MLB Betting Lines: Action vs. Listed Pitcher

Although it may not be as popular in the betting community as fan-favorites football and basketball, the sharpest bettors relish the MLB season as it is arguably the best sport to wager on. With 162 games per season and very precisely defined statistics, there is a large pool of data available for creating winning betting systems.

Before the season started, we detailed the sweet spots for betting against the public in baseball and we constantly preach the importance of shopping for the best betting lines before placing your wager. However, unlike other sports the betting line for a baseball game is dictated in large part by the starting pitcher for that day.

For example, on Saturday Justin Masterson was listed as a +110 underdog against the Detroit Tigers when his start was pushed back to Sunday. The game was taken off the board and when Carlos Carrasco was named the new starting pitcher, the line re-opened with the Indians as +165 dogs.

Although any bettor who took Detroit before this pitching change was made was likely euphoric to have their bet locked in at a great price, early Cleveland bettors were likely furious that they would have to watch an inferior pitcher at a bad price. However, these bettors could have avoided this problem with one simple adjustment.

When you place a bet on an MLB game, you have the option to take either “action” or “listed.” By placing a bet on the “action,” you are tied into the line no matter what — even if there are any late pitching changes.

If you choose to bet the “listed” pitcher, your bet will only be valid if the pitchers listed at the time you placed your wager take the mound. That means if you take the “listed” pitcher (i.e. Justin Masterson in Saturday’s Cleveland example) then your bet would be cancelled if the expected starter is scratched before the first pitch.

Of course, like anything else there are pros and cons to each option. If you take “action” and the team you wagered on scratches their starter, it is very likely that an inferior pitcher will replace them (often times on short rest) and you will be stuck with a bad line.

On the flip side, if you place a bet and the opposing pitcher is scratched, you will have locked in a line far superior to anything available across the sports betting marketplace. In fact, oftentimes this will create an excellent arbitrage opportunity for bettors looking to minimize risk.

So how do you know whether to bet the “listed” pitcher or simply take “action”? There are a few things to consider. If the pitcher you are betting on is dealing with an injury, you may want to consider taking the “listed” pitcher as his risk of being scratched is increased exponentially.

You also want to consider the pitching matchup and ask yourself: “Which team would suffer more if their starting pitcher was scratched?” If you’re betting on the Tigers with Justin Verlander taking the hill, you want to ensure that the former Cy Young winner actually starts by wagering on the “listed” line. Conversely, if you are betting on a fifth starter against a top of the rotation hurler, then it is much more advantageous to take “action.”

Interestingly, some sportsbooks will allow you to choose only one of the “listed” pitchers. So if it was imperative that Verlander pitch but you didn’t care if the opposing pitcher was scratched, you could make your bet accordingly.

It’s worth noting that not all sportsbooks follow the same protocol when a starting pitcher is scratched and it’s worth checking with the book directly to see how they handle this situation. If you select “action” and there is a pitching change, some sportsbooks will actually cancel your original bet, post updated odds based on the new pitching matchup and then recalculate your bet based on the new line.

Do you have any questions about when to take action versus listed? Make sure to leave a comment in the section below and check out our MLB betting trends for all of the latest MLB betting lines.

3 comments on “MLB Betting Lines: Action vs. Listed Pitcher
  1. Ahh when betting “action” what sportsbooks don’t change the odds and give you the updated odds?

    As far as I know almost all will give you the updated odds. If you had $100 on Tigers -150 (action) and with a pitching change it was switched to Tigers -200 they will give you the -200 odds on your $100 bet.

    I would be interested to know which sites don’t work that way…

    • Basically you can set up arbitrage opportunity if you lock in the “action” price on Team A at +110 and then the opposing team’s (Team B) starter is scratched. Assuming the odds drop on team B once there is a pitching change, you could potentially take Team B at plus money. By betting on two teams with plus money, you can guarantee a profit regardless of the outcome.

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