5-inning baseball betting line might be our relief

May 5, 2009 5:10 PM
The 3-2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe |

One of the most frustrating aspects of wagering on major league baseball games concerns the uncertain results from relief pitching.

Especially frustrating are situations that often occur in the middle to latter stages of a game when it’s time to remove a starting pitcher and a team’s fate often rests with the most unreliable pitchers on the staff, the middle relievers.

Perhaps the most frustrating of wagering results is when a duel between two starting pitchers turns ugly, and a game that was 1-1 through 6 winds up a 6-4 final. So what seemed to be an easy winner on the under bet turns into a lucky payday for those playing the over.

It happens more often than one might think, although not always to the extreme just described. The point is solid handicapping in which a game unfolds according to expectations can and often does go for naught when quality starting pitchers are pulled – even when pitching well. In this era of specialization, that’s resulted in the virtual disappearance of the complete game.

Fortunately more and more sports books, both in Las Vegas and worldwide, now offer "solutions" to this frustration by allowing patrons to wager on the results of just the first five innings of a baseball contest.

For totals players, especially those under bettors (where the value is generally greater vis-a-vis over), the five inning wagers presents some great opportunities.

Usually, though not always, the five inning totals line is roughly half of the line for the full game. For example, in a game in which the total is 9, the five inning total might be 4½. A full game total of 8½ might have a five inning total of 4 or 4½.

Because most quality starting pitchers average between 6 and 7 innings per outing, the beauty of playing under the five inning total virtually takes the bullpen out of the equation. If the bullpen comes in during the first five innings there is a good likelihood the under is in serious jeopardy. But if the two starting pitchers pitch according to form, the likelihood is for few runs through 5.

On average, pitchers with an ERA of 4.00 can be expected to allow 2 or 3 runs over 5 innings (2.22 to be precise). Pitchers with an ERA of 3.00 can be expected to allow 1 or 2 runs over 5 innings (1.67). This is a simplistic illustration but the bottom line is that 5-inning under wagers offer value in many situations where the most unreliable portion of the pitching staff is likely to not be involved.

Here’s a look at four series to be played this weekend:

Braves at Phillies: Atlanta won 2 of 3 in Philadelphia when the teams met to open the season a month ago. The Phils have been winning despite some poor pitching from the starting rotation. Through 22 games the Phillies had just one quality start and that did not even come from the staff ace, lefthander Cole Hamels. Atlanta’s rotation has generally been solid with starter Derek Lowe, Jair Jurrjens and Javier Vazquez having all posted solid numbers.

Preferred plays:

• Braves as underdogs in starts by Lowe, Jurrjens or Vazquez.

• Braves -125 if either of these three face Joe Blanton or Chan Ho Park.

• Over 8 or lower vs Lowe, Jurrjens, Vazquez or the Cole Hamels.

• Over 9 or lower not involving any of these four hurlers.

Cubs at Brewers: Both teams off to just average starts. Milwaukee is without Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia, but has gotten solid performances from emerging ace Yovani Gallardo, Dave Bush and Braden Looper. Lefty Ted Lilly has been the most consistent Chicago starter although Rich Harden has fanned 37 in just 242/3 innings. Both offenses have been inconsistent.

Preferred plays:

• Brewers -150 with Gallardo.

• Brewers -125 with Bush or Looper against any Chicago starter.

• Cubs -140 if Lilly starts against other than Gallardo, Bush or Looper.

• Cubs as underdogs in any other matchup.

Over 9 not involving Gallardo or Looper.

Under 8 or higher if Lilly opposes Gallardo.

Rays at Red Sox: Already their third series! In an attempt to show that last season’s ALCS victory was no fluke, Tampa Bay has defeated Boston in 5 of the 7 meetings. Against the rest of the league, the Rays are 6-13. The under is 4-3 with the teams averaging just under 10 runs per game. Tampa’s offense and pitching is off to a slow start, especially ace Scott Kazmir (5.39 ERA). Tim Wakefield is the only Boston starter with an ERA below 4. Josh Beckett and Brad Penny each are above 7.

Preferred plays:

• Either team as +120 underdogs.

Over 9 or lower in most matchups.

Under 9 or higher if Wakefield faces Matt Garza.

Royals at Angels: Many observers are comparing this season’s Royals to last season’s Rays. KC has some fine young pitchers and a reliable closer, backed by an offense has scored at least 7 runs in 5 of the last 7 games. Zach Greinke was virtually unhittable in the season’s first month. The Angels have been plagued by injury and tragedy. They are well managed and capable of a run when injured hitters and pitchers come back.

Preferred plays:

• Royals +125 or more in any matchup.

• Royals -125 in any start by Greinke.

• Angels -125 with Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders or Matt Palmer except against Greinke.

Under 8 or higher if Weaver, Saunders or Palmer opposes Greinke or Brian Bannister.

Over 9 or lower if the Royals start Sidney Ponson or Kyle Davies against other than Weaver, Saunders or Palmer.

Question? Comment? E-mail me at: Andy Iskoe