Major League Baseball is the oldest of the US' four major sports leagues but is now on the forefront of modern day gambling, as it is one of the most wagered sports in the world, let alone America.
Major League Baseball, the top league when it comes to baseball betting, takes center stage in the American sports landscape from spring through the summer months until it all culminates with the Fall Classic, the World Series. The grueling 162-game season means almost every night provides opportunities to bet on America's past time. 30 teams are in the league with 15 in the American League and 15 in the National League, with 3 divisions in a league.
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MLB money lines are based on positive and negative figures and indicate how much money a better must wager to win NZ$100 or how much a NZ$100 bet would win. Negative numbers indicate how much you must bet to win NZ$100. For example, if Boston has a money line of -140 it means you must bet NZ$140 to win NZ$100.
Positive numbers indicate how much you'd win from a NZ$100 bet. So if Baltimore has a money line of +160, it would mean a win of NZ$160 on a NZ$100 bet. To work out how much you'd win on a different bet amount, you just have to scale the figure up or down proportionally. So a NZ$1 bet at -140 would pay out NZ$1.40.
Betting the totals involves betting how many runs will be scored in a single game by both teams combined. If Boston and Baltimore are playing each other with an over/under set at 8.0, you would be betting on whether or not the teams would score 8.0 runs combined, with the opportunity to double up your bet if you are correct.
Futures bets involve season-long goals for both teams and players. These can be bets on whether a team will win the World Series, the American or National League title, a Division Series title, a Division title or make one of the two Wild Card positions in each league.
Bets can also be made on whether players will win the Most Valuable Player award for each league or Cy Young award given to the best pitcher of each league. Bettors can also wager on whether players will win Gold Glove awards for best fielding by position, Silver Slugger awards for best offensive player by position and which player will hit the most home runs. The odds for these goals shift nearly every day, so timing is everything when placing bets.
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With 2,430 regular-season games played every season, there are a multitude of chances to bet on baseball from April to early October. The timing of these games can play a huge role on the outcome as teams with division titles locked up could rest players, and teams in the playoff hunt could face increased amounts of pressure.
The "spoiler" factor in which a team that has no stake in the postseason may take pride in eliminating another teams' chances is also something to consider as the season progresses. Teams with no pressure can sometimes outdo teams with loads of pressure, as has been seen quite a few times in MLB history in playoff races.
One newer aspect of the game that has led to greater levels of competition is the introduction of the Wild Card Game. Rather than having three division winners and the "Wild Card team" with the best remaining record, it was decided that two teams in each league would play a one-game playoff to determine who takes part in the five-game Divisional Round.
Having a 162-game season come down to one game is both an exciting and completely nerve-wracking proposition, and while it has allowed for more teams to compete for the playoffs, it has put a much greater emphasis on winning your division, which has been great for maintaining a consistent level of competition throughout the year.
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Streaks and Slumps | It's often joked that star batters only need to get a hit "30 percent of the time," as batting above or around .300 is considered a threshold for consistent success and often a benchmark for All-Star status (more on baseball stats here). With that in mind, many players do not bat .300, so it's important to consider slumps and hot bats when picking teams. Some players tend to start every season in slumps and get up to speed as the season progresses. If a team's star is in the midst of a slump, that should put them at a disadvantage until they are able to break out of that slump. Likewise for pitchers who may have put up a few bad performances, or might be currently overperforming or on a hot streak. With so many games over the course of the season, individual slumps and hot streaks are pivotal when picking, as season-long consistency is often an exception and not the norm.
Pitching Depth | Generally teams with deep pitching rotations tend to do well over the course of a season. A pretty good rule of thumb when picking strength against strength is that the best pitching can often neutralize the best hitting. Teams that are solid in both regards are obviously solid bets. However, at times teams that struggle offensively but have strong pitching can defeat offensively powerful teams by playing "small ball," which means stringing together a few hits with smart baserunning to "manufacture" enough runs to win.
Pitching Matchups | A day in which two "aces," or top pitchers, for each team square off might be considered a pitchers' duel and therefore be a low-scoring affair. These would be solid times to consider the under bet for total runs scored. Oftentimes throughout the season mismatches with middle-of-the-rotation starters against aces will often provide a good idea of teams to bet on.
Pitching Matchups v Lineups | When analyzing an upcoming game, it's beneficial to look at how a particular pitcher has matched up historically with batters in the lineup they'll be facing. Some pitchers dominate some lineups, while likewise some batters do better than anyone else against a particular pitcher. When a lineup is facing a pitcher for the first time, particularly during an MLB debut for the pitcher, it can be difficult for hitters to know what to expect and lead to a day of struggling at the plate.
Young Rosters vs. Old | Older players tend to be easier to predict than younger players, and younger teams have a greater upside than teams full of veterans. A young roster with breakout candidates can have a much higher ceiling for example because of a lack of expectations, whereas older players often carry expectations due to past performances and tend to trend downwards in terms of production as they edge closer to retirement. This is not always the case, as a good blend of young and old players can prop up older players by giving them protection in lineups and alleviating individual pressure.
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Rubber Games | Most series are three games long and a "series win" is a common goal for most teams throughout the season. Some series are four games, some are only two. In the standard three-game format, the final game of a 1-1 split is referred to as a "rubber match," which will determine the winner of the series. This will often bring out a higher level of effort in both teams due to the short-term goal. Likewise, a team with a 0-2 series deficit will often look to avoid being swept, if not for optics than anything else. With this in mind, a team down 0-2 might be a more solid bet than the team in position to sweep.
Strength of Division | The strength of a particular division from top to bottom is both assumed at the beginning of a season based on the previous season and evolves throughout the season. Divisions in which two or more large markets with big spenders compete, such as the AL East (Yankees, Red Sox) and NL Central (Cubs, Cardinals) are often assumed to be ultra competitive given the fact that there can only be one division winner and two Wild Card spots in each league.
Rivalries | Baseball rivalries run as deep or deeper than rivalries in any other American sport. The New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have the most pronounced rivalry maybe in all of sports, and their games each season bring an extra level of drama no matter which side is perceived as better. The Chicago Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals are the next closest in terms of passion and are considered the biggest rivals in the National League. Some other big time rivalries include the San Francisco Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros and Texas Rangers. Some interleague rivalries that take place within the same city include the Subway Series (New York Yankees vs. New York Mets) and the Crosstown Classic (Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago White Sox).
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