There’s no bigger event in baseball than the World Series. It’s a global sports event drawing in viewers and press from around the world. Betting during the World Series is likewise massive, with sportsbooks stuffed with casual bettors who may not place a bet on a single game at any other time of the year.
The World Series provides some interesting trends for bettors. You also have to consider games from unique angles. Bettors at the very end of the season have as much information as they’re ever going to have – but so do sportsbooks and handicappers. The World series is a tough time to bet in one of the toughest sports to break even.
This post offers tips and details on MLB World Series betting.
World Series Betting Trends
We already shared our “Tips for March Madness Bracket Betting” with you. A big part of March Madness betting is understanding the impact of trends on the tourney. I think there’s a huge parallel here with the World Series. College basketball in March is nothing like the regular season; the same can be said for baseball’s World Series.
Going back fourteen years, the World Series averages a length of 6 games. We’ve only seen one sweep since 2008 – the Giants did it in 2012 against the Tigers. Only about 1/3 of modern World Series go a full 7 games, though a series ending in 4 or 5 games is even more rare. Backing teams with a boring kind of longevity makes more sense than backing teams with fast-twitch offensive skills that appear in streaks.
Historically, the American League has dominated the National League, winning 66 of all 117 official World Series events. The more you zoom in, the less of a factor this ends up being in the outcome of the game. For example, the National League currently holds the last three World Series Champs – the Nationals, Dodgers, and Braves. If you go back ten seasons, the AL is just 4-6 in the Series. Go back 20 years, and the once-mighty AL is 9-11.
Baseball’s changing rules have added parity, and it’s evident in World Series trends. We haven’t had a repeat World Series champion since the Yankees three-peated between 1998 and 2000. Repeat champions were, briefly, the norm. In the 27 seasons between 1927 and 1953, just seven different teams were crowned champions.
Four Factors in World Series Success
In our post on picking Super Bowl winners, we identified six factors that correlate with Super Bowl victories. Let’s do the same thing for World Series champions.
Use WPTT to Identify Likely World Series Winners
This stands for win percentage versus top teams. It’s exactly what it sounds like – a measure of how much success a given team has against teams ranked in the top-third of the league. Teams that win the World Series have an average WPTT score of 61.7%, while teams that don’t win the Series are hanging around in the mid-40s.
Obviously, WPTT develops over the course of a season, and may be more meaningful and influential for teams in the postseason or towards the end of the regular season.
Use Team WAR to Identify Likely World Series Winners
WAR is Wins Above Replacement, an indicator of a player’s value against a Minor League level replacement player. It’s easy to read – a WAR of 8 or more is an MVP-level season, while a WAR of 0 is replacement level. The score in between those numbers indicates a player’s overall skill level. Generally, a season WAR of 5 is an All-Star performance.
I don’t want to get into the way WAR is calculated – it’s incredibly complicated and best-covered in its own post. But, basically, it’s about contributing runs. When you look at a team’s total WAR, you can gain a sense of which teams are likely to go all the way to the Commissioner’s Trophy.
It turns out that team with the higher WAR stat wins the World Series a little more than 57% of the time. Each season’s winner averages a team WAR about 14 points higher than the league average. Look for those teams and focus your World Series betting and predictions on them.
Put Value in Homefield Advantage
Homefield advantage may play a bigger role during the World Series than it does during baseball’s regular season.
During the regular season, the home team wins about 54% of the time. That’s not a huge statistical advantage, especially considering that home teams tend to get plus odds, which are less favorable for bettors and require a higher winning percentage to break even.
During the World Series, that figure grows to about 65% depending on a few different game factors. That’s a more significant figure, and it gives us some additional insight when picking winners and making futures bets on the World Series outcome.
I like to back World Series teams who had a distinct homefield advantage during the regular season, under the very basic assumption that they’ll carry that homefield edge over into the critical postseason push.
The Braves in 2021, eventual World Series champions, were significantly better at Truist Park, both in pitching and hitting. There was a more than 1.5 point difference in pitcher ERA between home and away, and their hitters had about an extra 0.5 of OPS pop after some good home cooking. They used this to their advantage, stealing a game in Houston before heading back to Atlanta for a critical three-game stand.
Back the Winner of Game Three
If you don’t mind making a late bet on the overall winner of the World Series, you’d be foolish not to back the winner of Game 3. That’s because the team who wins Game 3 has gone on to win 14 of the past 18 World Series, a greater than 77% winning percentage.
I’m not sure where this trend comes from, but it even holds up historically. Going back to the first World Series, Game Three’s winner goes on to win the whole thing 65% of the time. It’s something to do with the 7-game format and something to do with the psychology of sport momentum – but the trend is there, and it’s powerfully, at least from a statistical perspective.
World Series Betting Quick Tips
Here are three quick tips to help you bet more successfully on baseball’s biggest event.
Don’t bet if your favorite team is playing.
This is all about avoiding bad betting because of your emotions. The World Series is an exciting time to place a bet, but if the team you’ve been cheering for since you were young is involved in the game, it may be best for you to sit this one out. Betting on emotion is a terrible strategy.
Don’t make prop bets a big part of your strategy.
It’s fun to bet on things like “which team will hit a homerun first” or whatever, but you shouldn’t make these bets too big a part of your overall World Series strategy. Baseball offers much-safer wagers, like the run line or a straight up moneyline bet. Keep the game interesting, by all means, but don’t dump all your cash chasing big paydays on exotic bets.
Forget “fading the public.”
Fading the public is a powerful strategy during the MLB regular season. I’m not sure it’s a good idea during the World Series. For one thing, only two teams still exist in the marketplace. Everything about fading the public is thrown out the window when you have just two teams to back. Also, you need to be analyzing these postseason games differently than you do the regular season. Get all those regular season notions of “fading the public” out of your head and focus on handicapping the games appropriately.
The World Series is the highlight of the national pastime. It’s as American as a John Wayne movie (or insert your own cliché). Betting on it isn’t any easier for that fact, even in the face of powerful World Series betting trends and insights based on decades of on-field performances.
Using the trends and tips in this article you can make more informed picks. You’ll need many years of experience betting the World Series to begin to feel like an expert. Remember, this is, at most, seven games in an incredibly long season. It’ll take you fifteen years to see 100 World Series games. Take it slow and keep your bets on the intelligent side of the money.