Betting Strategies: How to Make Bets on MLB Run Totals

Everyone loves MLB scores with a lot of runs, where players rack up hit after hit and pitchers are coming and going in one after another. The same thing goes for the opposite, a pitcher completely dominating the other team's lineup.

Both outcomes are great for betting on baseball. If a player knows what to look for, they can more accurately predict which of the above two outcomes is more likely. In this article, we go through the basic things that players need to know when betting on baseball run totals.

The real question for bettors is, which type of game will the next one be? Will the run line resemble that of a low-scoring football game or will both teams’ bats fall mostly silent all night? Markets for MLB scores run totals ask this exact question to sports bettors.

One of the most popular bets in baseball especially for sharp bettors. It will almost always be listed on the main line on any US online sportsbook alongside the moneyline and the handicap bets.

How to Bet on Baseball and MLB totals

When you are betting on run totals you are betting on the MLB scores and doing the exact same as with over/under betting in the NFL. The sportsbook here offers the player an opportunity to determine whether the total number of runs between two teams will be higher or lower than the given number.

Just like any bet, there are certain strategies and things to understand about this market before making these wagers.  

  • Who are the next game's starting pitchers
  • Do the team's lineups feature home run hitters or do they play more small ball
  • Are there any injuries to pitchers or hitters
  • Will the game be played with (NL) or without (AL) a DH

The most important starting point here is that each possible number of total runs for most sports has a certain “frequency”, or how often the total final score of any given game will be a certain number. For the NFL, the magic number is usually around 45.

Statistics taken from hundreds of thousands of MLB games give an important insight that can be used when betting on baseball run totals. Unfortunately, the chart actually may turn some people off from making such wagers. 

This is because between ten different numbers, the change in their frequency is extremely minimal.  The number four has the lowest frequency only appearing in about 4.8% of games, while the number with the highest frequency (seven) only appears in 11.3% of games.

When you factor in the other eight numbers in between, there is not really a lot of variance to help the bettor. This is where the (.5) added to the run line is most crucial.

MLB Scores: Average Run Frequency

( Three runs: 6.17%; Four runs: 4.8%; Five runs: 9.51%; Six runs: 7.2%; Seven runs: 11.3%; Eight runs: 7.65%; Nine runs: 10.3%; Ten runs: 6.55%; 11 runs: 7.65%; 12 runs: 4.9%;...)

Basically, when betting on totals you will have an average of around eight percent for the numbers three through twelve. It is impossible to finish an MLB game as a tie, so the odd numbers will naturally have a higher frequency than the evens.

This is of some importance, as the odd numbers are usually at least two percentage points higher than their even counterparts. 

When we are talking about betting over or under a specific number however, this does not factor in quite as much, as there will be odd numbers on both sides of the provided number. 

We are guessing that most players reading this are not interested in playing a game of roulette when picking the MLB totals.

That means in order to become a successful bettor with run totals, the player will need to focus on a few key factors going into each game. These will help to decide whether the over or the under is your best bet for the next game. 

How MLB Run Line Odds Are Set

There is not a typical straightforward answer to how sportsbooks set their MLB totals. Every sportsbook will have different opinions and methods for how to do this. Odds are done on a one-time basis, meaning that they will be determined by factors in that particular game.

There are a few general factors though, that sportsbooks take into consideration when doing this. With baseball and MLB games, some things are necessary for all sportsbooks to look at when looking to make a profit. Even though MLB games cannot end in a tie, betting on the totals can still tie the sportsbook. When this occurs, it is called a ‘push’.

A push is bad for the sportsbook in a couple of ways. First, he will have to refund the player’s stake back to them. However, the sportsbook will also have to forfeit his margin on the bet.

The sportsbook margin is a built-in profit for the sportsbook that is present in every market. It is the direct reason why bets are not 50-50 even when the chances of each outcome are completely equal. 

To combat this, many sportsbooks will add a fraction of a whole number onto the total number to completely eliminate the possibility of a push. The number seven for instance, would read as 7.5 in the line.

There is no way to tie sportsbooks with this addition, so you will either win or lose your bet. However, some sportsbooks still allow players to make totals bets on whole numbers as well.

Baseball Betting Lines on William Hill Sportsbook

The (.5) makes a massive difference when it comes to baseball totals. Since games cannot end in a draw, if there is a tie in the game you and the sportsbook both know that at least one more run will  need to be added.

If you are given a whole number like seven or nine (the most common totals) to bet on then even if you don’t win the bet there is a good chance the total will at least land on that number, earning you a full refund. Not too bad.

The oddsmakers know that the amount of betting on each side however will likely not be equal. There will be an option that looks more likely or that the public are more inclined to take for whatever reason. 

Sportsbooks will need to pay attention to which way the bets are going so they can appropriately adjust their odds. Most MLB run totals bets will be equal, with odds of -110 on both sides.

Additional Betting Factors on MLB Games

The player will want to look for essentially the same thing as the sportsbook is seeing. There are a few things that can give you the same type of predictive understanding of a game that the sportsbook itself is gaining. This can be done by looking for a few key things.

Knowing who the umpire is will give you a clearer understanding of what to expect in terms of some other statistics. The decisions umpires make play a consistent, integral part of the game. Larger strike zones can lead to more strikeouts and less walks for the opposing team. 

Another quick statistic the player can look at is the stadium the game will be played in. Some stadiums are notorious havens for home runs while others overwhelmingly support pitchers. The stadiums both notorious for giving advantages to pitchers and batters alike rarely change. 

MLB stadiums with the highest average of runs scored (2019)

MLB Stadiums

Avg. Runs Scored

Avg. Home Runs

Avg. Hits

Coors Field (Colorado Rockies)

1,394

1,266

1,300

Global Life Park (Texas Rangers)

1,245

1,602

1,142

Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers)

1,107

1,086

1,111

Nationals Park (Washington Nationals)

1,101

1,267

1,097

Oriole Park at Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles)

1,088

1,262

1063

MLB stadiums with the lowest average of runs scored (2019)

MLB Stadiums

Avg. Runs Scored

Avg. Home Runs

Avg. Hits

Oracle Park (San Francisco Giants)

0,798

0,691

0,941

Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees)

0,816

0,865

0,880

Petco Park (San Diego Padres)

0,860

0,871

0,908

Oakland Coliseum (Oakland Athletics)

0,887

0,854

0,954

Citi Field (Ney York Mets)

0,891

1,000

0,889

Among the other things that players can look at include the teams’ lineup strength and the weather. The weather can affect the score of a baseball game in multiple. In general, baseballs will travel further in warm weather than in cold due to a lower density.

Wind blowing out means that both the pitcher is throwing against the wind and that balls hit will travel further. When looking at which number is the standard for your bet, the first factor the player must look at is the quality of pitchers that will be starting the game for each team.

The pitchers are the most important aspect of a baseball game behind the catchers. If two dominant pitchers are competing against each other than it is likely that the game will feature fewer runs.

Betting Trends for MLB Games: Public Opinion

Another thing players should be readily able to do is to read the line and figure out which way the majority of the public are betting. SportsInsights was able to track bets made on the moneyline and totals from seven popular sites dating back to 2005.

After analyzing approximately 30,000 games, they were able to determine that public betting does not move the lines due to a low volume of bets placed on run totals. However, in extreme cases advantages can be found. Players should be ready to use this when the opportunity arises.

When there are less than 20% of of the public backing an over or under, that is the time for the player to strike.Players should be ready to use this whenever possible. When there are less than 20% of of the public backing an over or under, it presents an ideal situation for players.

Out of all the plays made in this situation, fading (betting on the opposite) when more than 80% of the public has taken one of the options has led to a win rate higher than 50% for both overs and under.

Important to note that this method is directly affected by the volume of bets on a particular market, meaning this strategy will work even better with more popular competitions. 

MLB Scores and Run Line Betting Conclusion

Totals bets in the MLB and baseball in general are a solid route to take even with just a basic understanding of America’s national pastime.

That being said, the better a player is able to understand the mechanics behind these markets and what drives them the more successful they will be over the long run.

Like any other markets put forward by sportsbooks, there are many factors that go into both creating them and finding appealing ones.

By learning to find major statistics like starting pitchers and lineup strength and combining them with a keen eye for spotting trends in the odds, you should be able to add MLB totals betting to your lineup in no time!

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