MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, May 29

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, May 29 article feature image

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images. Pictured: Shohei Ohtani (Angels)

We have a full Memorial Day slate today, with four first inning picks spread out throughout the day.

It's mostly NRFIs today, as there's a slew of strong starting pitchers and low totals throughout the MLB.

The Model

The process is relatively simple. First, I start by assuming that the full game (implied) run totals for either team are roughly efficient.

As mentioned above, that tends to be the case more often than not. This saves me the trouble of trying to predict the total runs scored in the game — and allows me to focus strictly on the "when" rather than "how many."

Next, I built a database of pitchers performance the first time through the order, relative to their overall stats. Since the latter is presumably baked into the full game total, I wanted to figure out if those runs are more likely to come early or late.

Most — but not all — MLB starters do somewhat better early in games, but with some variance in just how much. The model uses xFIP (expected Fielding Independent Pitching) as the ERA predictor of choice.

That's only half of the equation, though, with the offenses making up the other half. To do this, I looked at what percentage of a team's total runs is produced by the top three batters in the lineup.

While a first inning run scored, by definition, needs at least four hitters to come to the plate, one of the first three has to actually score it. The metric of choice here is wRC+, based on the projected lineup for the day from each team.

This is a bit of a tradeoff, as lineups (and run totals) can shift throughout the day, especially if significant contributors miss time. However, in my experience the inefficiency of the morning lines more than makes up for the leakage in the model.

With that said, exercise caution if, say, Mike Trout is listed as questionable for the nights game.

The Picks

With all of the picks below, I'll include the pick, the best line and the threshold I'd bet it to. These will go up in the morning, so if any major news breaks between publishing and when you read it, be sure to consider that.

Infrequently, rather than betting on the traditional YRFI/NRFI, the pick will be on one team or the other specifically to score a run, which as of this writing is only a betting option at DraftKings.

Since the model handles each team individually, sometimes one team is projecting for a greater proportion of the "run equity" in the first inning than the betting lines are accounting for.

NRFI Odds, Picks for Monday, May 29

Detroit Tigers vs. Texan Rangers NRFI: All the risk here is on the Rangers side, as they hit lefties well and are taking on Tigers southpaw Matthew Boyd.

Still, Boyd has strong splits his first time through the order and the Rangers' lineup isn't especially "top heavy" in their production. That makes it worth the risk when we don't project the Tigers as much of a scoring threat.

Chicago Cubs vs. Tampa Bay Rays NRFI: This game has an eight run total, two relatively balanced lineups and a pair of pitchers with solid numbers the first time through the order.

As a bonus, Tampa Bay is on the wrong side of its platoon splits (relatively speaking) against the righty pitcher — though it's been the best offense in baseball against righties and lefties.

San Francisco Giants vs. Pittsburgh Pirates NRFI: The ageless Rich Hill hasn't been bad this year, and he's been even better his first time through the order. The top of the Pirates' lineup is also far less of a threat with Oneil Cruz on the DL, making this a solid value.

Chicago White Sox vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI: Both pitchers in this game have been slightly worse their first time through the order, with large enough sample sizes to feel fairly comfortable about that being a predictive measure.

Plus, we get guaranteed at bats from Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the first inning.

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