MLB Postseason Betting Tips: 4 Playoff Trends to Know

MLB Postseason Betting Tips: 4 Playoff Trends to Know article feature image

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Houston Astros right fielder George Springer

  • The MLB Postseason is in full swing, as the number of teams in contention for the World Series continues to dwindle.
  • Below you'll find four betting tips to help you turn a profit on October baseball.

The 2019 MLB Postseason starts on Tuesday with 10 teams competing for the World Series. To get you ready for October baseball we’ll cover four areas that bettors should be aware of when betting playoff games:

  • Home-field advantage
  • Rest vs. rust
  • Zig-Zag Theory
  • Betting against the public

Using our Bet Labs software, we examine whether these theories hold any weight, and which ones bettors can put to use to turn a profit.

Home-Field Advantage

The reward for having the best record over a 162-game schedule is home-field advantage. In theory, playing at home should give a team an edge in the playoffs. However, of the four major sports, only hockey teams have a worse postseason bump playing at home.

Casual bettors tend to believe home field matters in baseball, but the data says it is not as important as the public thinks.

Rest vs. Rust

Seemingly every year in the MLB playoffs, a team will make quick work of its series and then have to wait around for its next opponent. With extra time between games the surrounding conversation inevitably turns to “rest vs. rust.”

The argument goes that teams with extra time off will benefit because their players will have time to recover and the team can set its optimal pitching rotation. Though, some would contend that too much time between games kills a team’s momentum.

So is it better to be rested in the playoffs or do teams suffer from rust? According to our historical data, the answer isn’t exactly straightforward.

The table below looks at all playoff teams since 2005.

Having multiple days between games hasn’t necessarily translated to more success on the field in the playoffs — at least not until the number of days reaches four. You might also be wondering what happens when a rested team plays an opponent on a quick turnaround, but again, there isn’t an advantage.

Teams on four or more days rest facing an opponent playing on two or fewer have gone 14-10 (-0.3 units) in the postseason since 2005.

Zig-Zag Theory

A well-known betting strategy is the Zig-Zag Theory, which simply takes the team that lost the previous game. The reasoning behind this system is that teams will try harder to avoid elimination after a loss. Does this work in the MLB playoffs?


Teams that lost the previous game have gone 195-208 (48.4%) straight up since 2005. Gamblers following the Zig-Zag Theory would be down 21.3 units in that span.

Betting Against the Public

Another basic strategy in sports wagering is betting against the public. Recreational gamblers love favorites and teams with better records, and oddsmakers know this and will shade the lines toward those sides.

As such, it has been valuable to bet against the masses. Since 2005, a $100 bettor wagering on teams getting less than 50% of moneyline tickets has returned a profit of $6,575.

From the Wild Card round to the World Series, when handicapping this year’s playoff games don’t overthink it; bet against the public.

MLB Postseason Trends

When it comes to playoff baseball, how do the simple trends tend to do under the brightest lights on the biggest stage? Let’s go stat-by-stat to see where the value lies.

Favorites vs. Underdogs

Not shocking to many, it has been more profitable to back underdogs in the playoffs rather than favorites. A $100 bettor would be up $1,080 betting playoff dogs since 2005, but down $2,315 betting favorites.

In 2018, playoff dogs bounced back, going 17-16 on the moneyline, their first playoff campaign over .500 since 2014.

Playoff underdogs between 2016 and 2017 went 23-50 (31.5%) on the moneyline in the two-year span, losing a $100 bettor $2,142 in that span.

Home vs. Road

Home teams have actually turned a profit in the playoffs since 2005 (+$268), while road teams have been the bad bet, losing a $100 bettor over $1,500 in that span.

Later in a playoff series (games 5-7), home teams do have an edge, going 45-36 (55.6%), but due to the juice, have only turned a profit of $14 in that period.

Over vs. Under

With over 450 playoff games since 2005, only six games separate Overs and Unders. The Under is 224-218-27 (50.7%) in that span, with Unders holding steady the last three seasons with a 54.6% win-rate, an almost 4% increase from the bigger sample size.

One of the biggest advantages when it comes to playoff totals has been betting the Over on low totals.

In playoff games with an over/under of 7.5 or less, the over is 132-114-13 (53.7%), profiting a $100 bettor $1,376 since 2005.

(all data via Bet Labs since 2005)

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