Despite the introduction of new rules in Major League Baseball (MLB), scoring during spring training was not notably impacted. Consequently, oddsmakers did not adjust their calculations for runs scored at the start of the season.
They are, however, closely monitoring the impact of the pitch clock and the elimination of the infield shift. Over the past five seasons, MLB games have averaged 9.1 runs per game, with last year’s 8.57 runs being the lowest since 2015.
While spring training games saw an average of 10.1 runs scored, this figure was only marginally lower than the previous year.
Major League Baseball has implemented several new rules for the 2021 season, and oddsmakers and bettors are trying to assess their impact on the game.
Pitchers must throw a pitch within 15 seconds when the bases are empty and 20 seconds with a runner on base.
Hitters must be in the batter’s box with eight seconds remaining on the pitch clock. Hitters are allowed one timeout per at-bat to reset the pitch clock.
Pitchers can only step off the rubber twice per plate appearance, including for pickoff attempts, and the rule resets if a runner advances during the same plate appearance. In addition, larger bases are being used to increase the success rate on steals.
Despite these changes, oddsmakers did not adjust their numbers on runs scored, as they do not see a direct correlation from the pitch clock to more scoring.
Halvor England, BetMGM’s lead baseball trader, expects the elimination of the traditional shift to increase scoring marginally, but also believes pitchers will have more control over the hitter during an at-bat because of the pitch clock.
However, larger bases are expected to be a significant difference-maker in bookmakers’ and bettors’ eyes. Bettors expect the success rate and volume of steals to continue to rise.
Professional bettor and baseball fan Joe Fortuna has adjusted his numbers up on runs scored due to the rule changes and is looking to bet overs early in the season for several reasons, including potential pitchers’ fatigue while working with the pitch clock.
Fortuna also examined which hitters faced the most infield shifts last season and pointed out left-handed batters like San Diego’s Juan Soto, Texas’ Corey Seager, and Kansas City’s Vinnie Pasquantino as ones who could benefit from its elimination.
Overall, bettors and bookmakers are watching closely to see if there are any trends related to the new rule changes, but early on, it remains a guessing game. Bookmakers expect there to be some advantage for bettors if they can figure out the new rules quicker than the market.