MLB Odds: How In-Game Betting Adds Value, Entertainment To Baseball

Live data provides ample value even after the first pitch is thrown


July 29

I’m convinced that people who say baseball is boring have never bet on the sport. Not only can you wager on sides and totals, but you have a plethora of game and player prop markets to choose from pregame.

Even better, you have nine-plus innings of even more options with in-game bets. You can bet on the outcome of a player’s next plate appearance, player hits, RBI, total bases, and that’s in addition to the traditional side and totals.

Live betting provides endless opportunities to find value. You can live bet on any sport but let’s focus on baseball.

When it comes to handicapping baseball, I always start with the starting pitching matchup. For example, if ace Luis Castillo (2.86 ERA) is starting for the Cincinnati Reds and they’re playing the Houston Astros with Jake Odorizzi (4.25 ERA) on the mound, I consider the Reds to have the starting pitcher advantage. There are several more stats and information you should be looking at other than ERA, but we will use it for the sake of the discussion. Even with the Reds’ advantage there, bookmakers are still going to make Houston decent favorites because their offense and bullpen are that much better.

While the pregame research is important, you must keep an eye on how the pitcher and bats are performing. Castillo may be the better pitcher, but he could have an off game (velocity could be lower than usual or he doesn’t have as much movement on his pitches) and you would want to hold off on betting the Reds in that case. Houston may have the better offense, but they could be getting some bad luck. For example, the Astros could consistently be making great contact on Castillo’s pitches, but the balls are going right at the Reds defenders. Yes, Castillo is expected to perform well, but if hitters are seeing the ball well, those balls should find holes eventually.

That’s what is great about live betting. There are websites (like Baseball Savant) that give you a ton of detailed live information from the pitcher’s velocity to the team’s expected batting average, which may different from pregame projections. You can even see how many swings and misses a pitcher has for each of his pitches, an indication as to whether a pitcher has his best stuff that day.

The pitching breakdown doesn’t stop there though; you can’t forget about the bullpens. The Reds may have the better pitcher on the bump to start the game, but their 5.21 bullpen ERA is the highest in baseball. Houston has the best bullpen in baseball, with an ERA of 2.75. The Astros have the pitching advantage once the relievers take over. Why does this matter for live betting? Let’s say the Reds take a 4-0 lead in the fifth inning. If you liked the Houston pregame, the moneyline was likely too juicy to find value. At this point, in the fifth inning down four with Cincinnati coming up to bat, you’re able to get Houston on the run line likely around +4.5 without too much juice.

Even though the game is more than halfway through, this is where Houston’s biggest advantage begins. Getting what was a heavy favorite at +4.5 runs, knowing its offense is making good contact and knowing it has the better bullpen is enough to think the Astros could cut that lead or even win the game. That’s live value.

The line on a team batting will always be shaded higher than the pitching team because they are in a position to score. This is why you’ll see live betting odds fluctuate from the top half of the inning to the bottom half.

Remember, baseball is one of the toughest sports to handicap because of the hundreds of factors involved in the game. Just because Houston has a better bullpen and offense doesn’t mean both are guaranteed to show up, but it’s likely at least one of them does and you’re getting them at a good price.

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