mlb betting: Uncover the Strategies Behind the best baseball bets today

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Understanding Today’s Baseball Betting Landscape and wagering opportunities

I was fortunate enough to recall a time when baseball betting was ‘easy’. When I started to document my plays in 2018, I used a very basic power-ranking-based model to run my numbers, and I quickly found four to five 5%+ edges that all got a ton of CLV and ended up dominating.

I didn’t have to look at finalized lineups, bullpen usage, or advanced pitch metrics, and I could get away with barely looking at the weather or some of the core expected metrics.

These times are mostly over. Sportsbooks have gotten much better at setting initial afternoon openers (for the next day’s games), which makes you sweat even if you want to beat the low opening limits. If you give them a few more hours, you are mostly looking at a handful of 1-2% edges.

Looking at totals, I believe that the edges are slightly higher compared to full-game sides, but you will have to factor in a bunch of extra things, and you have to adjust way more during the season (to heat, potential changes to the ball, approach of the pitchers, etc.). You can decide for yourself if this is worth it, but generally speaking, especially if you are a beginner bettor hunting for your best baseball bets today, I’d try to stick to sides.

Player props are an interesting category. While beating those lines requires a lot of work compared to the two categories above, the juice is worth the squeeze (if you are okay with having to place your bets at multiple shops due to the generally low MLB prop limits), as batter and pitcher props can easily net you a 10%+ ROI throughout the season.

I also need to mention future/outright bets, as those markets move relatively slowly and can be profitable even during the season. If you don’t mind locking up a portion of your bankroll for 6+ months, outright bets can generate a similar expected ROI to MLB props with just a fraction of the time invested.

If you’re pressed for time, consider tailing my picks directly, and I’ll handle the research for you. If you want to get into setting your own lines, I’ll try to offer an approach on this page related to the various MLB betting markets and share a few useful resources. For direct access to my top picks, click here.

An image of an MLB stadium for the Best Baseball Bets Today article of The Barrel Zone website.

Betting On Sides

Betting on sides is probably the easiest thing out there, and you can still get away by using a very basic Excel table / Google Sheets and widely available projected standings to generate per/game win probabilities if you bet early enough. Obviously, this is not the toolkit that will take you far if you are betting on baseball games before the first pitch, but it can get it done if you can place bets early.

Even at the most basic level, you will need to adjust for home field advantage, the starting pitcher’s quality, and the bullpen’s quality. I’d definitely use one of the ‘predictive ERA metrics’. When I was starting out, I primarily used SIERA, and it worked really well; I still believe it is a decent enough overall metric for pitchers. You can also easily find projections fueled by relatively advanced stuff, like Stuff+, as Eno Sarris regularly shares links to his Google Sheet where pitcher projections get constantly updated. Some very valuable data, in my opinion.

The next step would be adjusting to injuries/lineups. For this, you can use any metric that can tell you something meaningful about the player’s quality and what the team will lose by not having him available. The most straightforward and widely available metric to use is WAR, and again, it is good enough to build a basic model capable of building early lines. Building your own basic model based on just player WAR-fueled projections is also not too difficult, and then you will need to barely rely on third-party updates to keep it updated.

Adjusting to lineups is a tricky proposition. If you are just starting out and have a pretty basic model, I’d rather take the upside of betting early into a market that has not settled yet, over betting into an already efficient market. Obviously, if Mike Trout decides to sit out a game, betting after the lineups can give you a significant edge, but in most cases (as stars tend to play most games) I believe you are better off using expected lineups at daily fantasy sports sites of your preference. Here is one that I prefer: https://www.fantasylabs.com/mlb/lineups/, but this also works: https://www.rotowire.com/baseball/projections-daily.php.

As a side note, I used to experiment with factoring in player pricing of Daily Fantasy Sports sites, and while I haven’t found them to be that efficient, there are occasions when one of the two big sites (mostly DraftKings) nails the pricing of a pitcher that the betting market sleeps on. To this day, I still pull in starting pitcher pricing from DK and FD, just to see what their algo thinks about them.

Blue baseball glove

Bullpen usage should ideally – on a more advanced level – be exported from game logs, but there are webpages out there that give you a pretty good idea about the usage of each bullpen arm (although these don’t get updated as often as you would need, which can be pretty frustrating down the line). Make sure to check the tendencies of how each team uses its key arms and try to guess who will be available. A lot of the bullpens in 2024 are extremely top-heavy, and the difference can be night and day.

Once you have built something, make sure to at least give it a few weeks-long trial run before you start risking real money on your own projections (I’m not going to go into backtesting here, as it is not within the scope of this page). Pinnacle’s closing lines are widely available, and if you adjust to everything mentioned above, they should be – in most cases – within a few cents of your projections.

A Quick Look Into MLB Totals

This will be a quick section, as I wouldn’t advise anyone starting out to focus on totals as a beginner. The extra things you need to take into account are just not worth the slightly higher return on investment, in my opinion. Totals also move much quicker than sides (due to the – usually – lower limits), so it is very easy to miss the small initial edges. Also, I’m not the best authority to talk about totals as they represent maybe 2-3% of my total betting volume.

The first main difference versus a basic win percentage model is that for this exercise, you cannot get away with using win probabilities anymore, as you need to create score predictions, forecasting the number of runs a team will score. For this, optimally you will need to project every player’s performance separately (and if you do that, you are better off focusing on player props anyways, unless you are betting 5K+ per unit) and then project the lineup against the other team, factoring in the other team’s run-prevention capabilities as well.

Measuring defense is also not an easy thing, as – in my opinion – different metrics work better for the infield and for the outfield. MLB park factors are easy to adjust to, and you can find pretty decent cheap resources for projecting the effects of the weather.

Red and blue baseball glove and ball

MLB Prop Bets

MLB props, particularly strikeout props, are some of my favorite opportunities on the board. I’ve always been a fan of quality pitching and enjoy exploring new metrics that measure pitch and pitcher quality. You don’t need to be a betting expert or use metrics like iVB or HAVAA to forecast strikeouts, but it’s important to understand what makes someone a good pitcher. When it comes to projections, you can easily access data on expected lineups’ K-rates (ensure you use a large enough sample size, but focus on fresh data as batters often significantly reduce their strikeout rates between seasons) against each handedness.

As for pitchers, I prefer to consider metrics like called strikes + whiffs, which provide insights into their ability to both miss bats and throw strikes. You can make your model more infinitely more complex by breaking things down to a pitch level and examining how each pitch in a pitcher’s repertoire performs in terms of generating swings and misses or called strikes. Additionally, you can check historical data to see how opposing players fare against specific pitch mixes thrown from the specific side, although this is more for fun rather than being highly predictive.

Even if you’re a total beginner interested in strikeout props, I recommend reading and listening to Nick Pollack’s daily content, especially his roundups where he reviews the performance of every starting pitcher from the previous day. Nick and his articles are usually the first publicly available resources to point out any unusual pitcher behavior (also, Adam Burke of VSiN also has a great eye for this). Pitchers get injured frequently, and there are reliable indicators beyond velocity and spin rate that suggest something is wrong, which Nick has a keen eye for. Even in 2023, I successfully faded multiple pitchers for weeks simply because he noticed something was off long before the pitcher was placed on the injured list.

Once you have a K-rate projection, compare your results with a few sources that provide MLB DFS projections. You should be close enough. Although sportsbooks’ MLB prop lines have significantly improved in recent years, they are still more beatable than sides and totals. The only downside is that these markets are very small, and placing a maximum bet on Pinnacle will likely prevent you from re-betting your MLB picks at a favorable price.

This is why strikeouts are the only bets I usually place on soft books that don’t affect the market, not just to hide my position and preserve value for my subscribers, but also because platforms like DraftKings, FanDuel, Caesars, and BetMGM often offer lines that are 20-30 cents better than Pinnacle, resulting in substantial edges. If you’re interested in the strikeout props I’m betting on, you can join my Discord server here and receive all my baseball picks via push notifications on your phone.

Of course, there is a wide range of further props available at online sportsbooks throughout the baseball season. While I’m not sharing betting tips for batter props, if you want to dive into that category, I’d suggest sticking to hits or total bases, as those have much lower variance than, say, home run props.

Futures / Outright Bets – Probably Your Best Baseball Bets Today

Outright positions are something you should definitely dive into if you have the bankroll to fund them. I know some bettors who have several positions on every available MLB future market every season, at multiple sportsbooks. Markets like win totals can easily give you an ROI that matches your results when grinding prop bets, but without needing to dive as deep into baseball betting. Also, there are more and more outright markets popping up every year, and boy, there are some big edges out there.

Even on the most basic market, Major League Baseball team win totals, you should find 8-10 edges if you are ready with your projections early. I’d personally suggest having your team power rankings/win total projections ready by January. Yes, there will be a few key moves happening after, and there is Spring Training happening where we will all be smarter (you can and still should adjust your numbers post-ST), but I believe you are losing more by giving the books more time to adjust their lines by not acting early.

Those few signings that might happen during this time could end up being insignificant, to be totally honest. You can also anticipate which teams might have the budgets to pull these moves off, and if you already like their over, there is no reason to stay off them. The only thing I’d suggest being aware of is that teams that project to be bad but still have players that are not tied to the franchise tend to be pretty active at offloading cargo at the trade deadline for various assets. A shitty team getting even shittier in July won’t help your team total over in the end.

Other than this, I’d still mainly focus on getting my projections ready early and betting mostly in January and February. Once major projection sites like Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus release their win total projections, sportsbooks tend to move quickly and often. If you want to find a few projections that are up early to compare your numbers to, I’d suggest Clay Davenport’s site, for example, as he has his projections online through the whole year.

Useful Resources

Summary

I start this post by exploring the evolution of baseball betting markets since I started betting. Initially, I used a simple power-ranking-based model to find significant edges, but times have changed. Sportsbooks now set sharper lines, reducing the available edges. I delve into some core concepts for betting on sides, totals, player props, and futures, highlighting the adjustments needed for success in today’s competitive landscape. For beginners, I recommend focusing on sides due to their simplicity, while experienced bettors should find more value in player props and futures. Join my Discord for direct access to my best baseball bets today and further insights.

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