MLB Run Line Betting

In basketball and football betting, the point spread bet is one of the most popular wager types out there. Oddsmakers set a spread for each game on the docket, which can range from as low as a single point up to the double digits.

Then, bettors have two choices to consider. They can pick the underdog plus the points, which means they expect that side to cover by keeping the game closer than the spread by winning outright. The other choice is the favorite minus the points. That side would have to win the game by an amount greater than the spread to cover.

There’s a type of wager in baseball betting that works just like that as well. It’s known as a run line, and bettors can choose the underdog plus the runs or roll with the favorite minus the runs. It’s a bet that opens up even more possibilities. MLB run line betting can often have more attractive odds than what bettors would find on MLB moneylines.

While the concept of a run line is right in line with a point spread, there are some differences you need to know. Besides that, alternate run lines are often offered for MLB games, which means there are even more questions to ponder.

We’re going to help you make sense of it all right here. By the time you’re through, you’ll have a full understanding of the run line, as well as when it can make sense to look towards the alternate line. Let’s get to it.

What is an MLB run line?

A run line is one of the standard and most popular offerings for MLB betting. It’s generally among the featured listings for the individual games, right alongside the moneyline and totals.

Just like the moneyline, the run line tells you which side is favored to win the game. However, the run line adds a new wrinkle to the equation, as there’s a margin of victory to account for regardless of which side you choose.

The standard MLB run line is set at 1.5 runs. Here’s what a standard game listing will look like for this wager type upon initial release.

  • Cleveland Indians -1.5 (-110)
  • Detroit Tigers +1.5 (-110)

For our example, the Indians are the favorite, as indicated by the -1.5 runs. The +1.5 on the Tigers side makes them the underdog. When choosing which side to bet on, you have to factor the 1.5 runs into your thinking.

If you bet on Cleveland, that means you expect the Indians to win the game by two or more runs. When you wager on the Tigers, that means you anticipate they’ll keep the margin to one run. Detroit could also cover the run line by pulling out the upset and winning the game outright.

Unlike sports like basketball and football, where each side of a spread opens at -110, the odds on a run line are much more variable. The number will rise or fall based on betting action, but you can always shop around for the best prices by checking out several online sportsbooks.

The run line is one of the most popular items on the MLB betting menu. Since the number is typically the same for each game, it’s simpler to understand than the point spread bets used for other sports. However, there are other wagers where the run line gets shifted from the norm.

What is an MLB alternate run line?

The alternate run line opens the doors to other betting opportunities for MLB games. In addition to the standard line of 1.5 runs, various other numbers will be offered for the games. Offerings will vary by the sportsbook, and sometimes even by game.

There are two main types of alternate run line that you’ll see. The first is one flips the script entirely, while the other will provide differing spreads to consider. Let’s take a look at both, starting with the former.

For a standard run line, one side is favored by 1.5 runs, which means they have to win the game by two or more to cover, while the other is the underdog. To cover, the dog has to keep the margin of victory to 1 run or win the game outright.

Alternate run lines are offered where the line gets reversed. The underdog becomes the favorite on the run line and vice versa for the favorite. However, the actual odds for the bet will vary to account for the underdog pulling off a surprise and winning by that amount.

As an example, consider a scenario in which the Minnesota Twins are favored by 1.5 runs over the Chicago White Sox. Upon release, the odds on both sides will be in the range of -110, and there will then be movement based on betting action.

For the alternate run line, the odds will be set to reflect the fact that the script has been flipped, so you may see something like this.

  • Minnesota Twins +1.5 (-160)
  • Chicago White Sox -1.5 (+140)

Since the White Sox winning by two runs or more appears to be the less likely scenario, the sportsbook will pay a premium if it comes true. This is a good bet to target when you have a good read on a potential upset in the making.

The other main alternate run line comes when the operators offer more choices on the number. This can range from as little as 0.5 runs to 2.5 runs or more. Once again, the odds will be adjusted to account for the smaller or larger amount on the run line.

For a case where the run line is 0.5 runs, the odds could tighten even further. When the run line rises, you may find more favorable odds on the favored side while those on the underdog side get worse.

As an example, the baseline for the aforementioned Twins-White Sox tilt at 1.5 runs for the former would be odds in the range of -110 on both sides. If the number rose by a full run, here’s what we might see.

  • Minnesota Twins -2.5 (+160)
  • Chicago White Sox +2.5 (-140)

We can get a much greater return if the Twins win the game by three runs or more, while the potential profit lessens on the White Sox side because we would be betting on them to keep the game closer than three runs.

Alternate run lines open up the chance to profit even further on big favorites, but that shouldn’t be the only selling point for you to place the bet. As always, you should only be placing this wager if you have a good amount of confidence in things breaking in your favor.

Differences between MLB run line and alternate run line

There are three main differences to consider for these two wager types. Naturally, the first comes via the difference in the number of runs posted on the line, followed by the shift in the odds for each type. The last difference has to do with the betting approach you should take for each.

For the number of runs, the margin of victory that needs to be hit for you to cover your bets is impacted. While one run may not sound like a whole lot, it’s the difference between winning or losing these bets.

For standard 1.5 run lines, you’re betting on a margin of two runs or less. At 0.5 runs, you’re expecting a one-run game, while you’re banking on three runs at a run line of 2.5, and so on.

The odds will also be different depending on the choice you make. At the 1.5-run benchmark, you can expect lines in the range of -110 on both sides upon release, but they will fluctuate based on betting action.

The odds for alternate run lines can be all over the map depending on what you choose. When the bet is flipped upside down with the underdog favored by 1.5, you could get a great return on that side, but much less of one when betting on the original favorite.

Lastly, the approach and perspective you take will likely change based on the number of runs on the line. When focusing on the standard run line, it’s business as usual for handicapping purposes. The same holds when the run line shifts, but it’s really important to gauge your confidence level before pulling the trigger.

While the potential returns on certain alternate run line bets can be quite enticing, it’s important to remember the reason for that. Sportsbooks will pay a premium if an unlikely event happens to occur. Since odds are it won’t happen more often than it doesn’t, they can afford to take the loss here and there while balancing out the action elsewhere.

MLB run line odds and lines

The MLB odds are going to be different for run lines and alternates. However, we still have some general guidelines that we can follow.

In the case of the standard 1.5 run line, we can safely assume that most operators will treat it in the same fashion as a point spread bet for other sports. Upon release, the benchmark MLB run line odds for most books is -110, and that number will shift based on betting activity. For example, a good amount of activity on one side over the other could result in odds like this.

  • Kansas City Royals +1.5 (+100)
  • Houston Astros -1.5 (-120)

If we see a situation where the odds shorten on one side and lengthen on the other, we can interpret that to mean that the house is a bit lopsided on the action. For this example, they’ve made the Royals side more enticing in a bid to even things out, so we can gather that more betting dollars have come in on the Astros side.

For the MLB alternate run lines, the odds will vary based on the choice, but we can still have a general expectation based on the situation at hand. For example, a situation in which the alternate run line for our example is a complete switch, the odds might look like this.

  • Kansas City Royals -1.5 (+180)
  • Houston Astros +1.5 (-180)

In this case, the Royals would have to win the game by two runs or more to cover the run line. Since they’re the overall underdog in the contest, that’s an unlikely outcome, so the sportsbook will pay a premium as a result. On the Astros side, they now essentially have a two-run cushion, so the return will be even less than it would be for betting on them as a 1.5-run favorite.

When the run line simply shifts by a run to the favored side, the opposite happens. The underdog has more wiggle room, while the favorite now has to win by a larger margin. That’ll be reflected in the odds in a fashion similar to this.

  • Kansas City Royals +2.5 (-120)
  • Houston Astros -2.5 (+130)

Now that the underdog has less of a margin to cover, the potential return drops on that side. Since the favorite needs an even larger win to cover, the profit potential jumps for a wager in that direction.

You should always be keeping a careful eye on the odds for every bet you place, but that’s especially true when it comes to alternate run lines. If you’re taking more risk on a bet that you feel good about, then you have to make sure the potential return justifies it.

How to place an alternate run line bet

When you scroll through the MLB schedule at legal Michigan mobile sportsbooks apps and sites, you’ll see an individual listing for each game that looks something like this.

Milwaukee Brewers+1.5 (-110)+120O 8.5 (-110)
Chicago Cubs-1.5 (-110)-140U 8.5 (-110)

Next to each of the teams is a series of numbers, which are the following from left to right: run line, moneyline, and total bets. These are the three main bet types for MLB. Inside of the individual game listing boxes will be a link that’s labeled as ‘more wagers.’

If you click on that, another range of choices comes up, including prop bets and the alternate run line for the game. When looking for the latter, you’ll see the range of choices for the game at hand. The offerings can vary, but you should see at least a few choices.

Once you find the run line you want, it’s just a matter of clicking on the box that correlates with your selection, such as Brewers +2.5 or Cubs -2.5. After you click on it, that wager will be automatically added to the betting slip.

From there, it’s just a matter of adding in your wager amount and reviewing the bet to make sure everything looks good. Once you’ve confirmed and are happy with what you see, you just need to click submit to place the bet.

MLB alternate run line betting examples

Familiarity breeds comfort in many walks of life, and it’s no different when it comes to gaining confidence with new wager types. To that end, let’s take a look at some MLB alternate run line odds and walk through a few more examples of MLB alternate run line bets.

First up, remember that the run line can be shifted by as much as a run or more for some offerings. For example, the initial listing of 1.5 runs could be moved down, and the odds will be adjusted on the bet as a result.

  • Boston Red Sox +0.5 (-105)
  • New York Yankees -0.5 (-125)

The run line could also be increased in the opposite direction. Typically, it’s only moved by a run, but you’ll likely come across different listings for even larger run lines. No matter the case, you can expect to see the odds adjusted based on the movement of the run line.

  • San Francisco Giants +2.5 (-130)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers -2.5 (+120)

Beyond the adjustments one way or the other, the run line can be completely moved in the opposite direction. An example would be a game where the Cincinnati Reds were listed as 1.5-run underdogs to the New York Mets for the regular game listing. The alternate run line could flip it around, and the odds for the wager will be adjusted accordingly.

  • Cincinnati Reds -1.5 (+140)
  • New York Mets +1.5 (-160)

Alternate run lines are an intriguing option to consider on the daily MLB schedule. That’s especially true for games that you have a real good feel on, as the returns gained can be even greater than they would be for traditional run line bets.

How to handicap MLB run line bets

As you handicap any team-based sport, there are standard tasks you’ll run through. For example, you should spend some time analyzing the matchup and recent form for both sides, and also keep your eyes peeled for important tidbits that come up.

Beyond the basics, here are some other tips you can keep in your back pocket for handicapping MLB run lines and alternate run lines.

  • Examine the odds for run lines and alternates closely: Betting action can move the odds for standard run lines, while the numbers can be all over the map for alternate run lines. For the games, you’re interested in betting on, be sure to spend some time examining the odds and watching for movement from release to the present time. Also, don’t hesitate to look around at other books to comparison shop. There just might be better priced out there.
  • Choose your alternate run line spots wisely: The returns for alternate run line bets can be very appealing in comparison to the standard bets, but be careful not to get sucked in just because of that. When scanning these wagers for opportunities, it can be helpful to apply a confidence level to the ones you are interested in. From there, spend your time examining the bets that you feel most confident about while passing on the rest.
  • Be proactive and plan accordingly: The everyday nature of the MLB schedule can make betting a bit of a grind, not to mention time-consuming. However, you can lessen the load somewhat by looking ahead on the schedule. If you do this once a week or every few days, you can make note of games that jump out to you, such as intriguing pitching duels or paper mismatches. Once the lines are released, you’ll have a leg up and know where to begin.

Key takeaways on MLB run line and alternate run line betting

Along with moneyline and totals, the run line is a standard bet type offered for MLB games at online and mobile sportsbooks. This bet is just like a point spread wager in other sports, but the margin is generally at a set number of 1.5 runs.

You can bet on the favorite minus the runs or choose the underdog plus the 1.5. For the favorite to cover the bet, they would have to win the game by two or more runs. The underdog covers by keeping the game closer than that or by pulling out the victory.

MLB alternate run lines open up the options. For these wagers, the run line can be adjusted up or down, and the odds will move based on the direction. Also, the bet can be offered with the run line flipped, meaning that the underdog is favored by 1.5 over the initial game favorite.

The standard run line can be a more attractive option over moneyline bets as the odds can be more favorable for bettors. On the other hand, MLB alternate run line odds offer the potential for even better returns, but remember to pick your spots wisely. Both wagers are great options to have in the tool belt for the lengthy MLB season.

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