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MLB Run Line Betting: An Explanation for Bookies & Their Players

MLB Run Line Betting: An Explanation for Bookies & Their PlayersMost bettors are familiar with the concept of a point spread in the NFL. Each score on offense is a minimum of three or a maximum of seven. Therefore, offering odds on whether a team can cover a certain amount of points is more enticing - and, in some cases, more lucrative - than simply to win.

Major League Baseball is different. Every score counts for one run, making the moneyline a more traditional aspect of betting on baseball. However, there is spread sportsbook betting in baseball. It's called the runline.

What Are MLB Run Lines?

An MLB runline is a 1.5-point spread in baseball. The favorite has to win by two or more runs in order to cover the -1.5 spread. Conversely, the underdog can lose by up to one run to beat the +1.5 spread.


Here's an example of how a runline looks in sportsbooks:

  • San Diego Padres +1.5 (-120)

            Luis Perdomo (R)


  • Los Angeles Dodgers -1.5 (+110)

            Dustin May (R)

Notice the money, AKA juice attached to the runline? That's where things get tricky. First, runlines never change, just the juice attached. For that reason, there may be situations where a team covering -1.5 runs has underdog juice. In this situation, the spread favors the Padres losing, but the juice supports losing by less than 1.5 runs.

MLB Run Line Rules

 In runline betting, the general rule is both pitchers must throw their team’s first pitch, or the wager constitutes "No Action".

For example, if Clayton Kershaw starts for the Dodgers versus a less-talented squad like the Philadelphia Phillies, even if they're on the road, L.A. may be the favorite. However, if Kershaw were to miss his start, that changes how the game could unfold. Pitchers matter too much in baseball to roll the dice with any starter.

Unlike the runline, moneyline wagers allow bettors to decide if they'll apply this rule - known as listing pitchers.

Sportsbook operators can use bookie software to take away the “No Action”.

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Bookie & Bettor Runline Tips

Check out a few exciting runline tidbits that bettors and bookies should know:

  1. Runline betting isn't easy: Approximately 30% of baseball games end up as one-run games. This makes it tough to predict when a team will cover.
  2. Runlines are tough on the home team: If the home team leads into the ninth, they mustn’t bat unless the visiting team ties or takes the lead at the top of the ninth. A lot of one-run games finish in the middle of the ninth.
  3. Runlines lean to the underdog: Long term, runline wagers on the underdog are safer plays. For that reason, you'll see a lot of +1.5 spreads with favored (-120) juice.
  4. Maximize runlines by finding value: Sharp runline bettors are patient bettors. They wait for the right team, right pitcher, and right matchup before placing their bets.

Teams to Watch for Runline Betting

Speaking of the right team, the best way to start finding value is through the run differential, which you can find with a little bit of stat digging. Here are some teams that bettors and bookies should keep an eye on.

  • Los Angeles Dodgers: Currently, L.A. has the most significant run differential at +41. The Dodgers are fourth in scoring and second in pitching, creating a dominant combination.
  • Colorado Rockies (at home): Colorado currently has a +31 run differential, but most of the big wins come at Coors Field.
  • Oakland Athletics: The notoriously thrifty A's have built a solid pitching rotation that has gifted them baseball's best record and a 2.66 ERA. Their defense has been elite, dating back to 2019, where they turned 72.2 percent of batted balls into outs.
  • Seattle Mariners: The Mariners have the worst rotation in baseball with a 5.88 ERA and the worst run differential at -38. The combination makes them a prime team to bet against when facing hot bats.

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