MLB Betting Guides

The Strategy Behind First Five Inning Betting

One of the most painful parts of betting on baseball is watching a bullpen blow your bet – especially with runline betting. You might handicap a game correctly and watch everything go right for your side or total for seven innings. Then the bullpen comes in and lays everything to waste. One of the ways that you can try to cut them out of the equation is with the strategy first five inning betting. Some novices just view this as baseball’s first half bet but this is quite different. Let’s go over the nuances of this wager and see how to really leverage it.

Tip 1: Maximize Focus On Starters, Minimize Bullpen
Tip 2: Examine First Inning Scoring
Tip 3: Versus Lineup First, Second, Third Time
Tip 4: Know The Rules

Tips For First Five Inning Betting
Tips For First Five Inning Betting

Maximize Focus On Starters, Minimize Bullpen

Although this looks like baseball’s version of a first half bet, it has a different focus. While the segment is about half of the game like NBA and NFL first halves, the main difference here is the emphasis on starting pitching. When you place a wager on the first five innings, you’re putting more stock into the starters of the game and limiting the damage that the bullpens can have. That’s because many starters will make it through the first five innings but very few will stick around for the second half of the game.

When you’re handicapping the first five innings, you want to hone in on the starters. That means looking at a team’s ERA isn’t as important as the starter’s because it’s mostly the starter that’s going to decide your wager. Quality pitchers tend to cost more on these type of prop bets because again, they’ll have more impact on the game than if the bet also included the rest of the pitching staff.

A great example of this is the 2021 American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray, who pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays. The team was 17-15 in his games that year and his record was just 12-12. He made 32 starts that year and lasted at least five innings in all but three of them. The Jays bullpen tied for the seventh-fewest saves. He only allowed 62 runs across his 32 starts, which is 1.94 per start. However, the team allowed 4.09. It’s quite clear that if you were betting Ray on the first five lines and he was allowing less than two runs, you had a pretty decent shot of winning.

That being the case, you’ll want to really focus your handicapping on the starter.

Examine First Inning Scoring

Betting on a run in the first inning has become one of the most popular prop bets. With that, though, has come a lot of data to examine whether these bets are worthwhile. That means you can really dive in and see how a starter fares in the first inning to determine whether your first five bet is worth a play or not. 

Taking a look back to the 2022 season, the New York Yankees led the league in runs in the first inning at 0.70 while the Pittsburgh Pirates were dead-last at 0.22. The Yankees were even better when at home as they averaged 0.83 runs in the first. Drilling down into this type of data can give you some insights into the first five bets.

Versus Lineup First, Second, Third Time

Many sites now carry the stats on how pitchers fare the first, second and third time through the order, and that’s one of the most important things to track for first five bets. Visit the likes of ESPN or FanGraphs to find this data, and then you can start to extrapolate some trends from it.

Los Angeles Dodgers starter Julio Urias allowed opposing batters to hit .191 the first time around and then .165 the second time. The third time, though, batters seemed to get a beat on him and hit .279. This is useful for first five because you can infer that he usually gets through the first five pretty safely (roughly speaking) but then has trouble the later he stays in the game. If you see a pitcher who is the opposite, that might concern you for a first five bet.

You’ll need some of the season to play out before you get a big enough dataset to work with. Studying these numbers after one or two starts isn’t all that helpful. However, the more numbers you have, the better informed your first five decisions can be.

Know The Rules For First Five Inning Betting

Sportsbooks have some different rules for first five bets, so make sure you keep an eye on the fine print. Generally speaking, all sportsbooks will consider your bets action only if the listed pitchers start. You don’t usually have the option to list pitchers or simply have action; they both have to start. The other difference is that baseball games obviously can’t end in a tie but first five bets can. Whatever the score is after 30 outs is what will decide the bet. That just means to expect some pushes. That’s not usually a huge issue but keep it in mind if you’re placing a free bet or locking something in that could be impacted by a tie rather than a definitive result.

Outlier Team
March 19, 2023
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