Most square bettors tend to ride the favorites more often than they bet on an underdog in baseball.  The average joe sees the team that should win and looks at the other team as the one who should to lose.

Losing is no fun.  That makes it tough for a lot of amateur bettors.  They can’t realize it is possible to be profitable when losing more games than you win.  You just need your return on each bet to be greater than your risk.

The key to being successful if you are going to bet on baseball is to find value.  Value is the difference between the price you are getting with the odds and the true chances of a team winning.

For instance, you think a team has a 50% chance of winning a game.  Getting +110 on the team, that’s a great bet and you should make your wager.  If you are getting -110 on that team, that means you have a negative expectation and should not.

You can use our money line conversion chart to look up the percentage (of winning) needed for a team to be a value play.

Last Five Year’s Results

Going back over the last five years (regular season only) you will find the following results for underdogs and favorites:

Favorites: 7,430-5,543 (57.3%) Avg. Line = -140.7
Underdogs: 4,713-6,600 (41.7%) Avg. Line = 133.9

With the 57.3% winning percentage you would have to get an average of -134 or better odds on each game just to break even. On the other hand if you won only 41.7% of your games you would only need average odds of +141 or more to show a profit on underdogs.

You can see if you focus on underdogs you are ahead of the game, but you can’t bet them blindly because you will still end up behind.

So let’s take a look at four situations where it favors you to back the underdog.

Situation #1 – April Underdogs

One of my favorite times to back underdogs is early in the year, as oddsmakers are still adjusting to the new rosters. This is also the only time of the year where all 30 teams are in the mix.

By the time June hits, we have a pretty clear idea of who is a contender and who isn’t. There’s simply a lot more incentive for bad teams to play hard early in the season and if you back over the years, you can see there’s a lot of value in focusing in on the dogs in the month of April.

Over the last 10 years, underdogs in the month of April have gone 1521-1894. While that comes out to a mere 44.5% win rate, the average odds in these games is +131.0, which turns into a ROI (return on investment) of +1.4% and profit of $4,710 on a simple $100 wager.

The key when you find a strong angle like we have here with underdogs, is to try and spot situations where they excel.

A profitable situation that I have found is underdogs (+105 or more) in the month of April, who have lost the first two games of a series and were also an underdog in the most recent loss. Coming into the 2016 season, this system has gone 106-109 (49.3%) over the last 215 with an average line of +142.9 and impressive ROI of +18.3%.

Situation #2 – Early Season Road Dogs

Another underdog system that I have found that has been profitable over the years in the early months of April and May, is road underdogs of +100 to +150 who are coming off a loss with a losing overall record against a team with a winning record.

These underdogs have a SU record of 175-175 (50.0%) over the last 5 years with average odds of +124.2. In the last two years this system has gone an impressive 83-65 (56.1%) for a ROI of 24.9%. A simple $100/game better would have profited $3,687.

Situation #3 – Divisional Underdogs

There is no doubt that, despite the 162 game MLB schedule, division games have a lot more meaning to them. The teams within the division are rivals.

While there are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, division games make up just about half of a team’s schedule, or 76 games per year.

So the games become a focal point and, under the right set of circumstances, small to medium home dog can deliver big profits!

For the table below I looked at division home dogs with a line of +100 to +145, who lost Game 1 of a series as a home favorite (takes the focus off away team, and onto home team) and have a record of .500 or worse on the season.

Home Dog Win %RecordAvg LineROI
<.50073-59+112.9+17.4%
<.49073-56+113.0+20.2%
<.48068-50+113.2+22.5%
<.47058-45+114.0+20.1%
<.46053-37+113.8+26.0%
<.45045-31+113.5+26.0%
<.44042-25+113.5+33.4%

The oddity here is, as you’ll notice, the average line does not changed much. What the oddsmakers are saying in this case is that the team that is less than .440 is being treated the same as the team that is less than .500.

At the same time, we see the worse the record the better the situation gets. Sometimes you have to outline data as you see above to get a feel for what is going on, and there may be an intent from the odds makers here to entice the wrong wager.

Situation #4 – Home Dogs Off Long Road Trip

The MLB season is a long and winding road, and there are a lot of long road trips. It is always difficult to play on the road, especially as the season goes on, but remember: the end of a long road trip is “home sweet home”.

Here’s a look at how all home dogs responds coming home after a lengthy road trip of 7 to 10 games. Do they respond in a big way, or are they too caught up in taking a breath, and seeing their families?

GamesRecordAvg OddsROI
7278-298+123.17.0%
8162-178+123.56.0%
9138-160+123.83.3%
1079-86+124.37.1%

We have our answer, as these teams have come up big! At least part of this phenomenon probably has to do with the crowd. Fans haven’t had a game to attend in over a week and will likely come out in droves and provide an energetic atmosphere for the returning team.

Now we can make a couple of key additions and look at home dogs who have a losing record, as well as bookend the line to cover only from +106 to +170 to avoid massive dogs that aren’t likely to win.

GamesRecordAvg OddsROI
7164-160+129.915.7%
899-92+130.518.7%
991-81+130.220.9%
1056-44+130.027.6%

We now can officially say HOME SWEET HOME! These below .500 teams respond huge. As you can see, the longer the road trip the bigger the ROI!

Situation #5 – Underdogs After Scoring 10+ Runs

Another situation where  you want to look to back underdogs, is when a team is coming off a high scoring game.  Look for teams who scored 10 or more runs the previous night and is an underdog.

These teams are 241-310 (43.7%) over the past five years but with odds of 131.9.  You only need odds of 125 to show a profit so this is a very good system.

More Underdog Tips

These are four automatic situations where I’m going to look to back the team that is getting a positive return on my investment.  You might even find these teams available as free picks if you click here.

I’ll also lean towards underdogs when handicapping a game with an extra focus on who is hot over the last seven games and which favorites have struggled during the past week.

Try to find bad teams that do well in certain situations like against right or left-handers, at home or on the road, or against a particular starter and you’ll find yourself having a profitable summer.

Check out our complete MLB handicapping guide for more ways to beat the books this baseball season.

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