Books have said publicly for years that they are most afraid of their exposure in MLB, as compared to any other sport. In baseball we are just looking for winners and not worried about point spreads, so in many respects it’s far less complicated.

In football (or basketball) they set numbers designed to attract good two-way action, since the overwhelming majority of their tickets are all at -110. Those numbers are not mathematically derived, and in fact it’s relatively easy to know ahead of time roughly what the spread in an NFL game will be. For the most part the’re all based around “3” and “7′”, the two key numbers. But in baseball, there is no key number.

In baseball it’s the money line, and if it’s off it can really expand a books’ exposure, so you will see them move a LOT as they try to balance action. When they move like .20-.50 it’s generally evident that they’ve missed something, something we have to find before they do, hopefully. They’ve got an entire week to make an NFL line and adjust it, whereas in baseball they’ve got twenty-four hours, or less, to get it right. And they don’t.

They don’t have the time to look at Run Line splits for every game, recent history of starters and bullpens, umpires, and a myriad of other variables you just don’t have in football. We have time. And because we are on top of it every day, often times we don’t have to look, we just know. Most books wait (as they do in football) for one or two of the sharper books that aren’t afraid to throw out a number, and then within minutes they follow. They follow the mis-priced baseball lines. We take advantage of them.

Home Teams and more Home Teams

San Diego
White Sox

Terrible teams, all of them. Or are they? What do they all have in common?

Last season they were all profitable at home, and they’re all teams you probably don’t like to bet on. Books know we don’t “like” these teams and are throwing out prices based on the fact that we are generally NOT going to bet on them, regardless, which is exactly why we should. And the fact of the matter is that San Diego finished under .500 at home, yet still made bettors money.

This season-to-date both the Twins and Reds are profitable at home.

Last year these teams were NOT profitable at home:

St. Louis
San Francisco

And yet, those are all either playoff or public teams everyone likes to bet on. The point is that the books are going to throw out prices on these teams that are way more than they should be, KNOWING we are going to bet on them regardless, which is exactly why we shouldn’t.

I’m certainly not suggesting we go out and bet on bad teams in home every game, because it’s all situational.

If the Cubs are in San Diego with their fourth or fifth starter on the mound, while the Padres have Trevor Cahill on the mound, Chicago is quite likely to be around -150 and the Cubs perhaps +140. People remember that Cahill has had some down years and my goodness, these are the Cubs! But, Cahill has been on fire. Maybe the Cubs are flying home after the game to play the Cardinals. Even MLB has look-ahead situations. Maybe it’s the end of a ten-game road trip. Maybe the Cubs are resting some people. Maybe they depleted their bullpen the night before.

Don’t assume anything in any sport, especially baseball. There is no “maybe.” That’s what the bookmakers count on. Do the work, try and stick to under valued home teams, and you’ll make money. The books DO know that. And remember, at +140 you only need to win 41% of your bets to break even.

Dave Essler is at Pregame, featured on ESPN, Fox Sports, and CNN.