A variety of ways exist to make a run at creating your own moneylines for handicapping MLB games. Old-school sharps are so familiar with the teams and market tendencies that they trust their gut to make a number, then compare that to the board.
The first obvious hurdle to clear is accepting that this is NOT football or basketball, with everything expressed in points. In those sports, the teams will play a game that ends with a point differential.
In baseball, the Yankees are NOT trying to drive dollars and cents across the plate to beat the Nationals. What does it mean to lay a buck fifty that New York will beat Washington?
Luckily, there is a relative shortcut. Even though runs and dollars do NOT speak the same language, both communicate very well with win percentages:
— A -200 favorite has to win 67% of the time to break even.
— A -175 favorite has to win 64% of the time to break even.
— A -150 favorite has to win 60% of the time to break even.
— A -125 favorite has to win 56% of the time to break even.
If you want to figure out the win percentage for any given line, simply divide the moneyline you are seeing by that number plus 100. Once you get the hang of it, it will be easy. What is the break-even win percentage for -132? Divide 132 by 232 and you get .569, or 57%. What is the break-even win percentage for -164? Divide 164 by 264 and you get .621, or 62%. Just mentally add 100 to the number you are seeing after you hit the divide sign.
OK, we know how to turn a moneyline into a win percentage. How do we turn runs into a win percentage? There are a variety of complicated ways to do this. However, a relatively simple method that will get you very close is to use the classic Pythagorean projection created by the inspiration for sports analytics, Bill James. That formula turns runs into a win percentage, which works great for our purposes.
The Pythagorean formula is runs squared, divided by the sum of runs squared plus opposition runs squared. For example.
Let us say you project the favorite to win a game 5-4. However you get there with your mathematical assessments for each team, you are arriving at a 5-4 victory for the favorite. Plug that into the formula, and you get 25 over the sum of 25 plus 16. That represents 5 squared divided by the sum of 5 squared and 4 squared. Ultimately, 25 divided by 41.
Your projected 5-4 win now projects to a no-vigorish win percentage of .610, as 25 divided by 41 is .609756. From the little chart above, you know that means over -150 on the money line — about -156, to be more accurate.
Even though teams do NOT score “dollars and cents,” you have now turned a 5-4 score projection into -156 on the money line because both runs and betting odds can be expressed as win percentages.
Obviously, having a spreadsheet is very helpful as a time-saver. And any serious effort at projecting scores is NOT going to land on many whole numbers. You are going to get projections of 4.7 to 4.3, or 4.1 to 3.6, or maybe 6.5 to 5.5 Familiarity with a spreadsheet will help you make accurate run predictions and turn those into accurate projections of win percentages that you can compare with the moneyline.
And you hatred math in high school – you would never use it. Well, cutting-edge baseball math is significantly more complicated, involving algorithms, models, tweaks for weather conditions and even a variety of exponents within updated versions of the Pythagorean formula. When you are betting into the baseball market, you are joining some esteemed company. But knowing how to create your own moneyline will help you make smart choices in that market. Most importantly, if you are doing it right, it well help you cull mistakes you had been making in the past.
Of course, you could get a guy like me to do the research!