As the saying goes: “It’s as American as baseball, mom, and apple pie.” Ignoring the fact that the first apple pie was baked in England and moms were around a few millennia before the United States came to be, baseball is indeed uniquely American, with the love affair to match.
According to a list from Baseball Almanac, there have been more than 250 movies that feature baseball, with the first being the silent film Right Off the Bat in 1915. Yearly attendance at a Major League ballpark regularly tops the 74 million fan mark, and another two million youth play Little League baseball. No less than 80 times has an American president, dating back to William Howard Taft in 1910, thrown out the ceremonial first pitch at a baseball game.
Despite the optics that suggest football and basketball are more gamble-friendly sports, that isn’t the case. Baseball bets are not only common; they can be lucrative for the intelligent and informed player, and the World Series is the premier baseball event for placing wagers.
The first type of World Series bet that is placed each season is the futures bet. If you are a baseball fan and a gambler, you are either scouring the odds each spring for the biggest possible October return on your investment, or you are loyal to a team and have an annual ritual of dropping $50 on your favorite club to win the World Series. And why not – eventually, that bet will hit, right?
If you prefer to spend your money with your head and not your heart, then the realistic World Series participants for 2019 have certainly caught your eye. The Red Sox and Astros both opened at 6-1 as co-favorites to win the title next year, with the Yankees coming in at 7-1.
The Red Sox are the defending champs – they just won 108 regular season games, and getting $600 for a $100 wager seems like a pretty good bet. However, when making your World Series futures bet, keep in mind that there hasn’t been a repeat champion in Major League Baseball since 2000. In fact, since that 2000 Yankees win, less than half of defending World Series champions have even made it to the playoffs.
With dozens of variables to play out over a 162-game season, and with the margins between wins and losses so slim in a sport where even the very best batters fail 70% of the time, correctly predicting the winner of the World Series several months before it’s played relies on a substantial amount of luck. And experienced gamblers know that luck is for the roulette wheel, while knowledge and probabilities are for the sportsbook.
In the baseball regular season, there are a total of 2,430 games played over six months. Some teams win 100 games, while others lose 100. With so many games and discrepancies between teams that are matched up, some fairly obvious bets can be found. Even if a game is only paying -175 on a straight bet to win, it’s easy to justify when the win probability tops 70%.
Those moneyline deals are harder to find in the World Series. If there is a discrepancy in the talent of the two teams, it’s minimal. The starting pitching matchups are typically ace vs. ace. No one is ever on a rest day, and no manager is saving his bullpen for the longer season to come. Baseball turns from a 180-day-long marathon to an all-out sprint over the final week.
You can place moneyline bets on the overall Series winner, but keep in mind that there is no discernible pattern of the favorite winning.
- 2018 – Favorite (Red Sox)
- 2017 – Underdog (Astros)
- 2016 – Favorite (Cubs)
- 2015 – Favorite (Royals)
- 2014 – Even (Giants)
- 2013 – Favorite (Red Sox)
- 2012 – Underdog (Giants)
- 2011 – Underdog (Cardinals)
- 2010 – Underdog (Giants)
- 2009 – Favorite (Yankees)
Over the last ten years, the favorite has won the Series five times, the underdog – four times, and there were even odds on the Giants when they won in 2014.
Of course, you can place moneyline bets on individual games just as you would for any baseball game played throughout the season.
Once upon a time, it was thought that betting on other sports was more fun, affordable, and winnable because they each featured a point spread. In the interest of equality, oddsmakers created a baseball version of the spread known as the runline. Now, instead of having to bet $200 to win $100 when the Dodgers are -200 favorites, you can get dollar-for-dollar action if there is a runline involved, whatever that line may be.
This gives gamblers options when placing bets on baseball, and an increased number of choices is always great. But don’t mistake new options for good options. If you have a strong feeling about a game and think that the posted runline for that specific matchup gives you an edge on your bet – go for it.
However, over the long haul, runline bets tend to return less in winnings than moneyline bets, which is probably the real reason that oddsmakers introduced them.
The bottom line: When betting on a World Series game, always follow the research, the on-field trends, and last but not least – your gut. It’s what makes the whole process fun. However, when all things appear to be equal, the probabilities tell us that a moneyline wager is the safer way to go.
Not unlike the Super Bowl, the World Series brings with it many exciting proposition bets to spice up the wagering. Along with who is going to win the Series and how many games it will take, individual props are especially entertaining.
One of the favorite prop bets is for the eventual World Series MVP. This bet is also unique in that the subjectivity of the baseball writers is called into play. It’s not just about who excels on the field; it’s also about which player wins the hearts and minds of the MVP voters.
At the start of the 2018 World Series, a bet on Chris Sale to win the MVP paid +550. He was the favorite, followed by Mookie Betts at +600 and Clayton Kershaw at +700. The eventual winner, Steve Pearce, paid out at +2200.
While all World Series MVPs have been excellent players, very few of the favorites win the award. The last time one of the safer bets won was in 2014 when Madison Bumgarner claimed it for the Giants.
Other common prop bets are for who hits the first home run, the number of strikeouts for a particular starting pitcher, the number of total runs scored for the entire series, plus game and series totals for hits, errors, and almost anything else you can conjure up.