Know

Those who enjoy betting on sports may feel confused about the seemingly random numbers and strange words that come out of a bookmaker’s window or across the Tambourine Lane wagering interface when betting on baseball. If this sounds like you, then this post is for you as we translate some of the gibberish that you’ll hear when trying to place a wager on the MLB games.

The Basics

Although it may seem obvious, you must understand the following basics about reading baseball betting lines:

  • The odds of each team winning
  • The over under on each outcome
  • The betting exchanges offered for baseball
  • The different betting types for baseball
  • The different ways you can win or lose as a bettor
  • And, most importantly, how to read a winner’s/loser’s betting type

Odds Of Winning

Each team’s odds of winning are available at many online bookmaking websites and can be found next to the team’s name on the schedule page. For example, the Chicago Cubs have an odds of winning of 7.2 to 1. That means, for every $100 you bet on the Cubs, you’ll win $7.20. Conversely, the Tampa Bay Rays have an odds of winning of 1.8 to 1, which means you’ll win $1.80 for every $100 you bet.

Over Under

The over under is the total number of runs the average team is expected to score in the game. This is also referred to as the Over/Under, Over/Under line, or simply as the Under. For example, the under for the Chicago Cubs is 4.2 because they’re expected to score 4.2 runs on average per game. The over under for the San Francisco Giants is 5.8 because they’re expected to score 5.8 runs per game.

More Than Meets The Eye

The O/U Betting type is an abbreviation for the phrase “Odds Over/Under”, which simply means an odds bet that encompasses both the winning amount as well as the total number of runs scored. In the example above, the Under 4.2/Over 5.8 O/U bet would win you $10, because 4.2 < 5.8. Similarly, if the under had been 4.2 and the over 5.8, you would have won $30 ($7.20 x 2).

Expected Run Differential

This figure measures the volatility of each team. It’s often referred to as the juice or the juice line, and it’s one of the more important figures to become familiar with as a bettor. The figure below shows the expected runs differential for each team.

  • Washington Nationals: +0.5
  • San Diego Padres: -0.8
  • Miami Marlins: -0.7
  • Philadelphia Phillies: -0.6
  • New York Yankees: -0.5
  • Houston Astros: +0.4
  • Toronto Blue Jays: +0.3
  • Chicago Cubs: +0.2
  • Cincinnati Reds: +0.1

The Hardest To Predict

This is the figure showing how well each team performs on the road versus at home. While the overall expected runs differential for each team is still important, knowing which teams are better on the road and which are better at home can help you make more accurate predictions. As a general rule of thumb, the home team is almost always favored in baseball, but not by much. On the other hand, some teams are much better on the road than at home, which makes them tough to predict. Take a look at the 2020 schedule and see which teams are harder to predict based on their performance on the road or at home:

  • Arizona Diamondbacks: +0.49 on the road, +0.31 at home
  • Colorado Rockies: +0.43 on the road, +0.33 at home
  • Los Angeles Dodgers: +0.41 on the road, +0.38 at home
  • Miami Marlins: +0.38 on the road, +0.46 at home
  • San Francisco Giants: +0.42 on the road, +0.34 at home
  • St. Louis Cardinals: +0.43 on the road, +0.29 at home
  • Tampa Bay Rays: +0.45 on the road, +0.27 at home
  • Toronto Blue Jays: +0.47 on the road, +0.32 at home
  • Washington Nationals: +0.48 on the road, +0.31 at home

As you can see, not many games are truly easy to predict, which is why you should always check the betting lines. The above schedule is subject matter to change as more games become available, but these are the eight teams that are most difficult to predict based on their current performance. Teams that are dominant on the road may be due for a letdown at home because of the easier competition they face away from their ballpark. Conversely, some teams may have a breakout game on the road that they don’t necessarily follow at home because of the loud crowd noise and more attention to detail that comes with the location.

Tough games to predict are great for gamblers because they help you form a strategy. You may have a team you think is due for a big game, but until they actually play the role of the underdog, it’s hard to know which ones are going to take it to the opposition and which ones are going to lay down.