There are several advantages to betting baseball totals, also known as the Over/Under. One is that the sports betting odds and betting lines are always close to even-money, such as 8.5 Over (-115). Another is that most action goes on the favorite team or the underdog, with less action on totals. That means Over/Under lines won't move as much as the favorite. MLB totals that do move significantly are often a result of a sharp moneyline bet coming in, which other savvy betting pros - like yours truly - will take note of and use to their advantage. Still, another is that you don't always have to wait until the game is over to feel you've picked the winner and win the game. Betting OVER 8 runs in a game that's 5-4 in the sixth means you've already won. Even if it's 4-4, you've won, as the game won't end in a tie. As a leading handicapper in the online sports betting industry for over two decades, I know all the MLB daily ins and outs of identifying winning totals.

Baseball totals are generally in the 7-to-9 range. Roughly 30% of all MLB games end with a total final score of those three numbers: 7 (11.3%), 8 (7.7%), and 9 (10.3%).

You'll notice that fewer games end with 8 runs than with 7 or 9. There's a reason for that. A game that is tied 3-3 or 4-4 late can't end in a tie. At least one more run will be scored, so the difference between betting 7 and 7.5 is significant. The same rule applies to betting 9 or 9.5. The handicapping element comes in by sifting through the matchup to determine if it's likely to be a lower-scoring game than the oddsmakers think or a higher-scoring one. Only 6.6% of baseball games end up with a total of 10 runs scored. So you might conclude, "Wager UNDER every total of 10 or more!" Not so fast. The oddsmakers make mistakes, but they're not dummies. If a total is 10 or more, the oddsmakers have multiple reasons why, such as two strong offensive MLB teams, at least one crummy starting pitcher, or the wind is expected to be blowing out in a hitter-friendly park.

The Great American Ballparks

Let's take a peek at some of the parks and how they factor into handicapping totals. The Texas Rangers and Cincinnati Reds play in small, hitter-friendly parks that are tough on pitching staffs. On a road trip through the AL East, opposing teams face the same problem in Yankee Stadium or Fenway Park. In the National League, Chicago's reputation as the Windy City is so volatile that the Cubs' games often won't even have a posted total until oddsmakers get a clearer picture of whether the wind is blowing in or out at Wrigley. 

Chase Field in Arizona has all kinds of situations that can influence scoring. Most games are played indoors with a retractable roof because of the intense heat, but in April, May, September, and October, the weather can be nice enough to let the air in. In that case, the thin, desert air makes the baseball carry, turning it into a hitter's paradise.

Handicappers analyze matchups for games going OVER the total by looking for any combination of weak starters, tired bullpens, and strong offenses. Conversely, parks in Miami, Kansas City, Atlanta, and the San Francisco Bay Area have large outfields that aid pitchers and are tough on hitters, leading to lower totals.  

MLB Betting Odds, MLB Totals, Matchups, & Weather

Properly handicapping totals in baseball is a balancing act between matchups, the park, and the weather for sportsbook bettors. Matchups are the meat of predicting totals. A pair of above-average starters who don't walk many batters is a good starting point to predict a pitcher's duel. Those starters have a reasonable shot to go 6-to-7 innings in a 2-1 or 3-2 game. By not allowing many free passes, it keeps the pitch count low. That's the only way a pitcher can throw 7-to-8 innings before reaching 90-to-100 pitches, which is when managers will start eyeing whether to go to the bullpen. A hurler who nibbles around the plate or lacks control will hit the 90-pitch mark faster and could be gassed by the fifth or sixth innings. All of that factors into handicapping because the next matchup step for totals is: are the relief staffs good, bad, or ugly, and what innings will they be a factor?

The park dimensions and weather conditions should also be examined. Warm weather is a plus for hitters, while cooler temperatures are a plus for pitchers. And windy conditions work both ways. Swirling winds can negatively affect a pitcher's ability to throw strikes. Walks could be higher than usual, and relief pitchers could be brought in earlier than normal. Wind blowing out helps hitters, while wind blowing in cuts down long fly balls, turning potential home runs into outs. Little to no wind, of course, evens the playing field, so a handicapper reverts to the statistics and matchups.  

On-Base Percentage & Bullpens

Home runs get all the media play, but handicappers focus on On-Base Percentage. OBP is better at gauging offensive capabilities to help predict totals. Walks, singles, and hit-by-pitches may be boring, but clogging the bases is a nightmare for pitchers. A runner on first pulls the first baseman over to protect against steals, which opens more infield room for hitters. Even a harmless fly ball out can score a run with someone on third. And a solo homer becomes a 3-run bomb or a grand slam with men on base. That helps the score - and those who wagered on the OVER.

Getting men on base also forces the starter to throw more pitches, forcing the bullpen to come in early. The "pen may be mightier than the sword," but it's also a key component when wagering on totals. Oddsmakers make totals based on the starters. But a good starter who can only go five innings before turning things over to a below-average bullpen increases the likelihood of more runs being tallied. A deep or lights-out bullpen is a great asset for UNDER bettors to help put a squeeze on runs crossing the plate. Serious baseball handicappers will know what relievers are available and which have to be rested.

Major League Baseball (MLB) Team Totals

Oddsmakers also put up team totals - how many runs will one team score, such as Over/Under 5 or 5.5. The same handicapping rules apply— examining the offensive capabilities, the park, the weather, the opposing starter, and the relief staff—only it's narrowed to one team. A poor offense in a big park facing an above-average pitching staff will likely struggle to score runs. If you're unsure of the total runs scored by both teams, the wagering value may be stronger by examining one team going OVER or UNDER 4 or 5 runs, for instance.

Winning at baseball betting is also about eliminating the uncertainties and zeroing in on the best betting value. That's something I've been doing for over two decades. So if you want to get it and bet it, let a documented wagering expert lead the way.

 

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