Whether it is baseball betting or any other sport, most bettors know about the spread, the total, and the money line. But, do you know the difference? The concept of a spread is pretty easy to figure out. To borrow a term from golf or bowling, the spread is a “handicap” on the worse team in a matchup. The spread is designed to bridge the gap between the two teams and then the sportsbooks will move that number around in hopes of balancing action on both sides.
Take a game against the New England Patriots and the Cleveland Browns. If all you had to do was pick the team you liked to win, sportsbooks would be extremely one-sided with Patriots bets. The sportsbooks in the business of making money, just like all of us bettors are, so they apply a spread to the game. For example, the Patriots might be a 10-point favorite over the Browns. That 10-point handicap is put in to level the proverbial playing field for both teams and also to force bettors to make a decision whether they want to bet on the Patriots to win by 11 or more or the Browns to win the game or lose by nine or fewer points.

How Money Line Betting Fiffers From the Point Spread

The most common betting option in baseball is a lot different. It is called a money line. Instead of taking away or adding runs to a team like the spread does in terms of points, the odds on the money are how sportsbooks level out the two teams.
Let’s take the 2018 World Series champion Boston Red Sox against the worst team in baseball from that season, the Baltimore Orioles. If all you had to do was pick the Red Sox to win, betting would be so easy! However, in order to bet the Red Sox to win, you might have to lay odds of -250. What that means is that you would have to bet $250 to win $100 profit. The Orioles, on the other hand, might be an underdog at +230, which means that you would win $230 profit on a $100 bet.

How do Oddsmakers Come Up with These Numbers?

Money lines are correlated to a percentage of implied probability.
  • For example, a -150 favorite would equate to a 60 percent implied probability of winning the game.
  • A -300 percent favorite would equate to a 75 percent implied probability of winning the game.
  • A +120 underdog would have an implied probability of 45.45 percent of winning the game.
  • A +200 underdog would have an implied probability of 33.33 percent of winning the game.
Most sportsbooks use 15-cent lines or 20-cent lines for baseball because that’s how the sportsbooks hope to make money. The bigger the difference in odds between favorite and underdog, the higher the theoretical hold percentage is. They hope to balance action as much as possible and that’s why spreads are added to football and basketball lines and why “juice” or “vig” is added to a money line. The hope for the sportsbooks is that the odds adjustments for better teams and worse teams is enough to balance the action into a favorable spot for the books. As bets are placed on both sides of a game, risk managers change the odds on the money line. In the above example, if there more wagers and more money on the Red Sox, the odds may go from -250 to -275 in hopes of enticing people to bet the money line on the other side. If that move to -275 doesn’t work, the odds may move to -300.

Final Thoughts on Betting MLB Money Lines

Money line betting requires a little bit different of a mentality. Playing a standard spread bet with -110 vig is different than playing a money line bet with -150 or higher juice. The break-even mark at -110 is 52.38 percent, but consistently playing -150 favorites would require a 60 percent success rate to break even. Just keep that in mind and about the importance of shopping around for the best prices on all money line bets just like you would for the spread.