Embrace the Starting Pitcher With MLB First Five Innings Betting

Gerrit Cole MLB player Yankees
Gerrit Cole #45 of the New York Yankees pitches against the Detroit Tigers. Adam Hunger/Getty Images/AFP

The starting pitcher used to be the marquee player for MLB teams. The starting pitching matchup was one of the first things someone checked when deciding whether to attend—or bet on—a game.

That hasn’t been the case recently, however. The starting pitcher has become an endangered species. Or at least a far less dominant one. Pitch limits to reduce injury risk and the development of highly specialized bullpen roles means that it’s now rare to see a starter go deep into a game, let alone flirt with a complete game. Instead, the starter has become just the first in a revolving door of pitching changes.

You can still relive the glory days when the starter was the gunslinger, dominating a game. Just try first five innings betting, and the reliever parade will be a thing of the past.

How Does It Work?

F5 stands for First 5, meaning you’re placing a bet on just the first five innings of an MLB game. Whoever leads at the end of five innings is the winner, regardless of what happens in the final four innings (not including extras).

Just like regular baseball betting, you can bet moneylines, run lines, or over-under on the run total. However, lines and odds will be different than they are for the nine-inning market.

Why Bet First Five Innings?

There are a number of benefits to betting First 5. As said above, it emphasizes the importance of starting pitching matchups. Some of the league’s best starters are among the league leaders in first five innings’ win-loss records.

The Yankees’ Gerrit Cole is 9-3 on the year in 21 starts, which is an impressive record. He’s 15-1 in the first five results, however. Houston’s Jose Urquidy is 9-4 in nine-inning win-loss, 14-4 in his first five innings. Yu Darvish is 9-4, 14-2 in F5.

It also gives you a faster result for your wager. One of baseball’s biggest pushes has been to find ways to reduce the time of the game. With an average game time of well over three hours, baseball is looking at a pitch clock for next season to speed things up.

Ending the whole thing after five innings is one way to get to your payoff without having to sit the full three-plus hours.

Tie Game

One big difference between full-game and F5 betting is that there is the possibility of a tie. Just over 17 percent of MLB games this season (263 of 1531) were tied after five innings were played.

Depending on the sportsbook you use, that could mean one of two things. Some online betting sites simply treat ties as a push and return whatever stake you wagered for your F5 bet.

As F5 betting is growing in popularity, however, some sportsbooks are offering ties as the third outcome in moneyline betting, along with win and loss.

What’s the Difference?

Run lines are smaller … usually about a half a run, on average, instead of 1.5, and the over-under cutoff for run totals is lower since games are just over half as long.

Not surprisingly, teams that have the best bullpens don’t do as well in F5 betting. Baltimore is surprisingly over .500 this year in nine-inning games but has just a .417 record in F5 results.

Colorado and Seattle are also among the teams with the biggest drop in winning percentage going from nine to five-inning results.

Most of the good teams are still good. The Dodgers are nine percentage points better in F5 games than nine-innings. The Yankees are 16 points worse, but both are still among baseball’s F5 winning percentage leaders.

The Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs and Mets have the biggest jumps in winning percentage when we ignore the last four innings, all with over 50 percentage point jumps.

Bottom Line

First five innings betting is a faster, cleaner alternative to normal MLB betting. There are fewer moving parts in games and less chance of something flukey happening when teams get deep into their bullpens.

It may not replace the nine-inning variety, but it’s certainly worth trying out for your MLB picks.