MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Tuesday, June 20
Stacy Revere/Getty Images. Pictured: Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
We started the week off strong with a 3-0 sweep, including one bet at plus-money on Monday. Let's keep the ball rolling on a busy Tuesday in which we have bets on six of the day's 15 games.
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' performances 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 night's game.
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 Tuesday, June 20
Miami Marlins vs. Toronto Blue Jays NRFI: Both pitchers have solid splits the first time through the order, especially Miami's Eury Perez, who's been lights out early in games.
With Toronto's offense underperforming generally — but especially at the top — most of the risk is on the Miami side. That's a relatively comfortable spot to be in given that it ranks 20th against right-handed pitching this season.
New York Yankees vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: We have the Aaron Judge-less Yankees on one side, and the other team is facing Gerrit Cole. This one is pretty obvious, though due to the heavy-ish juice, it could also be used as a parlay piece.
Colorado Rockies vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: This is a very fair line for a game at Coors, which naturally features a double-digit total. Even better, both starting pitchers have worse numbers their first time through the order than overall — and the Reds are one of the more top-heavy lineups in baseball, especially since the Elly De La Cruz call-up.
Chicago White Sox vs. Texas Rangers NRFI: Both teams rank in the bottom 10 in the league in terms of production from the top three hitters relative to their overall scoring. With two of the stronger starters on the board squaring off, that's enough to show value on the no runs side.
San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres YRFI: This game is essentially the inverse of the above, with both offenses inside the top 12 in "top-heaviness." Padres starter Seth Lugo also has reverse splits — meaning he's worse his first time through the order — giving the Giants the bulk of the projection here.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Los Angeles Dodgers YRFI: The better overall pitcher in this game, Clayton Kershaw, isn't great his first time through the order. Plus, the Angels get guaranteed at-bats from Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani in the first inning.
The Dodgers also lead the league in the proportion of their scoring produced by their first three hitters.