How to Bet on Baseball: First Five Innings
Betting on MLB baseball is full of unique opportunities, whether you’re a seasoned sharp or entirely new to the world of sports betting. With more games throughout the season than any other major sport and a seemingly endless number of statistics to inform your betting strategy, learning how to bet on baseball can be a hugely entertaining and lucrative endeavor.
First 5 inning MLB betting is one of the best opportunities to find value betting on baseball, as it narrows the scope of factors likely to influence the outcome of the game, allowing you to more accurately assess potential outcomes while considering a smaller number of variables. As a secondary line bet, it also presents opportunities to find value when the sportsbook hasn’t adjusted their odds appropriately.
Read on to learn how to bet on the first 5 innings in baseball, how the odds differ between first 5 innings vs. full game MLB bets, and the most important things to consider when betting on first 5 innings.
How Do First 5 Innings MLB Bets Work?
Quite simply, first 5 innings wagers allow you to ignore anything that happens in a baseball game beyond the end of the 5th inning. They’re a similar concept to first half bets in the NFL or NBA, and most sportsbooks allow you to place the same types of baseball bets on first 5 innings that you can on the entire game, including straight-up money line bets on which team will win, run line (point spread) bets on how much they’ll win by, and totals bets on the number of runs scored collectively by both teams.
Naturally, odds are likely to be less favorable when betting first 5 innings vs. full game, as there are fewer unknown factors for the sportsbook and bettors to consider when evaluating odds. This fact reflects the reality that it’s generally a safer bet than wagering on an entire game, when pitching changes and the relative strength of each team’s bullpen become hugely significant factors that can quickly sway the outcome of a game.
MLB Betting: Types of Bets
Let’s break down each type of bet you can place on the first 5 innings of an MLB game. If you need a more comprehensive refresher on reading odds and understanding bet types, check out our beginner’s guide covering the basics of betting on baseball.
The image below provides an example of what you’re likely to see when logging into your sportsbook, with explanations of each bet type to follow.
Betting the money line in any major sport is easy to understand: simply pick the team you expect to win the game outright. Betting the money line on baseball is no different, and it can be a valuable option for first 5 inning MLB bets as well, particularly when you have a high level of confidence in one team’s starting pitcher (more on that later…).
It’s crucial to remember that baseball games cannot end in a tie, but they can be tied after 5 innings. This means that there is potential for a push with first 5 innings money line bets that does not exist when betting on full games. If the game is tied after 5 and you’ve bet on the money line, your wager will simply be returned.
Betting the run line in baseball is the same as betting the point spread in other major sports. When you wager on the run line, you’re betting on the number of runs the victorious team will win by, or in the case of first 5 innings betting, be ahead by at the end of the 5th inning.
One important consideration when betting the run line on 5 innings only is that both teams will get to bat the same number of times. This differs from traditional MLB bets, where the home team does not bat if they are ahead after 8.5 innings, (which reduces their opportunities to score by a significant 11%). In theory, a higher percentage of games will be close or tied after 5 compared to complete games, which is why you’ll typically see the run line set at 0.5 on the first 5 innings vs. 1.5 on the complete game.
When betting totals in baseball, you are betting on the combined score of the two teams at the end of the game or at the end of 5 innings. Rather than determining the exact number of runs that will be scored, you simply need to determine whether the actual total will be over or under the total set by the sportsbook. Simple, right?
Because it is not possible for a baseball game to end in a tie, it’s significantly more likely for the final total score to be an odd number. This does not hold true for first 5 innings bets, where the possibility of a tie increases the likelihood of an even total score.
First 5 Innings vs. Full Game Bets: Comparing Odds
The basic concept behind first 5 innings baseball bets is simple, but how do they compare with traditional methods of wagering on an entire MLB game in terms of odds and potential payout? Let’s take a quick look at some odds for a game between the Padres and Marlins. The first table displays the odds for a full game bet, while the second shows the odds for first 5 innings bets.
Full Game Odds
|Team||Money line||Run line||Total|
|Padres||-125||-1.5 +145||O 7.5 -105|
|Marlins||+105||+1.5 -170||U 7.5 -115|
First 5 Innings Odds
|Team||Money line||Run line||Total|
|Padres||-120||-0.5 +120||O 4.5 -105|
|Marlins||+100||+0.5 -140||U 4.5 -115|
Many of the advantages that could make a team the favorite are more significant (or only relevant) in the final innings of a game. Properly formulated odds will often reflect this fact, with favorites being more heavily favored for complete games compared with first 5 innings. Generally speaking, you’ll see a higher ROI when betting on a complete game, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the smartest bet.
The key to making an intelligent wager on any sporting event is handicapping the odds based on the factors most likely to influence the outcome. Baseball is a long and complex game in which lineup changes and weather often drastically change the direction of the game in later innings.
When to Bet First 5 Innings
It’s About the Pitching
Baseball is a team sport, but the reality is that there’s one person on the field who matters significantly more than everyone else: the pitcher. Handicapping the first 5 innings of a game is generally easier than doing so for the complete game because you only need to consider the relative strength of the starting pitchers without needing to factor in the bullpen, the influence of which is inherently less predictable.
Even the best starting pitchers rarely pitch beyond the 5th inning. During the 2018 MLB season only 30 starters in the entire league had an IP/GS (innings pitched per start) ratio of 6 or above, and the Cleveland Indians were the only team whose starters averaged 6 innings on the mound.
On the flip side, Tampa Bay was the only team whose starters averaged less than 5 innings on the mound. As such, it’s a safe bet to assume the vast majority of starters will complete 5 innings of play, effectively removing the bullpen as a consideration in first 5 innings bets.
If you’re highly confident in the relative strength of a starting pitcher but lack confidence in the team’s bullpen to finish the job, it’s a good opportunity to place a first 5 innings bet. Similarly, it might be worth wagering on the first 5 innings if you know a strong bullpen could quickly recoup the losses of a weak starter in later innings.
Look for Top-Heavy Lineups
A head-to-head comparison of the relative strength of each team’s starting pitcher is undeniably the most important factor in handicapping first 5 inning baseball bets, but those looking for a deeper level of analysis would be wise to also consider the strength of the batting lineups and where the heavy hitters lie in each.
Handicapping which club has more of a top-heavy lineup (by determining who has stronger hitters in the first 3-4 slots of the batting order) will help you pick a winner on the first 5 innings money line, as these players are likely to see an additional at-bat before the end of the fifth inning. If both teams have very top-heavy lineups, this could be an indication that the total score after 5 will be higher than the odds might suggest.
There’s Value in Secondary Line Bets
As a secondary line, sportsbooks are likely to put less effort into calculating the line for first half wagers compared to full games. By determining whether the first 5 innings money line and totals odds align with those for the complete game, you can identify particularly advantageous opportunities.
Even the best online MLB betting sites occasionally fail to fully account for the fact that the favorite’s edge should become more significant as the game progresses. If they’ve failed to consider the relative strength of a team’s lineup, bullpen, and ability to make substitutions, they may overestimate that team’s performance in the first 5 innings.
The same principle applies to betting totals. The first 5 innings tend to see more scoring than the later ones, and there are always 5 of them vs. 3.5 or 4 in the latter part of the game.
As such, determining the total after 5 is more complicated than simply slicing the over/under in half. If you’re able to spend the time on a detailed analysis of each team’s likelihood to score in the first 5 vs. later innings based on past results, you’ll have a leg up on any sportsbooks that use an approach based in simple math rather than detailed analysis of the particular teams at hand.
First 5 Innings Baseball Bets Are Simpler and Safer
Ultimately, first 5 innings bets are appealing to bettors because they allow you to focus on a much smaller range of factors when searching for value in your wagers. Again, baseball games are long, and things often go off the rails past the halfway point. In instances where one starting pitcher has a sizable advantage, they are a relatively safe bet compared to full game MLB wagers.
Ready to Get Started Betting on Baseball?
If you’re interested in learning more about how to bet on MLB games, be sure to explore our beginner’s guide to betting baseball. If you’re looking for the best place to jump into sports betting more generally, it might be worth checking out the sports betting series, where you’ll find heaps of helpful info to help you wager on all types of sports.