In the MLB betting industry, run lines are becoming more and more popular as people begin to familiarize themselves with the concept. The most common way to bet on games is with the money line, however, fairly recently sportsbooks started offering something they call the run line to their customers.
If you bet on football or basketball, the run line is most easily understood as a point spread for baseball games. The biggest difference being that the run line is always set with the favorite at -1.5 runs and the underdog set at +1.5 runs.
Bettors normally look to run lines when they are faced with taking a huge favorites. Your average bettor simply doesn’t want to lay -200 or -300 on a favorite because the risk is so large, so they lay the extra -1.5, which gives them better odds in terms of how much they have to risk, but also lowers their chances of winning. It’s all a matter of perception. At first look, how much better does the run line look to you based on these hypothetical MLB lines:
Obviously, the -1.5 (-135) is more attractive to your average bettor, after all, if the Yankees are so heavily favored, they should win by at least 2 runs, right? Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case because a significant amount of Major League Baseball games are decided by just one run. In fact, over the past several years, one-run games have occurred in about 27% of all baseball games, and the team winning by one run isn’t always going to be the favorite!
Another thing to consider when betting on the run line is that the home team is most often going to be the heavy favorite in these matchups. This can hurt bettors because, if up by just one run, the home team won’t bat in the bottom of the 9th inning, giving you one less half-inning for them to score runs. Not only that, but if the home team comes from behind in the bottom of the 9th or extra innings, they are almost always going to win by just the one run, leaving run line bettors out in the cold.
You can also take the run line on the underdog at +1.5 in MLB games, but you will pay a pretty steep price for it. Here is an example of what the odds would look like for an underdog at +1.5:
As you can see, you pay a hefty price for the extra 1.5 runs. There are plenty of handicappers that will take these types of run lines on occasion, but it is definitely not a regular bet.
Always remember to check the total (over/under) before taking a team on the run line. Just think about it, if a total is set for just 7 runs, the sportsbook is expecting a low-scoring game, which is not a good situation for taking a favorite on the run line. On the flip side, if you see at total at 11.5, and have a good read on a heavily favored team, you might be wise to take them on the run line at the discounted price.