First Five Inning Lines

The great advantage of betting on the first five innings in baseball otherwise known as the first half is that your fate is in the hands of the two starting pitchers.

You can safely ignore both benches and both bullpens which puts any handicapper in a much stronger position as it is mostly random which bench players are used and which pitchers come in from the pen to face particular hitters. This helps in two ways:

Magnify Your Edge

First if you have the advantage in the first five innings you can have a larger advantage than you would have in the entire game because the situation in which you have that edge is magnified. If the line is in error chances are that those later innings are minimizing that error assuming the error does not originate from the bullpen.

The second half also introduces random elements out of your control that can cost you the win. Close games and blowouts have different dynamics late in the game. Wind conditions can change there are substitutions and double switches. Early in the game you can look at a known lineup against a known opponent and not worry about the rest of the game causing interference with the result of your bet.

This is also true in other sports. If you know that a team is likely to dominate the early going especially the opening five in basketball or the early game plan in football you can often get a far larger advantage by betting on the first half or first quarter of the game before things get randomized and teams adjust.

Target Secondary Betting Markets for Maximum Advantage

The second advantage is the benefit that always comes when you target a secondary betting market rather than a principal game line. As with alternate runlines and team totals you get to focus on the first half line and study it. In fact you are probably giving far more thought to the line youre thinking about betting than the sports book does when putting the line up. The sportsbook will be applying a formula and hoping it is close enough but they cant afford to deal an abnormal line until someone bets.

This lets you find opportunities where the first half line does not follow the moneyline or total for the game the way it normally should. Unlike runlines there can be little question such differences exist. The big unknown is which ones are important and how much each of them is worth.

Starting Pitching vs. Bullpens

The biggest factor is the starting pitcher versus the bullpens. If you have a strong bullpen that helps you only in the second half whereas a strong starter is mostly good for the first half. When you see a particularly strong pitcher starting with a poor bullpen or vice versa thats a great time to look at betting the first half. Knowing how to properly compensate for this could allow a disciplined bettor to benefit in both directions. He could bet into seemingly fair lines when he has the advantage and could safely take value when the lines have moved too far.

Of course to do any of this you need a guide for what first half lines are supposed to be when betting baseball. Having five innings instead of nine reduces the edge of the better team. In exchange for that they get the benefits of their usually stronger starter and the small mathematical edge that comes from ties. The net result is that favorites for the game tend to be slightly smaller favorites for the first five innings. This effect remains small until about -150 1.67 and gets sizable by -200 1.50. It does not seem to matter whether the home or road team is the favorite.

Totals for the first half are trickier because in baseball numbers are created anything but equal. The fact that 7 and 7.5 are almost as different as 7.5 and 8.5 makes it hard to give an accurate rule of thumb to translate a game total into a first half total.

The later innings of the game tend to be lower scoring on average than the first five and there are only four of them plus extra innings so more than half the runs will likely come from the first five innings. The result of this is that the first half total will be slightly more than half of the total for the game once all numbers are adjusted to smooth out all irregularities.

Get Good Numbers Quickly

As with all conversions the best way to get good numbers quickly is to write down the betting lines or any other book offer on a variety of baseball games. You can then use these historical lines as a guide to future games. You can even use this technique to learn about the markets perception of a particular team. For example by analysing the first half lines traded at over two days you can quickly gain an amazingly accurate ranking of the respective bullpens in MLB.

As usual the usefulness of a line comes down to how well you understand it and what a good number would be whether it lets you bet on what you like and against what you dislike what the limit is and how thin it is being dealt where thin means lower juice/commission.


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