Run Line

The MLB Run Line is set by the sports books as a way to make two teams of varying strengths more even for betting purposes. A spread in baseball is commonly referred to as a “Run Line” while a spread in hockey is called a “Puck Line”. Regardless of the sport, a spread is also referred to as a handicap.

One team has points added to their total score, while the other team must have the same amount of points subtracted.

The “favorite” will have the points removed from their final scoreboard score, while the “underdog” will have the same amount of points added to their final scoreboard score.

 To clarify, points added or subtracted in any sport is called a handicap, which is also known as a spread. A baseball spread, or handicap, is called a Run Line.

By default, the Run Line is set at 1.5 points.

The favorite will have -1.5 beside their name, while the underdog will have +1.5. Since the favorite has 1.5 points removed from their final score, they must win by at least 2 points to win for betting purposes. If the team wins by exactly 1 point and has 1.5 points subtracted from their score, they have now lost by half a point. The half a point, or .5 is put there as a way to prevent ties. Since there are no “half points” awarded in baseball, a team obviously cannot win by half of a point, therefore a tie, or “draw”, would be impossible.

Let’s take a quick look at the following example:

 Astros -1.5   3.02

 Cubs +1.5   1.45

 If you wager on the Astros -1.5, they must win by at least 2 points.

On the other hand, a wager on the Cubs +1.5 means they can lose by no less than 1 point (or win), and the wager will be a winner.

Let’s assume the Astros and Cubs play and the game ends in a final score of Astros 5 Cubs 4.

Anyone who has the Cubs +1.5 would win, as the Cubs score is now 5.5 for betting purposes, which beats the Astros score of 5 by half of a point (yes, half of a point will win for betting purposes). Alternatively, a wager on the Astros -1.5 would be a loser, as the Astros final score for betting purposes would be 3.5, which loses to the Cubs score of 4 by half of a point. This is precisely why the favorite must win by at least 2 points.


With higher scoring sports like football and basketball, there is no limit on what the point spread might be. It’s quite common to see double digit spreads in those sports.


Regardless of what the spread is, each team will have the exact same amount of points in the spread, and one team will have them subtracted while the other will have them added.

Next: Total Runs Explained

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