What is MLB?
MLB stands for Major League Baseball, and it is the biggest and most popular baseball league in the world. Baseball is nicknamed 'America’s pastime', and has a long and rich history.
There are 30 teams in MLB, with 29 teams in the United States and one in Canada. Every season the teams battle it out with the primary goal of winning the World Series, also referred to as the Fall Classic. MLB is very popular, especially in the US, but it is also hugely popular with sports fans around the world.
Most sportsbooks around the world have odds on MLB games. This is even the case in countries where baseball is not very popular. There are tons of games to bet on, as each team plays 162 games in a regular season.
Many betting markets are offered on each game, from moneylines and totals, as well as run lines and proposition bets. There are also other betting markets for the MLB and the unique bonuses and promotions that sportsbooks offer, especially for the playoffs and World Series.
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MLB Rules and Gameplay
The main objective in a Major League Baseball game is to score more runs than your opponent. A batter faces a pitcher who throws the ball from the mound. The batter tries to hit the ball in play and then run, touching each of four bases in turn. If he succeeds in touching all four bases, he ends up back where he started and has scored a run.
Of course, the batter isn't unopposed when running. The defending team on the field tries to get the batter out as quickly as possible. A team at-bat gets three outs before the other team gets a chance to hit.
In MLB, all bats are made of wood. The ball is crafted from white leather with red stitching and is about three inches in diameter. Defensive players use a leather catching mitt which makes it easier for them to catch the ball.
On a baseball field, there is the infield and the outfield. In the infield, there is a diamond shape with four bases that are each 90 feet apart. At the middle of the infield diamond is the pitcher’s mound, where the pitcher throws the ball to the batter over home plate, which is one of the four bases.
There are nine innings in a game where each team has nine times at bat trying to score and then nine times in the field trying to keep the other team from scoring.
There are nine players on each team on the field and then more on the bench. The players are assigned to different positions, with three players in the outfield and six in the infield. Those positions are as follows:
|Pitcher||The player who throws the ball to the batter.|
|Catcher||The player who catches the ball from the pitcher.|
|First Baseman||Covers the first base.|
|Second Baseman||Covers the second base.|
|Third Baseman||Covers the third base.|
|Shortstop||Plays between second base and third base.|
|Center Fielder||Plays in the center of the outfield.|
|Left Fielder||Plays in the left of the outfield.|
|Right Fielder||Plays in the right of the outfield.|
After a team gets three outs, they alternate hitting, and fielding. The team that has scored the most runs at the end of the game wins. If the game is tied, they keep playing, which is called extra innings, until a team has scored more runs.
The batter stands at home plate, attempting to hit the ball that the pitcher throws. After home plate, the bases are first base, second base, and third base. For players to score in MLB games, they have to touch all four bases with the home plate being the last one where a run is scored.
At the beginning of every inning, the pitcher starts throwing the ball to the hitter. The player tries to get on base or score a run before getting out. There is an umpire behind the plate that calls strikes and balls, determined by where the ball is thrown by the pitcher.
A strike is a pitch from the knees to the bottom of the chest, within the diameter of the home plate. This is a ball that is deemed able to be hit. Pitches thrown too low, high, or too much on either side of home plate, it is considered a ball. A batter gets three strikes, and if they swing at any ball, it is still a strike.
If a player does not put the ball in play in three strikes, they are out. When there are two strikes, a player can swing at the ball for a third strikeout, or the umpire can call it a strike and they are out.
When a batter hits the ball but not in play, it is called a foul ball. An opposing player can get an out by catching a ball in the air, even if it is a foul ball. A foul ball is considered a strike, but if a batter hits a foul ball with two strikes, their at-bat continues.
If a batter takes four balls for pitches, they are awarded what is called a walk, and they automatically advance to first base, and the next batter is up. When a pitcher hits the batter with the ball, it is a hit-by-pitch, and the batter is automatically awarded first base.
The player on first base can be moved to the other bases to try to score if the player at-bats hits the ball, is walked, or hit by a pitch. The baserunner can also steal a base by running towards the next base and touching it safely before the opposing player.
Players move up in bases closer to home plate and score by hits or walks. If a player is on first base and the next batter walks, the batter is on first base, and the player on first base moves to second base.
A player can also advance in bases on an out as well. For example, if a player is on first base and the batter hits it to the shortstop, he decides if it is easier to get them out at first base or second. He can throw the ball to the first basemen for an out, but the runner on first base advances to second base.
Also, if a player is on first base, second base, or third base and the batter hits the ball in the air to the outfield, they can advance if there are less than two outs. If the outfielder catches the ball, which is an out, the baserunner can run to the next base after the outfielder has caught the ball and are safe if they get there before the outfielder throws the ball to the infield and the runner is tagged.
If the batter hits the ball, the runner on base has to advance to the next base. They can stay at the next base or choose to move to the other bases such and third base and home to score a run.
The defending team tries to get three outs so they can get their at-bats at the plate to try to score. A team on the field can record an out by catching a ball in the air, throwing it to the base for a force-out before the runner gets to the base, and if a pitcher strikes out a batter with three strikes.
For a throwing out, for example, a batter hits the ball to the shortstop on the ground. If the shortstop throws the ball to the first basemen, he has to touch the base before the batter to get them out.
The example above is called a force out. Another example of a force out is if there is a player on first base and the batter hits the ball to the third basement, and he throws it to the second basement on the base before the runner from first touches the base they are out.
An example of a non-force out is if a batter hits the ball to the outfield and tries to get to second base. If this is the case and the center fielder throws the ball to the second baseman, that player has to tag the base runner and not just touch the base.
The Four Hits
The four hits in an MLB game are:
|Single||The batter hitting the ball and safely going to first base.|
|Double||The batter hitting the ball and safely going to second base.|
|Triple||The batter hitting the ball and safely going to third base.|
|Home Run||The batter hits the ball in fair play over the outfield walls, where they automatically get a run rounding all the bases. There can also be inside-the-park home runs where a player touches all four bases to get a run with the ball staying in the park.|
Teams can score multiple runs on one play if there are already players on base. For example, if there are two players on base and the batter hits a triple advancing to third base and the two base runners crossing the plate, they will get two runs.
Also, if there are base runners on all three bases, it is called bases loaded. If a batter hits a home run with three players on base, it is called a grand slam, and they get four runs with each of the runners on base scoring as well as the batter.
Defending teams can also get more than one out on a play. Two outs in one play is a double play, and three outs, which is very rare, is a triple play. A common double play that happens often is if there is a base runner on first base.
The batter hits the ball to the shortstop, and he throws the ball to second base for the tag before the runner gets there and then the second baseman throws the ball to the first baseman before the batter gets there.
How the Teams Work
There are nine players on the field for the defensive team, one for each of the positions. The defending team tries to get three outs before the other team scores. On the other side, the offensive team tries to score runs before getting three outs.
Each of the positions on defense has an area to control. For example, the first basemen control the area around the first base, and the center fielder patrols the center of the outfield.
On the team batting, they have to bat in order in the lineup prearranged before the game by the manager. The batters get their turn to hit at the plate, depending on the batting order. So if a player at bat gets an out, he has to wait for eight more at-bats before getting another chance to hit.
There are nine players on the field for defense, and on offense, those nine players are in the dugout. However, there are players on the bench that the manager can substitute, either in the field or in the batting order.
For example, if player A is at bat and plays first base, the manager can call for a pinch hitter where a bench player will take player A’s turn in the batting order and then play first base in the field.
With pitchers, it is different, as there are starting pitchers, relievers, and closers. The starting pitchers begin the game pitching. Relievers come in for relief of the starters, and the closers are the ones that close the game out.
The manager or pitching coach has the discretion to change pitchers as they wish. For example, if the starting pitcher has given up many runs, the pitching coach may decide to take him out of the game and put in a relief pitcher.
History of MLB
While the history of baseball was thought to date back to the 18th century, MLB was established in 1869 when the first professional club in the Cincinnati Red Stockings was established. In 1978 the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, known as the National League (NL), was established.
That league played other leagues but most failed, but one that was somewhat successful was the American Association, which merged with the National League in 1892.
In 1899 the National League dropped four teams, so there were eight, then the American League was established. From 1900 to 1919, MLB was known as the dead-ball era with low scores where pitchers dominated the game.
1920 to Modern Era
A critical date in MLB history is 1921 when Cleveland Indians pitcher Ray Chapman was struck by a batter’s hit in the head and later died. Because of that, pitchers had to use newer balls after the ball was scuffed, so the pitchers could not 'doctor' the balls, which means to manipulate them. That ended the dead-ball era, and MLB rose in popularity in American in the 1920s and 1930s.
Over 500 players, including quite a few Hall of Famers, left the game during World War II to serve in the military. Another important date in MLB history was in 1947 when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier, becoming the first black player in the league.
From 1903 to 1963, there were only eight teams in MLB, four in the NL, and four in the AL. In the next couple of decades, many teams joined MLB, and the last three to join were the Tampa Bay Rays, Colorado Rockies, and Arizona Diamondbacks in the early 1990s.
Baseball has had many historic moments but has also seen many scandals and player strikes. In 1919 there was the Black Sox scandal where the MLB banned eight players from the Chicago White Sox, including Shoeless Joe Jackson, for throwing the World Series.
The Modern Era
There have been several player strikes throughout the years of MLB, and one of them forced the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series in 1994.
From the 1990s and the following decade and a half was the steroid era where many players were thought to be on performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The league changed their drug testing, and players began serving lengthy suspensions for using PEDs.
In 1989 Pete Rose, who is the all-time hits leader, was banned from MLB for life for betting on baseball games as the manager of the Cincinnati Reds.
Recommended MLB Sportsbooks
Teams and Divisions
The New York Yankees have been the most dominant team in MLB with 40 World Series titles with the St. Cardinals a distant second with 19 world titles.
There are three divisions in the National League (NL) and American League (AL) and the winners of those divisions make the playoffs. Two other wild card teams, the ones with the best record in the AL and NL, play one game to determine the last team in the playoffs.
The teams then face off in the playoffs where the winner of the AL Pennant (playoffs) will face the winner of the NL Pennant for the World Series in a seven-game series.
The teams in MLB are:
American League Teams
|Baltimore Orioles||Chicago White Sox||Houston Astros|
|Boston Red Sox||Cleveland Indians||Los Angeles Angels|
|New York Yankees||Detroit Tigers||Oakland Athletics|
|Tampa Bay Rays||Kansas City Royals||Seattle Mariners|
|Toronto Blue Jays||Minnesota Twins||Texas Rangers|
National League Teams
|Atlanta Braves||Chicago Cubs||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|Miami Marlins||Cincinnati Reds||Colorado Rockies|
|New York Mets||Milwaukee Brewers||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|Philadelphia Phillies||Pittsburgh Pirates||San Francisco Giants|
|Washington Nationals||St. Louis Cardinals||San Diego Padres|
Strategies and Tactics
There are many strategies and tactics involved in MLB games, and that reflects the endless variety of situations that can arise. MLB managers can make hundreds of strategic decisions in a single MLB game, and this is especially the case if they are calling the pitches. There are strategies and tactics for hitting, pitching, baserunning, fielding, and when to use substitutions for bench players and pitchers.
The main goal of a baseball team manager is to use the best strategies and tactics to get his team to score as many runs as possible and keep the opposing team from doing so.
Baseball Hall of Fame
When you talk about the Wall of Fame for MLB, you are talking about the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Baseball Hall of Fame is located in Cooperstown, New York, and as of 2020, there are 333 members of the Hall of Fame. Two hundred thirty-four of them being former players, most of them from MLB.
There are also managers, team executives, and owners in the Hall of Fame. As well as some international players.
Some of the players that are always on the list of the best MLB players of all time include Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Ty Cobb, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, Honus Wagner, Barry Bonds, Walter Johnson, and the still-active Mike Trout.
It is interesting that, because of the steroid era, a few players that are thought to be the best of all time are not in the Hall of Fame because of their use of performance-enhancing drugs. Some of those players include Bonds, who has the most home runs of all time, Mark McGuire, who has the records for home runs in a single season, Alex Rodriguez, and Roger Clemens.
One of the main distinctive elements of baseball is that it is America’s pastime. The game is associated with the fans, family members, and friends enjoying the MLB games and a day at the ballpark.
Baseball is not a fast-paced game, and there is a lot of downtime with minimal action over the nine innings. Because of that, fans are entertained at MLB games by many other things. Some have nothing to do with the game, such as the 7th Inning Stretch and other activities.
Baseball is an all-American game but is now global and a massive sport in Latin America, Japan, and South Korea.
Perhaps no other sport looks at statistics as closely as Major League Baseball. Key player stats are scrutinized, and this is especially the case in baseball. Also, player stats are evaluated to see how valuable a player is, and for retired players, seeing if they deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.
Statistics for MLB games are also crucial for bettors when handicapping games. Some key team stats are team batting average, team ERA, win percentage, home, and away team percentage, and runs per game. Batting average is the average team, or player, gets a hit depending on their at-bats.
For example, if a team has ten hits in 30 at-bats in a game, they hit .333. The ERA stands for earned run average, and it is the number of earned runs given up per nine innings.
Player stats are huge in MLB and for MLB games. Some of the key stats that bettors look at are batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, ERA, and save percentage.
When it comes to awards such as the MVP and Rookie of the Year, voters always look at these stats, along with home runs and runs batted (RBI), in a season. Homeruns are an attractive stat. And so are RBI's, which is the number of runs a player bats in when they are at the plate.
For pitching, ERA is the most crucial stat, even more than wins and losses. There are stats for closers and relievers, such as saves and hold percentage, and pitcher’s stats are also heavily scrutinized.
Popularity and Cultural Impact
Baseball is very popular and the cultural impact of MLB is huge. Baseball, in general, is American to the core and one of the most popular sports in the country. MLB players some of the biggest sports stars in the US. They also endorse many things and are often the face of their respective franchises.
You can see the cultural impact of the game as well in the many classic films about baseball. Consider movies such as Field of Dreams, The Natural, and Bull Durham, to name a few.
MLB players and teams are all active in the community to help with social causes and charities. The teams are big in the communities they are in. The league strives to improve the nation as a whole with the sport able to bring many different people together.