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A Comprehensive Guide to MLB Totals

Adrian Dater for Bookies.com

Adrian Dater  | 8 mins

A Comprehensive Guide to MLB Totals

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When you click on your favorite baseball betting site or walk up to the window at a brick-and-mortar sportsbook to place a wager on a Major League Baseball “totals” outcome, you don’t care about who loses or wins the game. Only one thing matters: the number of runs that will be scored by the two teams combined when the game is over. It’s that simplicity that makes MLB totals betting one of the most popular ways to wager on baseball.

As sports betting becomes more widely available throughout the U.S. with a wider range of in-game options, totals bets in baseball are gaining in popularity. Why? Because sports betting sites usually give more generous odds on the sport’s version of the over-under.

Baseball has so many more measurable statistics than the old days, but runs-per-game totals have been, and probably will always be, a reliable meat-and-potatoes area that bettors can easily understand.

But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this betting option. It’s a category that requires more vigilance in forecasting from one game to the next. In NFL betting, you’re usually pretty confident a team will score X amount of points week to week, based on an offense’s regular production statistics. But in baseball, the person with the ball in his hands the most - the pitcher - can vary wildly in quality from game to game. That’s why it is important to be as informed as possible.

What Is Baseball Totals Betting?

Baseball totals betting is simply wagering on whether the combined run total in a game will either exceed or fall short of the total set by an oddsmaker at a sportsbook. Who wins or loses is irrelevant.

Most people who bet on a baseball game still do it the old-fashioned way with an MLB moneyline bet on which team they think will win. That’s true with almost every other sport as well. Spread betting in baseball, also known as a runline bet, is less popular, as it is always set at +/- 1.5 runs.

Typically, a sportsbook will list a moneyline, runline and total for every MLB game. When looking at the run total number, it might say: Red Sox at Yankees O/U 9. Your job is to correctly guess whether the Red Sox and Yankees will combine for more than nine runs in the game, or fewer than nine. Typically, O/U odds are about -110, though it can vary. Odds of -110 means you would need to bet $110 to win $100.


How Are Baseball Totals Calculated?

Despite the relatively consistent totals odds set by books for baseball games overall, there are a lot of factors that they take into account before setting their totals line. The biggest variant, as mentioned previously, are the starting pitchers. You might have a Cy Young winner starting one day, then a guy with a 2-10 record starting the next.

When two aces are facing each other, the totals number is going to be set lower than if two ham-and-eggers are on the hill. Obviously, going over that day’s starting pitcher list is a must for serious bettors. Here are other areas that account for totals calculations and that should also figure into your betting strategy:

  • Weather: Maybe the forecast calls for 25 degrees and gale-force winds blowing in from center field at an outdoor ballpark. If so, you need to rethink betting on that over.
  • The Ballpark: If the game is at a more hitter-friendly park like, say, Fenway Park or Wrigley Field or Coors Field, you want to think more about pulling the trigger on that over bet. If it is a “pitchers park,” look at the under.
  • Umpires: Do your homework. Some umpires have a tougher strike zone than others. If so, that may be the time to hammer the over!
  • Injuries: If Mike Trout is a sudden scratch from the Angels lineup, you won’t feel too good about that over bet you just made. Monitor Twitter feeds of trusted reporters for the latest information.

Placing A Bet On MLB Totals

OK, so you’ve scoured the starting pitchers listings, followed all the top baseball beat writers on Twitter for any last-minute lineup changes, checked the weather forecast for the game and know the tendencies of the umpire who will call balls and strikes. Now, where can you place your totals bet for the game?

First, go to Bookies.com to check on the latest baseball odds. Compare the MLB totals betting lines offered by the legal and licensed online sportsbooks in your state, all of which have all been fully vetted by our reviewers. Sign up for a free account, collect a sign-up bonus and make a deposit. It’s fast and easy. Click on the MLB section and look for the totals lines, right next to moneylines. From there, simply place your MLB bet.

What Happens If The Game Ends In A Push?

Let’s say the Red Sox and Yankees have a game with the total set at 9, at -110 for the over and you take that bet. What happens if the game ends with a score of 5-4 or 6-3 or 9-0? Well, good news, bettor, you don’t lose. That game is a “push,” and the sportsbooks have to refund your bet.

Sportsbooks will frequently set totals odds that they know - based on past performance and future probabilities, at least - result in fewer pushes. The most common totals number in a baseball game is seven runs. That’s why you’ll rarely see a book list a totals number at 7. They’ll more likely have it at 7.5, to better avoid, for them, the dreaded push.

Sportsbooks want to encourage as much betting as possible, though, and they know that adding a .5 “hook” to any totals line might discourage some wagers on the over-under aspect of the sport. So, it works both ways. Sharps bettors will often be more attracted to totals lines that have a straight total of runs, not ones with a .5 on the end, even if it means a slightly lower payout.

RELATED: Looking To Make A Futures Bet? Check Out The Latest MLB Futures Odds From Top Sports Betting Sites

Do MLB Betting Systems Really Work?

There is little agreement among baseball bettors as to whether there are any foolproof betting “systems.” There are a gazillion different statistics now in baseball, but for betting purposes on the totals line, it still boils down to just plain old due diligence predicting totals numbers from one game to the next. That’s why a “system” is hard to apply to baseball totals.

Again, the most common run total is seven. Once you understand that number, you have to really study those pitchers and bullpens and that daily batting lineup. A one-size-fits-all approach is just too dangerous a concept to buy into for MLB totals betting.

RELATED: A Complete Guide To Betting Systems

Calculating MLB Implied Totals

Let’s say the Colorado Rockies and L.A. Dodgers have a totals line of 9 for the game, but the Dodgers are at -140 to win the game and the Rockies are +130. Using that example, here is how you calculate implied runs for each team use the formula (ML/(ML-100) x run total for the favorite and (100/(ML+100) x run total for the underdog.

Dodgers calculation: (-140/(-140-100) = 0.583. Multiply it by 9 and you get a 5.25 implied run total.

Rockies calculation: (100/(130+100) = 0.4347. Multiply it by 9 and you get a 3.91 implied run total.

When you add them two together, you get 9.16 runs, meaning the over would be a more attractive bet to the sharp bettor. Yeah, you have to be a real math geek to understand implied totals, but there are a lot of math geeks out there that love baseball and make a nice profit on totals bets.

More Tips to Consider When Betting Baseball Totals

We’ve been over some of the main things to consider when betting baseball totals, but let’s put some finer points on things.

  • In the 2019 MLB season, the last one with 162 games, the most probable run total was 7 at 11.3% of the time. The second most probable was 9 at 10.3%. The lowest percentage of run totals, on average and up to 12, was 4 at just 4.8% of the time.
  • The baseball stadium that had the most home runs per game in 2019 was Yankee Stadium at 1.37 per contest. But that had a lot to do with Aaron Judge being a Yankee, along with Giancarlo Stanton. The Oakland Coliseum - for decades proven to be one of the toughest parks for hitters - had the second-lowest homer total per game, at .73, just ahead of the Giants/AT&T Park, at .70.
  • Sundays tend to be a lower-scoring day for MLB games because lots of managers like to give their veterans regulars a day off after a long week of action.

The bottom line: Baseball totals betting takes a lot of homework to get good at.

Betting On MLB Baseball Totals With Bookies

At Bookies.com, we only review and recommend legal, licensed and regulated sportsbooks in the state you live in. Any bet placed on a sportsbook that we have recommended comes with peace of mind to you, the bettor, that the wager will be honored, with no funny business that can and does happen at illegal offshore sports betting sites.

So you can bet on MLB totals with peace of mind here. Good luck and have fun. For more information on baseball betting, head on over to our MLB betting page.

About the Author

Adrian Dater for Bookies.com
Adrian Dater
Adrian Dater writes about the NHL for Bookies.com. The longtime NHL writer spent 25 years at The Denver Post, 20 of which as the beat writer of the Colorado Avalanche.

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