Winning at MLB might require thinking out-of-the-box more than any other sport. For starters, we’re rarely betting simply against the -110, which is hard enough to beat over the long run. The game is changing and one option a lot of people are taking advantage of is in-game betting, which I happen to think should be in every serious bettors’ repertoire. However, for many that requires being mobile and at-the-ready for hours on end, which is just not possible for the recreational bettor with responsibilities.
However, one option that you might consider if you’re doing a lot of your own work is a first-five inning bet. They are far less complicated and require far less work simply because you can simply eliminate bullpens from the equation entirely, and we know how costly some bullpens can be. Personally, I love to bet on home teams in the first five innings for several reasons.
First, we are always assured the last at bat – which is huge. Secondly, and especially if we’re betting against a pitcher that our team hasn’t seen much of, the fifth inning is typically going to give the lineup a second and third look at the pitcher. We know from experience that familiarity is a big deal.
There is even more value to these bets in the National League. In the American League with a designated hitter there is far less likelihood that a pitcher isn’t going to last five innings, whereas in the National League there are many situation where the starter might be having issues and get pinch-hit for earlier than you might expect. It’s simply all about the odds.
There are also some great stats-splits right on MLB.com that sort teams by inning as far as they’re historical scoring AND pitching. Just as in any sport there are some teams that are fast starters and others that seem to take time to get going, and I am always looking to simplify. This is not rocket-science as some would have you believe. It’s just a matter of having TIME.
For example the three highest scoring teams in the FIRST inning this season are the Phillies, Rays, and the Marlins. Those are three teams people tend to shy away from, all of whom have marginal (at best) bullpens that may offer great first-five value in the right situations, and especially at home. The first inning is good baseline for me because you know you’re getting the best of the order at the plate, as opposed to the second/third when you just aren’t sure, and again, especially in the NL when you get to the pitchers’ spot.
And of course you can look at the other side of the ledger, pitching. The three teams that have ALLOWED the most runs in the first inning are all teams people instinctively want to bet ON. Those would be Washington, Boston, and the Cubs. And all of those teams are usually going to be expensive, so looking to fade them on the road in the first five innings can be great bets.
As always, everything is situational – but you have to start somewhere. The point here is that we need to think beyond the obvious, because bookmakers count on us NOT doing that, and winning over the long haul is hard. But with some foresight and not getting caught in doing the same thing over and over again (we know that saying) we can and do win.