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Betting 101: The basics of baseball prop betting

MLB Bets

Like all sports, there are a number of ways to bet on baseball presents. Some of the most popular ways are betting on the moneyline, the over/under game total or the runline. When a sportsbook releases these numbers, a ton of factors and research goes into them to put out odds they feel will generate action.

However, one of the most exploitable ways to win over the book can be through prop bets. Today, we’ll look at some of the ways and strategies to get into prop betting and how it can turn into a potential profitable endeavor. 

Prop bets explained

So, what exactly is a prop bet? It’s a very specific bet for a short- or long-term event. Sports have a number of ways you can take advantage of props bet but they fall under either a short- or long-term category. Here are examples of both:

Short-term prop bets:

  • “How many hits will Anthony Rizzo have vs. Reds on June 6th? 
    Over 1.5 (+120)
    Under 1.5 (-130)
  • “How many strikeouts will Gerrit Cole have vs. the Red Sox on June 6th?”
    Over 8.5 (-110)
    Under 8.5 (+120)

Long-term prop bets:

  • “Who will win the American League East?”
  • New York Yankees -250
  • Boston Red Sox +225
  • Tampa Bay Rays +800
  • Toronto Blue Jays +3500
  • Baltimore Orioles +20000
  • How many strikeouts will Walker Buehler have in the 2020 season?”
  • Over 205.5 (-110)
  • Under 205.5 (-110)

As shown, these questions will either be followed by an over/under total or a multiple-choice selection. It's always important to weigh the odds and outcomes to decide if this is a bet that can potentially make you money. Too many times, people will jump on bets even at huge odds because it feels like a sure thing. Baseball can be one of the most unpredictable sports and the peaks and valleys will be massive at times. 

Short-term prop bets

Taking advantage of short-term props is one of the strongest ways to exploit a particular matchup. If you’re someone who plays daily fantasy baseball regularly, prop betting is an avenue you should pick up quickly. If you’re identifying players who perform well in a particular matchup, you could also find advantages in the prop market. For this example, we’ll use a matchup between the Brewers and Reds at Great American Ballpark. Anthony DeSclafani will be pitching for the Reds in this scenario.

DeSclafani has notoriously struggled against left-handed hitters. In 2019, 17 of the 29 home runs DeSclafani allowed were to lefties, and those made much stronger contact at 44.8%. With this matchup taking place at a hitter-friendly ballpark, we see even further that lefties hit nine of those 17 home runs in Cincinnati. With struggles like that, it would be wise to consider some of the totals your sportsbook lists for the Brewers left-handed bats.

On the flip side, DeSclafani pitches extremely tough to righties. Of the 15 home runs DeSclafani allowed at home, only six were to righties, who put together a 36.2% hard-hit rate. With the idea that DeSclafani is much stronger against righties, taking the under on some of the right-handed bats totals could be to our advantage.

This type of research and thought process could prove to be a fruitful strategy for betting props. Be mindful, all bets are not created equal and a lot of factors should be considered. For example, does a team have a strong or weak bullpen? Where is the game taking place? Could a player be subbed out if a pitching change is made? As you get used to props and knowing players strengths and weaknesses, you’ll learn that these type of bets present another potential way to help build your bankroll.

Long-term prop bets

These are bets that allow you to predict an outcome, usually over an extended period of time. Because of that, the payouts can be much greater. These bets can also be known as a “futures bet.” For this example, we’ll be using the American League East winner. 

New York Yankees -250
Boston Red Sox +225
Tampa Bay Rays +800
Toronto Blue Jays +3500
Baltimore Orioles +20000

As the odds show, the Yankees are big favorites to win the division, as indicated by the (-250) odds. For a bettor to win $100, they would need to place a bet of $250. As you go down the list, the potential ROI grows but the likelihood of the outcome lessens. 

As the season progresses, you’ll see these odds change as well. As more information is available and team records begin to form, it’s easier to distinguish what the outcome will be. Let’s say, for example, the Yankees got out to a hot start in April and went 17-9. You would see these odds shift, favoring the Yankees even more while the other teams shift. Choosing the right time to take particular odds are nearly impossible to predict due to injuries or trades but can truly sway your potential winnings. Once news begins to break on injuries or trades, you better believe the market is always reacting. It’s always better to be first to the party rather than last in the betting world. 

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