Major League Baseball has announced that teams will first be required to submit their starting lineups to the commissioner’s office before they are made public, a move that will standardize the release of lineup information while also providing more value for the league’s official data feed.

MLB lineup pregame betting
MLB lineup procedures will change for the 2019 season, with all lineups first going to the league office before being distributed to the public. (Image: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports)

In a statement released Wednesday, MLB said that clubs will be required to give starting lineup information to the commissioner’s office 15 minutes before announcing it through their PR departments or to the media.

Standardized Release Prevents Leaks

The stated goal is to standardize procedures to prevent inside information from leaking and giving some gamblers an advantage.

“We are updating a number of our procedures to reduce integrity risks associated with the expansion of sports betting in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling last May,” Major League Baseball said in its statement. “One new procedure is that we now ask Clubs to submit starting lineups in a uniform fashion in order to reduce the risk of confidential information being ‘tipped.’ This approach mirrors those of international sports leagues in more developed betting markets.”

According to a report by The Action Network, sources say that the new procedure will see lineups sent to official data providers like SportsRadar, which just signed a partnership with MLB last week. From there, the public and all sportsbooks will receive access to that information simultaneously. Managers will then be allowed to release the lineup at the stadium either after the league confirms the information has been processed, or after 15 minutes, whichever comes first.

The new rules will standardize what has traditionally been a chaotic process. Lineups could be released in any number of ways in the past, including through affiliated media outlets, PR departments, or – in recent years – via social media.

Move Could Make Official Data More Valuable

Lineup information is unquestionably valuable to bettors, as knowing who is playing and who is not can drastically swing the odds of a game. But even with the unpredictability of the current system, it’s unlikely that many bettors were aggrieved because someone else had lineup data before they did: either gamblers bet on the game knowing the lineups haven’t been released yet, or they wait for that information to come out before placing a wager.

Instead, this move could be more about MLB officials wanting to add value to their official data stream. One of the major battlegrounds in state-level sports betting legislation has been an effort from leagues to require the use of their official data to settle wagers. While the leagues have sometimes been successful in framing this as an important integrity move, sportsbooks have rarely had problems with unofficial data being unreliable, especially when it comes to the most important bit of data: the score.

But if lineups are first being released through the MLB’s official data feed, then some sportsbooks could conceivably have that data slightly before others. In November, MLB entered into a partnership with MGM Resorts, with part of that agreement being that MGM would have access to the league’s official data feed.

This isn’t the first time MLB has tried to exert some influence over the sports betting industry this spring. In February, league officials asked states to stop allowing bets on spring training games – a request that was denied by both Nevada and New Jersey regulators.