NRFI & YRFI in Baseball Betting: Definition & How to Bet First Inning Props
Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images. Pictured: Dylan Cease #84 of the Chicago White Sox.
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.
I’ve seen a number of Twitter accounts dedicated entirely to this market (which tracks all its bets in the Action Network app).
YTD: (11-4) with a 2-0 🧹💨 #NRFI
Truly the best bet in baseball. pic.twitter.com/9Tkgi7OxDz
— No Runs 1st Inning (@NoRuns1stInning) April 18, 2021
Sportsbooks have started to lean into the bet, as well.
Here, we see DraftKings boosting the NRFI for certain games:
THE NO RUNS IN THE FIRST INNING BOOST CASHES 🤑 pic.twitter.com/DLSBcLcPPG
— DraftKings Sportsbook (@DKSportsbook) April 21, 2021
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.
As someone who has been playing this prop for years, I wanted to give an overview to those who may be unfamiliar, explaining the bet and some strategies to deploy when looking for NRFI value in a game. The goal is to make a profit on one of the most entertaining bets in sports.
I’ll also be using this guide to make some NRFI picks for today’s slate. So, let’s dive into one of the best sweats in all of sports.
There will be two sides to a first-inning bet.
Let’s take an example from last season — Marlins (with Sandy Alcantra 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
Here’s another example. Casey Mize throwing for the Tigers against Royals opener Carlos Hernandez on Sept. 24, 2022. The game total was higher at 8.5 and the pitchers were worse, so there was more scoring expected.
So the odds of there being a run scored in the first inning were nearly even money.
- Yes, there will be a run: -115
- No, there won’t be a run: -105
Where to Bet the NRFI & YRFI
Each sportsbook lists the first inning run prop in a different way. For example:
- BetMGM: Will there be a score in the first inning? Yes/No
- DraftKings: Total Runs – Inning 1: Under 0.5/Over 0.5
- FanDuel: 1st Innings Total Runs: 0 Runs/1 Run/2 Runs or more
- Bet365: A Run in the 1st Inning: Yes/No
- Caesars: Any Run in 1st Inning? Yes/No
- PointsBet: Total 1st Inning: Under 0.5/Over 0.5
These are all just different ways of phrasing the same wager, which allows you to bet on whether either team will score in the first inning.
Most books will offer this bet. 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.
The Cross-Game NRFI
DraftKings and Barstool are among the books in 2023 to introduce “cross-game” NRFIs. While it’s not a productized feature, you can parlay two teams to not score in their half of the first in different games.
So let’s say I want to bet on the Marlins to not score in the first against the Mets and the D’Backs priced not to score against the Dodgers in the first. Both legs are -380, creating a -170 NRFI parlay across two games.
When betting a NRFI, we’re looking to make six outs at the beginning of the game without a run scored. Therefore, we want to find games with two great starters and two poor lineups, correct?
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. If Yankees ace Gerrit Cole is facing Cleveland’s Shane Beiber, the NRFI odds will be priced so high there’s no value.
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 betting NRFIs, there are edges to be found. But it requires a comprehensive look at the starting pitchers and the lineups.
The Starting Pitchers
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 baserunners 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 baserunners, 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.
For example: Max Scherzer is a great pitcher and will draw very juiced NRFI odds as a result. However, his home-run rate has been steadily increasing over the past few years (1.44 in 2021 compared to 0.94 in 2018) and therefore he’s become a liability for NRFI bets.
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.
For example: Stephen Strasburg has a career ERA of 3.21 and will regularly see juiced NRFI odds. However, he’s recorded a career first-inning ERA of 4.01, statistically his second-worst inning.
The ideal NRFI offense is an explosive offense that is slumping. This year’s Yankees team is the perfect example.
The Yankees feature big-time sluggers at the top of their lineup, most notably Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton. But for how much power these two have, they’re also big swing-and-miss guys, as both strike out more than 30% of the time.
When these two and the rest of the Yankees are making contact, they’re incredibly dangerous and can score a lot of runs. However, this year has not been the case, as the Yankees are making contact on just 71.6% of their swings — the sixth lowest in baseball.
Given how scary the Yankees’ lineup is, they tend to draw short NRFI odds as a result. But the lineup has been swinging and missing at a very high rate, and as a result rank dead last in batting average (.203) and slugging (.348) so far this season.
This creates value for NRFI bets. And it shows this season, as the Yankees are scoring a measly .05 first inning runs per game, which is the lowest in baseball.
So, while we know the Yankees have been a good NRFI offense, how can we find other good NRFI offenses?
First, we know the Yankees are the worst first inning offense in baseball because TeamRankings tracks first inning runs per game. This is a great resource and should always be evaluated when considering a NRFI bet, especially because it keeps track of first inning runs per game in four different ways — overall, at home, on the road and in the past three games.
Second, we can find other slumping offenses by looking at the team splits leaderboards on FanGraphs and sorting by the last seven days. At the time of this writing, the Nationals have been the worst offense in baseball over the last seven days, with a .230 wOBA and a 42 wRC+.
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. For example: When Ronald Acuña Jr. was injured for the Braves, the most efficient hitter at the top of the lineup was out, making it much less likely they’d score in that frame.
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