Welcome to MLB Picks, a hub for the latest odds and select picks for every day of the upcoming 2020 MLB regular season and subsequent postseason. This year’s 60-game campaign presents a number of interesting considerations for MLB bettors. Variance could have greater prominence than usual due to the condensed sample. Additionally, the very reason for the abbreviated slate – the COVID-19 pandemic – could certainly become a disruptive force at any point by taking multiple key players out of the equation for weeks at a time.
Consequently, keeping up with the latest player news and betting trends will be even more critical than usual. MLB Picks will not only provide live odds from leading regulated sportsbooks across the U.S., but also spotlight the best promotions offered by these operators. Bettors of varying experience levels can familiarize themselves with different wagering options available at regulated sportsbooks and examples of how payouts for various bets work in this very section.
Best Bets for Friday, September 18
New York Yankees at Boston Red Sox
Jordan Montgomery (NYY) (2-2, 4.76 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (BOS) (3-4, 4.33 ERA)
Montgomery has a shaky won-loss mark and slightly elevated ERA, but he’s performed well both times he’s faced the Red Sox. Montgomery has allowed just two earned runs across 9.1 innings while posting an 8:1 K:BB against Boston. The Red Sox have been hitting left-handers well of late and Fenway Park is always a dangerous environment for southpaws, so Montgomery will have a challenge on his hands. Nevertheless, he can likely bank on some of the best run support this side of the Dodgers.
Perez has quite the tall task himself, as he’s catching a Yankees squad that’s already given him some trouble at a particularly inopportune time. New York scored a whopping 43 runs over the just-completed three-game set against the Blue Jays and have a rising .339 wOBA versus southpaws thus far in September. Both Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton are back and healthy for the Yanks, naturally making them exponentially more dangerous.
Given the Yankees have much more firepower and the Red Sox bullpen has also struggled, I’m going with a moneyline bet on NY at a surprisingly good price, and a flyer on the Over isn’t out of the question by any means.
The Pick: Yankees moneyline (-190 or better)
The Lean: Over 10.5 runs
Cleveland Indians at Detroit Tigers
Zach Plesac (CLE) (3-2, 2.20 ERA) vs. Michael Fulmer (DET) (0-2, 9.27 ERA)
Plesac had his first hiccup of the season his last time out against the Twins, allowing five runs over seven innings. However, he still sports an excellent 0.78 WHIP, 99.1 percent strand rate, 14.4 percent swinging strike rate and 25.5 percent strikeout rate. Plesac has yet to face the Tigers, but Detroit shapes up as an appealing target for him considering its MLB-low .270 wOBA and -20.6 wRAA, along with its elevated 26.9 percent strikeout rate, against right-handed pitching in September.
Fulmer’s ERA is bad enough, and he accompanies it with a 2.15 WHIP, 4.4 BB/9, 2.8 HR/9 and 65.4 percent strand rate. The Indians have been partly responsible for those numbers, as they’ve touched up Fulmer for eight earned runs on 10 hits across 5.2 innings in two starts, a span during which they’ve belted three home runs. Four likely members of Cleveland’s lineup also have career batting averages of .333 or higher against Fulmer, and the Tigers bullpen, which is likely to be heavily involved in this game, has allowed a 7.34 ERA and AL-high .402 wOBA in September.
The Pick: Indians moneyline (-200 or better)
MLB odds for September 18, 2020
Best MLB betting apps
DraftKings’ meteoric rise in the betting realm has closely paralleled their path to success in daily fantasy sports (DFS) several years prior. Since its August 2018 rollout in New Jersey, DK Sportsbook has quickly expanded its reach across the burgeoning sports betting landscape.
Ahead of the MLB regular season, DK Sportsbook is legal and available to those physically located within the following states:
Additionally, DK Sportsbook is expected to soon be available in Illinois.
Bettors verified by geolocation to be within the boundaries of states where DK Sportsbook is legal can begin the process of opening an account by downloading the DK Sportsbook app to their iOS or Android devices. After providing required information to complete the account creation process, new DK Sportsbook customers can make a deposit and begin wagering immediately.
DK Sportsbook has a generous sign-up bonus offer for new customers that can be worth up to $1,025. New users receive $25 worth of free bets (in $5 increments), a 20% matched bonus on their first deposit worth up to $500 and a Risk-Free Bet up to $500.
DK Sportsbook has been lauded for a user-friendly platform that offers a full array of wagers for a wide variety of sports.
Much like its daily fantasy arch-rival DraftKings, FanDuel was aggressive about entering into the new legalized sports betting realm in 2018. A mere four months after the U.S. Supreme Court repealed PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in May of that year, FanDuel Sportsbook rolled out its online app in New Jersey just as the NFL season kicked off in September.
The Flutter Entertainment-owned operator has subsequently expanded its reach to multiple states:
- New Jersey (origin state)
- West Virginia
Additionally, FD Sportsbook is expected to soon be available in Illinois.
Bettors verified by geolocation within the boundaries of states where FD Sportsbook is legal can begin the process of opening an account by downloading the FD Sportsbook app to their iOS or Android devices. After providing required information to complete the account creation process, new FD Sportsbook customers can make a deposit and begin wagering immediately.
New FD Sportsbook users qualify for a risk-free bet of up to $500 (losing bet refunded in the form of site credits) upon making their initial deposit and corresponding wager.
FD Sportsbook has been lauded for a user-friendly platform that offers a full array of wagers for a wide variety of sports.
BetMGM boasts the gaming pedigree of the MGM brand. Its sports betting reach doesn’t quite yet match that of competitors DraftKings and FanDuel. However, BetMGM is progressively expanding its availability throughout the U.S. The operator is now available in the following states after initially rolling out in New Jersey in summer 2018:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
BetMGM may also soon make its debut in Pennsylvania (retail casino only) and Nevada.
Bettors verified by geolocation within the boundaries of states where BetMGM is legal can begin the process of opening an account by downloading the BetMGM app to their iOS or Android devices. After providing required information to complete the account creation process, new BetMGM customers can make a deposit and begin wagering immediately.
New BetMGM users qualify for a 100% deposit match of up to $500. Bettors must make a minimum deposit of $25 within seven days of signing up to qualify for the offer.
BetMGM offers users a user-friendly interface and offers a full array of wagers for a wide variety of sports.
How to bet on baseball
A moneyline bet is a wager based on what team will win the game outright, irrespective of margin of victory. Moneyline bets are often preferred by inexperienced bettors because of their straightforward nature. Each side of a moneyline bet has its own set of odds attached.
An example of a moneyline wager on an MLB game would be as follows:
The Yankees have -141 moneyline odds as favorites in their Opening Night matchup versus the Nationals. The number indicates a bettor wagering on the Yankees beating the Nationals outright will win at a ratio of $100 for every $141 they bet on New York.
On a winning $10.00 wager on the Yankees, the bettor will realize $7.09 in profit. The total payout will be $17.09 (the original $10 bet amount plus the $7.09).
An over/under bet is a wager based on whether the two teams in a given game will exceed or fall short of the combined number of runs pre-set by oddsmakers. Each side of the bet has its own set of odds attached.
An example of an over/under wager on an MLB game would be as follows:
Say the Giants-Dodgers Opening Night matchup has an over/under total of 7.5 runs. The over carries odds of -117 while the under has -105 odds.
Those numbers indicate a bettor wagering on the combined run total being eight or more — the Over — will win at a ratio of $100 for every $117 wagered if the wager is a winner. Those betting on the final combined score being seven runs or fewer — the Under — will win at a ratio of $100 for every $105 risked if the wager is a winner.
On a $10.00 wager on the Over, the bettor will realize $8.55 in profit. The total payout will be $18.55 (the original $10 bet amount plus the $8.55).
For a $10.00 wager on the Under, the bettor will realize $9.52 in profit. The total payout will be $19.52 (the original $10 bet amount plus the $9.52).
The run line quantifies the predicted margin of victory for the favored team in a game. It is equivalent to the point spread for college or pro football games. Bettors can place a wager on the favored team winning by a margin greater than the run line or the underdog team either losing by less than the run line or winning the game outright. Each side of a run line bet has its own odds attached.
An example of a run line wager on an MLB game would be as follows:
Say a Phillies-Marlins matchup has a projected margin of victory for Philadelphia of 1.5 runs. That advantage is denoted by a run line listing of -1.5 for the Phillies at odds of -115 and +1.5 for the Marlins at odds of +105.
Those numbers indicate a bettor wagering on the Phillies will win at a ratio of $100 for every $115 risked if Philadelphia wins the game by two or more runs. Those betting on the Marlins beating the run line will win at a ratio of $105 for every $100 wagered if Miami losses by one run or wins the game outright.
On a winning $10.00 wager on the Phillies, the bettor will realize $8.70 in profit. The total payout will be $18.70 (the original $10 bet amount plus the $8.70).
On a winning $10.00 wager on the Marlins, the bettor will realize $10.50 in profit. The total payout will be $20.50 (the original $10 bet amount plus the $10.50).
Prop bets are wagers based on whether a team or individual player will exceed or fall short of a statistical milestone pre-set by oddsmakers. There are an extensive amount of prop bets that operators may make available for any given game.
An example of an MLB player-based prop bet would be as follows: An operator offers a prop bet based on whether the Yankees’ Gleyber Torres will record at least two hits in New York’s Opening Night matchup versus the Nationals. The wager carries hypothetical odds of +200.
Torres then goes 3-for-4 in the game. Those who placed a bet on the prop will double their money, winning at a ratio of $200 for every $100 they wagered.
Futures bets are wagers typically based on an end-of-season result. Like prop bets, futures bets can be offered at both the player and team level. Futures bets can be based on a variety of accomplishments, such as end-of-year awards (Rookie of the Year, Comeback Player of the Year, MVP, etc.) for players.
Futures bets can also be tied into team-related milestones. For example, say an operator offers +225 odds on the Chicago Cubs winning the National League Central in 2020. Those placing a wager on the Cubs will win at a ratio of $225 for every $100 they bet if Chicago indeed captures the division crown.
Live betting refers to wagers that can be placed on bet types such as the moneyline, run line or over/unders after a game has started. Live betting odds can and do fluctuate while play unfolds, depending on the circumstances within a game. For example, a pregame favorite could conceivably become an underdog for betting purposes at some point if they fall behind by a significant enough margin once play begins.
An example of an MLB live betting scenario is as follows:
Say the Yankees enter a game versus the Red Sox as -120 moneyline favorites. However, Boston erupts for six runs over the first three innings and takes a 6-0 lead into the fourth. At that point, with the game nearing its halfway point and New York already into its bullpen, the Yankees may now have flipped to +180 underdogs.
Staying with the same game, suppose New York was a -1.5 run line favorite prior to the game. Following the early-game meltdown, the Yanks could instead be listed at +2.5 underdogs heading into the fourth frame.
Advanced MLB betting strategies
Fading the public
A strategy that can prove profitable if used prudently is that of fading the public. As the term implies, fading the public entails bucking what appears to be the majority’s thinking. The implied advantage to this approach is that the house often gets the better of the betting public. Consequently, zigging when the bulk of bettors are zagging would theoretically often prove to be a sharp strategy.
The general sentiment regarding a game can often be determined by what direction the odds are moving. To use an MLB example, suppose a red-hot Dodgers team opens as -225 moneyline favorites in a home matchup against the division-rival Diamondbacks. Los Angeles then unsurprisingly gets plenty of attention from the public, even at that price.
In order to keep money coming in on both sides of the wager, the sportsbook makes Los Angeles even heavier -275 favorites. That bump would hypothetically would make Los Angeles less appealing because the payout ratio would get even steeper. The operator also simultaneously moves the moneyline odds on the Diamondbacks from +150 to +185. The intention is to render Arizona even more appealing in terms of price by improving the payout if the D-Backs pull the upset.
A sharp bettor may determine that fading the public is the right move in such a scenario. Not only can anything happen on any given night in an MLB game, but the movement of the line clearly indicates the public is going significantly overweight on the Dodgers. Meanwhile, Arizona sports an even more appealing price than at open and could therefore turn a nice profit for the bettor with a victory.
Advanced statistics and how to use them
As with any other life endeavor, it’s prudent to conduct due diligence before investing any hard-earned money in a bet. Sports bettors fortunately have a robust and ever-increasing reservoir of data to access before deciding what side to place their money on. MLB is a sport that is particularly known for its abundance of statistical information, on both a player and team level.
When it comes to MLB betting, bettors are able to evaluate data such as a team’s record against the moneyline (their standard won-loss record) and the run line, as well as what percentage of games they’re involved in have gone over or under the projected run total. Bettors can also drill down further by filtering a team’s performance in those categories when playing at home or on the road, in division games, in interleague games and various other scenarios.
A certain amount of player-level research may prove valuable for MLB bettors as well. Nevertheless, in the interest of efficiency, it’s arguably most valuable to dive into the starting pitchers, their recent performances, home/road splits and recent history against the opposing team. An even more thorough approach involves delving into a team’s bullpen – especially if a team’s starting pitcher is somewhat suspect – and assessing what its recent workload has been.
Weather impact and implications
Weather has varying degree of influence over any outdoor sport. Baseball is naturally no exception. Bettors should be particularly aware of the weather report for any MLB game they’re considering placing a wager on. The most obvious impact the elements can have is causing the outright cancellation of the game itself. However, assuming a game gets underway, bettors should be aware weather can also augment or suppress run production through a variety of means.
For example, the thin air at Coors Field in Colorado has long been known to create an environment highly conducive for offense. Similarly, the significantly humid and sticky environment in Arlington, Texas, especially in the dog days of summer, also has helped the ball travel particularly well over the years, much to the chagrin of both Rangers pitchers and their opposing counterparts. Games in these locales frequently result on Over bets cashing in. Many quality pitchers have seen their caliber of performance go down a couple notches in these parks.
Weather can also have an opposite effect. Damp spring conditions, often prevalent during the first month-plus of a conventional MLB season, will frequently work in a pitcher’s favor by reducing carry on a batted ball or giving pitches some extra movement that can confound hitters. A stiff incoming wind can also be a kryptonite for run production to an extent. Formidable gusts have frustratingly swallowed up many a would-be double in the gap or home over the years, turning them into long outs instead.
In addition to being weather-savvy, having a good grasp on the possible effect a venue can have on an MLB game is also important for bettors. The quickest way to generate the offense needed to make a moneyline, run line or over/under bet a potential winner is naturally through a home run. Certain ballparks are configured to be much more amenable to the big hit than others. When those stadiums are hosting a game a bettor is considering placing a wager(s) on, they should therefore take the quality of the hitting/pitching environment into consideration.
Significant weather-driven factors discussed in the previous section can make even a ballpark with neutral dimensions more hitter-friendly. However, there are other stadiums that are simply hot spots for offense because of shorter outfield fences, for example. Evaluating the statistic known as Park Factor can be particularly informative in this regard.
The Park Factor metric essentially indicates the difference between runs scored in a team’s home games compared to their road games. It’s calculated by dividing all runs scored by or against a team in their home park (per game) with all runs scored on the road (per game). The higher over 1 the number generated by that calculation is, the more offense-friendly the ballpark is. The same formula can is also utilized to determine how more or less frequent hits such as doubles, triples and home runs are in a team’s home park compared to their road games.
As with doing your homework before doling out cash, shopping around for the best deal is also one of those tenets of consumerism that certainly translates to sports betting. Line shopping is essentially what it sounds like – reviewing the lines at different regulated sportsbooks available in your area to find the best “price” for the wager (s) you want to place.
Bettors will usually find that regulated sportsbooks offer relatively similar lines across the board as part of an effort to remain competitive. Nevertheless, there are certainly opportunities to identify inefficiencies and capitalize on them. Even when odds don’t appear to be significantly different, every dollar of profit counts and adds up over time.
Say a bettor wants to place a $100 wager on the Yankees Opening Night moneyline and can get it at -135 at one sportsbook compared to -145 at another. Naturally, they should pounce on the first opportunity despite what might seem like a modest difference on the surface – the bettor will make an additional $5.10 in profit with the first price and that figure would only climb the higher the amount of the bet.
Situational betting is a concept that has strong correlation to the previously discussed strategy of fading public sentiment. Like conventional sports fans, bettors can also have short memories and get swept away by recency bias. In betting, this can manifest itself in the form of the public flocking or shying away from wagering on a certain team that’s either running hot or cold.
Heavy action by the public on a “trendy” team can certainly help generate an even better price at sportsbooks on the opposition. The oddsmakers will have an interest in making the team seeing significantly less action more attractive to avoid overexposure on the more popular team. If a bettor’s research indicates the underdog team has a reasonable chance of producing a winning bet at a good price, the scenario shapes up as a potentially profitable opportunity.
Say the Dodgers – already a darling of the betting public due to their elite talent and sky-high expectations – are living up to the hype early in the season and rip off nine wins over their first 10 games. Los Angeles then heads into a road date against the Padres having played on six consecutive nights. The young but still relatively unproven ace of the Padres staff, Chris Paddack, is on the hill for San Diego. Los Angeles trots out fifth starter Ross Stripling, who posted a 6.75 ERA over four starts against the Padres in 2019.
San Diego’s home stadium of Petco Park happens to be known as one of baseball’s most pitcher-friendly venues and could go a long way toward nullifying Los Angeles’ potent lineup. The public is heavy on the Dodgers’ run line at -2.5. A bettor could roll the dice on the Padres at +2.5 based on a belief the aforementioned combination of factors — possible Dodger sluggishness, an offense-suppressing ballpark, a potentially advantageous pitching matchup for the home-field Padres — could lead to a closer game than expected.
Taking advantage of bonus offers
PlayPicks’ MLB Best Bets page is an excellent source for the top current promotional offers from multiple leading regulated sportsbooks. Sportsbooks are known for appealing promotions designed to attract new customers. However, the good news is operators are increasingly investing in keeping their existing customer base satisfied as well.
Earlier, we reviewed some of the attractive promotions offered by DK Sportsbook, FD Sportsbook and BetMGM for new customers. However, one of the most common examples of a promotion that can greatly benefit all bettors is an odds boost.
As alluded to in our line shopping section, identifying the best price for the wagers you wish to make is paramount. As such, an odds boost is an especially valuable advantage for a bettor of any level. As the term implies, an odds boost consists of an operator offering a considerably better price on a specific wager for a limited time. Odds boosts often represent an excellent opportunity for a level of profit that would normally require a higher investment were odds not enhanced.
To cite an MLB example, say a Pennsylvania operator runs a special odds boost for the first game of a Phillies-Pirates series this coming season. Bettors placing a wager on the favored Phillies are offered an odds boost from -150 to +150 on Philadelphia moneyline bets. This clearly represents a prime opportunity to turn a profit on what would likely be a strong bet, given the difference in talent between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.