How to Handicap MLB 1st Inning Run Scored Props

In recent years handicappers have spent more time analyzing prop markets. One of the most popular alternate markets that can be bet on is whether or not a run will be scored in the 1st inning of a baseball game. If you have the time, you’ll find plenty of edges.

Before we even start, understand this, 1st inning prop bets take time to research and handicap like any other market.

Beating the Sportsbook Juice

The juice on full game money line bets in baseball is often just $0.05 to $0.10 at major sportsbooks. When you bet on props such as whether there will be a run in the 1st inning the sports betting sites will juice the market up much more and you’ll have to beat $0.30 lines.

Let’s take a look at an example of this MLB prop bet.

  • LA Dodgers vs. LA Angels Run in 1st Inning – Yes (+120) or No (-150)

As you can see you have to risk $150 to win $100 on “NO” while you only have to risk $100 to win $120 on “YES”. To break even at –150 odds you have to win 60% of your bets while at +120 odds you only have to win 45.45% of your bets. Historically (2000-2014), the probability to score a run in the 1st inning is roughly 52.5%. Most handicappers assume the percentage would be a lot lower because the odds are often juiced on the “NO” side of the wager, but that’s due to public perception. In order to beat the juice on this market you have to pick your spots wisely and identify the value plays (+EV Bets).

Tips for Handicapping MLB 1st Inning Run Scored Prop Bets

Before you can even look for value bets you need to analyze the games that stand out to you on a daily basis. There are numerous statistic websites that offer data that’ll help you handicap this prop bet. The two websites that you absolutely need to use are TeamRankings and BaseballReference. Both are updated daily and provide the best data for this prop bet.

What type of statistics should I look at when handicapping this prop bet?

  • How many runs does each team score/allow in the 1st inning? (TeamRankings)
  • How often does each team score/allow at least 1 run in the 1st inning? (TeamRankings)
  • How well does each starting pitcher play in the 1st inning? (BaseballReference)
  • How has each hitter at the top of the batting order perform against the opposing pitcher (BaseballReference)
  • How well does a hitter perform in the 1st inning of games (BaseballReference)

After analyzing these statistics you’ll have enough information to decide whether to pass on this game or move onto analyzing the odds to determine if the bet is +EV. Just because you have a lean on “YES” or “NO” doesn’t mean that you automatically bet on it. Once you start working with these stats you’ll start to remember which teams/pitchers are offering the best value, which will save you some time when handicapping these prop bets. Let’s take a look at a few trends from last season (2012-13) as examples.

Stephen Strasburg finished the season with a 3.00 ERA, but the 1st inning (4.20 ERA) was his second worst statistically. Strasburg is a big name and the “NO” is almost always juiced when he’s pitching, yet the “YES” went 16-14 in his 30 starts last season. C.C. Sabathia is another overvalued pitcher in this prop market. Sabathia had a 4.78 ERA in the 1st inning last season and he allowed a lot of big hits including 6 home runs, 1 triple and 6 doubles in just 32 innings pitched. The “YES” in this market usually pays well.

You don’t always have to bet on the “YES”, but you should avoid betting “NO” when the odds are above –150 because you’ll have to hit at too high of a percentage to remain profitable. The “NO” isn’t always juiced, especially with back of the rotation pitchers. I find that you can get good value on the “NO” when two poor hitting teams are playing each other with poor pitching. Most bettors will look at the pitching and bet on the “YES”, but with two teams hitting the baseball poorly the value is often on the “NO”. Another thing you need to do when handicapping 1st inning run scored props is view the full game over/under total.

The O/U total in the game has a strong correlation to whether a run will be scored in the 1st inning or not. A baseball game with an O/U total of 6 runs is less likely to have a run in the 1st inning than a game with an O/U total of 10 runs. When you’ve compiled the stats on a game the final step is to predict the probability that “YES” and “NO” will hit. If the “YES” odds are +120 and you’ve predicted it has a 50% chance to win then the bet would be +EV. On the other hand, if you predict that “YES” has a 40% chance to win you’d pass on this wager because you’d need odds of +150 or better.

Bookmakers don’t spend a lot of time with 1st inning prop lines, so there is value to be had by the prepared handicapper. You should already have your leans and probabilities done by the time that the sportsbooks release the 1st inning prop odds. You want to be one of the first to take a position in the market because you’ll often get the best odds. The only time you should wait is when you know the public will likely be betting the other side and driving up the odds to where you’ll get a better price.