MLB Run Line: We Analyze It & Solve How to Bet It Smarter

Joe Berra
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The MLB run line is baseball’s point spread. The most common MLB run line bet will feature spreads of -1.5 (favorite) and +1.5 (underdog), but we’ll analyze all of the available baseball point spread bets.

Baseball games are often close. Historically, roughly 30% of MLB games end within one run. Underdogs have historically covered (won) run line bets at a 58.5% rate, with home dogs performing a bit better.

However, most of the time, underdogs will have worse odds than the favorites on MLB run line bets.

What Is an MLB Run Line Bet?

MLB run line bets are similar to betting on NFL or NBA point spreads.

Here are two examples of MLB run line bets to help illustrate how the odds vary:

  • Run Line Odds: Reds +1.5 (-115) vs. Cubs -1.5 (-105) 
  • Moneyline Odds: Reds (+175) vs. Cubs (-195)

The Cubs are big moneyline favorites (-195) and therefore the run line odds are close to even. The value of one run isn’t as high in this example, as the Cubs are perceived to be the dominant team.

The way MLB run line bets work is simple. The favorite will have a -1.5 spread and the underdog will have a +1.5 spread. A negative spread requires the team to win by X runs. In this case, the run line is -1.5 and the favorite needs to win by two or more runs to win (cover the run line).

Underdogs (positive spread) at +1.5 on the run line will win if they win the game or lose by a single run.

  • Run Line Odds: Brewers +1.5 (-195) vs. Padres -1.5 (+165)
  • Moneyline Odds: Brewers (+120) vs. Padres (-135)

With this example, the moneyline odds are tighter and therefore the value of a run is higher, which is why the Brewers +1.5 is juiced so highly (-195 odds). Another reason the run line odds are priced this way in this example is because the game total is 7.5 runs. A lower game total will make one run more valuable.

When Should You Bet on the MLB Run Line?

This isn’t a simple question. It comes down to value, which only you can determine. We’re going to look at the Brewers vs. Padres example above to help explain when you should bet the run line in baseball.

How do you determine if a MLB run line bet has value? You need to apply winning percentages to each side of a wager based on your handicapping (research). Let’s assume after handicapping the game, you conclude the Padres have a 40% chance to cover the -1.5 run line (60% chance Brewers cover +1.5).

Based on your own assessed probability, there’s value on the Padres -1.5 (+135).

The Baltimore Orioles made the most profit on the MLB run line in 2022-23.
The Baltimore Orioles made the most profit on the MLB run line in 2022-23.

Why? Based on the MLB run line odds, the Brewers have an implied probability of 66.1% and the Padres have an implied probability of 37.7%. Since your assessment of the game predicts the Padres have a 40% chance to cover the run line, there’s value betting on them based on the odds. Since you predict the Brewers have a 60% chance to cover, you shouldn’t bet on them, as there’s no value based on the odds.

The odds and your assessment will always determine whether there’s value on a bet.

Not interested in handicapping or math? Sign-up to become a Sports Hub member and follow our experts that utilize numerous strategies to beat the bookies during the MLB season every year.

Alternate MLB Run Line Betting Markets

Baseball betting sites will offer alternate MLB run line betting markets as well. Some other common MLB run line bets are -1/+1, -2/+2 and -2.5/+2.5, but the spreads can be even bigger and offer big payouts.

In rare cases, betting big run lines (-2.5, -3.5, etc.) can present value, but it’s best to layer your wagers. This means betting the same amount on a team at -1.5, -2.5 and -3.5. If your analysis is correct, you’ll potentially win all three bets. You’ll win less if the team wins by 4+ by layering your bets, but you’ll also have less risk, as you’ll get some money returned as long as your team wins by 2+ runs.

One thing to note, whole number run lines can push (tie). For example, if you bet on the White Sox -1, the bet will win if Chicago wins by 2+ runs, lose if Chicago loses or push if Chicago wins by exactly one run.

Lastly, there are also first five innings MLB run line bets. The MLB run line will be -0.5/+0.5 for the first five innings. This means the favorite (-0.5) will cash if they’re leading after five innings. The underdog (+0.5) will cash if they’re leading or tied after the first five innings of a baseball game.

MLB Run Line Betting Strategies and Tips

We’re going to analyze some MLB run line betting strategies to help you win more bets.

  • Sportsbooks Rules: With MLB run line bets, a baseball game needs to go a full nine innings (8.5 innings if the home team is winning) to have action. If a game is stopped for any reason, such as weather (rain, lightning, thunderstorms, etc.), run line wagers will be void (stake returned).
  • Home Favorites Have a Disadvantage: Since home teams in the lead don’t need to bat in the ninth inning, they have a distinct disadvantage as run line favorites. Nothing is worse than the home team favorite being up one run, but don’t get to bat in the ninth, which results in a loss.
  • Run Line Betting Trends: Tracking how a team performs on the MLB run line is important. In the 2022-23 MLB regular season, only 11 teams were profitable on the run line by betting blindly. A lot of public teams (Braves, Astros, Yankees and Blue Jays) lost money on the run line. Some of the worst teams in baseball (Nationals and Tigers) turned a profit on the run line.
  • Team News and Performance: You shouldn’t blindly bet on MLB run line markets. You need to analyze the starting pitchers, starting lineup, bullpen, injuries and more to be successful. Nothing is more important than starting pitchers when betting on run line betting markets.
  • Listed Pitchers: At most online sportsbooks, MLB run line bets use the “listed pitchers” rule. This means both of the listed pitchers at the time of placing your bet need to start the game. You can change your bet to “Action”, which means a starting pitching change won’t impact your bet.
About the Author
Joe Berra
Joe Berra
Sports Writer
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Joe takes care of the bits and pieces that sometimes slip through the cracks of the sports world. Efficiency and consistency is what makes SportsHub.com different. JB helps keep Sports Hub’s content fresh and exciting, managing its many authors. From the New York area, Joe knew he had a knack for sports betting when his uncle was always asking him which side he was on as a young boy. His meticulous approach to the numbers formed his career path as a professional handicapper. Joe is sometimes called Jimmy Bagpipes, JB or Mr. B.