The great advantage of developing a baseball betting strategy that uses the first five innings, otherwise known as the first half, is that your fate is in the hands of the two starting pitchers. This means you can safely ignore other, more random factors, such as the benches and both bullpens in your baseball betting.
If you want to learn how to bet on baseball before advancing with baseball betting strategies, read this article - How to bet on baseball: The ultimate baseball betting guide.
Magnify Your Edge
Firstly, using a baseball betting strategy that gives you the advantage in the first five innings means 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 minimising 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 in baseball betting. 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 randomised and teams adjust.
Secondary Betting Markets
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.
The best time to look at betting in the first half is when a particularly strong pitcher starts with a poor bullpen or vice versa.
In fact, you are probably giving far more thought to the line you’re thinking about betting than the sportsbook does when putting up the line-up. The sportsbook will be applying a formula and hoping it is close enough, but they can’t afford to deal an abnormal line until someone bets.
This lets you find opportunities where the first half line does not follow the money line 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, that’s a great time to look at implementing a first half baseball betting strategy. Knowing how to properly compensate for this could allow a disciplined bettor to benefit in both directions. They could bet into seemingly fair lines when they have 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 in baseball betting. 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 the favourites for the game tend to be slightly smaller favourites 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 favourite.
Totals for the first half are trickier because in baseball, numbers are created anything but equal. The fact that 7 and 7½ are almost as different as 7½ and 8½ 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 Pinnacle or any other book offer on baseball betting. You can then use these historical lines as a guide to future games. You can even use this technique to learn about the market’s perception of a particular team.
To gain an amazingly accurate ranking of bullpens in MLB, start by collecting and analysing the first half lines of the respective bullpens over two days.
For example, by analysing the first half lines traded at Pinnacle 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). Read our simple guide How to calculate betting margins to make sure you know what your bookmaker is charging you.
Always Play at Best Price
As with many other betting lines, Pinnacle will often have the best odds on both sides of the equation. With lines worth up to 50% better value than other sportsbooks, Pinnacle deals both first half sides and totals at -105 (bet $105 to win $100) instead of the usual -110 (bet $110 to win $100) available at other sportsbooks.
Most bettors have learnt that betting the main game line is the way to obtain the best odds. While this is true at a traditional ‘full juice’ sportsbook, at a low commission bookmaker like Pinnacle, whatever you are looking to bet the chances are that you can find a good number. In addition to overnight lines, players at Pinnacle now have a money line, a total, two runlines, two team totals and a first half money line and total to choose from, all at low juice.
In fact, you can do even better by line shopping at other sportsbooks when Pinnacle puts up a unique number and our other lines reflect that. Maximising your use of all the resources available to find the best odds will pay dividends every bet you make.
As long as you’re playing for no more than a few dimes and choose the line carefully, it is one of the easiest ways to increase potential winnings substantially, by simply playing at the best available price.
Now that you know how to develop a baseball betting strategy using the first five innings, go straight to our popular article Strategies for betting on team totals!