Betting on no runs being scored in the first inning — called No Run First Inning, or NRFI for short — is a bet that’s quickly growing in popularity.
You can bet the flip side that there will be a run scored in the first inning — a YRFI — but the NRFI has become a favorite of many MLB bettors.
Why has this particular prop garnered so much attention?
Because it’s one of the most fun and electric bets in sports. It’s a short-and-thrilling bet that combines an insane sweat with instant gratification when it wins. With the NRFI, you don’t have to spend four hours waiting for a baseball bet to cash. Instead, you just need six quick outs at the beginning of the game.
There will be two sides to a first-inning bet.
Let’s take an example from last season — Marlins (with Sandy Alcantara pitching) against the Rays (Shane McLanahan). Both pitchers were throwing well, and the total in the game was just 7. So “no run scored” in the first inning was the favorite.
Yes, there will be a run: +120
No, there won’t be a run: -150
Most books will offer this bet, although by a variety of similar names. Given the first-inning prop market won’t be as robust or efficient as the full-game market, it’s imperative that you line shop to get the best NRFI value.
When betting a NRFI, we want to find games with two great starters and two poor lineups, correct? Not necessarily.
Great pitchers will give us bad NRFI odds, and poor lineups will give us bad NRFI odds, and betting NRFIs in those situations just won’t be profitable. Instead, you have to “middle” it. The best NRFI bets feature an underrated pitcher with good NRFI stats and an explosive lineup that’s slumping. This way, we can get odds that provide value in these specific situations.
When sweating out a NRFI bet, we want to avoid trouble. That includes walks, singles, extra base hits, wild pitches and, most importantly, the dreaded NRFI-killing solo home run.
Given that, there are a few things to look for in a pitcher when evaluating NRFI bets.
First, a pitcher who can avoid base runners is ideal. Therefore, we should target pitchers with a low WHIP, which means they’re good at avoiding guys on base.
Second, a high strikeout rate. A pitcher who strikes a lot of guys out serves a dual purpose in the NRFI bet. First, they don’t pitch to contact and therefore avoid ground-ball variance trouble. Second, if the pitcher does allow base runners, striking guys out is a great way to get out of a jam without allowing runs on sacrifice hits.
Third — and this might be the most important stat when evaluating NRFI pitchers — we need a low home run rate. The solo home run is the most devastating way to lose a NRFI bet, and therefore we need to target pitchers who don’t allow the long ball often.
Additionally, I’ll always look at a pitcher’s first-inning ERA before betting a NRFI. Baseball Reference tracks individual inning stats for every pitcher, and it’s a great reference point for NRFI bets.
The ideal NRFI offense is an explosive offense that is slumping. This year’s Yankees team is the perfect example.
We can find other slumping offenses by looking at the team splits leaderboards on FanGraphs and sorting by the last seven days.
Finally, always consider the injury report when evaluating a NRFI bet. If there’s a key injury at the top of the lineup, that provides one of the biggest NRFI edges.
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