Is Betting the Outcome of a Complete Pre-Season Baseball Game a Dinosaur?



With so much on the betting menu right now, Glenn urges restraint on MLB wagering, partially due to odd new Spring training rules.

Perhaps the most challenging prop should be odds you'll remain awake a full nine (or seven) to potentially collect

Let’s face it . . . it sucks getting old. To admit they are "the golden years" is the biggest lie we can tell ourselves. You can't function on two hours sleep going to work the next day anymore and staying asleep a continuous eight hours is nearly impossible.

Add betting on pre-season Major League Baseball games while trying to stay engaged watching for a full three hours or so.  I marvel on how anyone can willfully stay awake without a gun pointed at them for an entire game. And that is without the incentive of having a few bucks at risk.

Trying not to be Cynical

As a March starting point, I clicked on the Bovada website, one of the top sportsbooks available to sports bettors, to gauge the wagering pulse of Major League Baseball.

One click was not good enough as MLB wasn't listed among the games featured on the opening page nor was baseball listed among the featured sports or "trending events" on either the top or side of the page. It was like the entire sport had COVID-19 awaiting the official first pitch of the regular season.

Clicking upon the bovada betting menu under "all sports A-Z" I did come upon Baseball along with sports like Rugby, Snooker and Table Tennis.

I immediately became distracted and checked out the day's Russian table tennis action. Don't laugh, as did you know, in Colorado, table tennis has exceeded NHL hockey in wagering handle! Perhaps there is a prop bet to set odds if I can even pronounce the names of these European ping-pong players?

Pre-Season Baseball Rules

Clicking back to the baseball odds the first thing catching my attention was something glaringly missing. The pitching matchups and lines.

Spring training MLB bettingDo managers make their intentions known who will be their starting pitchers? Do managers have plans to keep their starters in the game more than a maximum of five innings under any circumstance? Do pitchers take the same attitude and purpose they might in comparison to a regular MLB game?

The answers to all of those questions are NO or none of the above are true. Especially during this ultra-cautious 2021 Coronavirus season when the main goal is clearing protocol for the beginning of next month. 

The most bizarre pre-season baseball change occurred when MLB instituted a new rule on February 26. The league statement read:

"Spring Training games through Saturday, March 13th may be shortened to five-inning games or seven-inning games upon mutual agreement of both managers. Games that occur from Sunday, March 14th until the end of Spring Training on Tuesday, March 30th may be shortened to seven-inning games."

In addition to the modified length of games, pitchers who are removed during a game are allowed to re-enter at a later point and that all spring training contests, regardless of length, can end in a tie after the schedule length of the game has been played.

Huh? Does that mean, like your playground games, the managers can call the games off when they feel like it? So, let's say if you're holding the Phillies -140, down 4-3 in the 7th inning to the Braves and praying for a late rally, you may be screwed if Joe Girardi decides to forfeit to eat an early bird dinner in Clearwater, FL. 

"Expert" Opinions

While curiously checking other professional handicappers' opinions wagering on pre-season baseball, I discovered an interesting bit of information.

When PASPA (the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act 0f 1992) was lifted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018, MLB asked the Nevada Gaming Control Board to stop taking bets on pre-season baseball because they were seriously concerned about "heightened integrity" risks. The NGCB said no to the request for spring training games, along with every other top sportsbook.  Therefore, even MLB knew this was a risky joke.

If you must bet pre-season baseball it seems that most all top handicappers recommend avoiding betting any specific team and concentrate on the "run line".

pre-season baseballThe run line is similar to the spread in a football game and represented in a baseball game is usually -1.5. A bettor on the favorite must win by two runs or more or a bettor on the underdog to lose by only one run or to win the game outright.

One handicapping source I uncovered seemed to find a system that has proved effective using the run line:

Bet "non-playoff teams" as an underdog using the run line. According to the stats, since 2013 it has returned a remarkable 68.4% and proven to be a winner every season since being tracked. It could be happenstance, but if you must place a pre-season baseball bet to keep you awake, this seems to be the one that delivers.

What to Remember

Probably the most compelling thing to keep in mind is these pre-season baseball games used to be called "exhibition games" before that term became taboo. Likely because they accurately indeed were an exhibition rather than a true baseball game.

The top online sportsbooks will have hundreds of betting options available to keep you busy handicapping for hours as March Madness gets underway with the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. There is now reason to bet, yet alone watch pre-season baseball. Or, if you're not a college basketball fan, study up on your Russian table tennis. This must be a reason why those dudes in Colorado are getting so into it. 

Glenn Greene covers the games from a betting angle every week exclusively at OSGA.com. For weekly betting insights, including previews and picks from Glenn, click here.


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