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 start of every new season, we detail the sweet spots for betting against the public in baseball and we constantly preach the importance of shopping for the best line 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.

As an example, we’ll look at a 2013 game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians. Justin Masterson was initially listed as a +110 underdog before being scratched just hours before first pitch. The game was taken off the board and Carlos Carrasco was named the new starting pitcher. When the line re-opened, the Indians were installed as +165 ‘dogs. That’s a 55-cent line move based on a pitching change.

These types of last-minute swaps are surprisingly commonplace, which is why most sportsbooks will offer the option of taking “listed pitcher” or “action” when placing a moneyline bet.

Action vs Listed

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

If you take “action”, all moneyline wagers will be valid. That means that even if there is a pitching change, you would be locked into your original bet with a revised moneyline based on the new pitchers. Most sharp baseball bettors avoid taking action because it gives up an element of control and negates all of your previous analysis. It’s far preferable to take the listed pitcher and then decide whether you still like either team at the new, adjusted price.

In the previous example where Justin Masterson was replaced by Carlos Carrasco, it’s possible that a bettor found that Masterson and the Indians were offering value as a small underdog. However, if you took “action” then you would be forced to take Carrasco at +165 — the new opening moneyline. It’s entirely possible that Carrasco is still offering value, but sharp bettors would prefer to re-run their analysis to determine whether the game still warrants a wager.

Some sportsbooks will allow you to choose only one of the “listed” pitchers. For example, bettors can take Jake Arrieta against the St. Louis Cardinals and the bet would be deemed no action if Arrieta is scratched. However, even if the Cardinals changed starting pitchers your bet on Arrieta would not be affected — you would just be locked in at the new opening line.

It can be frustrating to run your analysis, lock in a good price, and still have your bet voided by a pitching change. However, all of that research is immediately nullified when the starting pitcher is scratched. That’s why we almost always recommend taking the listed pitcher.

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 free MLB odds page for the latest lines, betting trends, injuries, futures and more.

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David Solar

David Solar has been the Content Manager at Sports Insights for over four years. He specializes in sports betting analytics and has created several popular data-driven betting systems. He can be reached directly at david@sportsinsights.com or on twitter at @TheDavidSolar.

6 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.

    • Pitcher vs. Pitcher would be the same as listed. In order for action, both starting pitchers would need to play. If either pitcher were to be scratched, the bet would be cancelled.

  2. If the away teams bats but the away pitcher gets hurt while taking warmup pitches in the bottom of the 1st without throwing a pitch, will a “listed pitchers” wager be canceled because pitcher never threw a pitch or continued because game has actually started?

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