MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, April 14
Joe Sargent/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Clevinger
After a lighter Thursday slate, baseball is back in full force on Friday. There’s 15 total games, most of which feature starting pitchers with enough data to feed my NRFI model to a comfortable level.
We have five total picks for the day, mostly YRFIs. Since people love to bet the NRFI side of things, there tends to be a slightly bigger edge on the yes side of the coin, especially with MLB’s new rules that encourage offense. That could change throughout the year as sportsbooks catch up, but we should take advantage of it now.
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 that 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 Friday, April 14
Editor’s note: Marco Gonzales was scratched late Friday and replaced as the starting pitcher by Tommy Milone. For information on how scratched pitchers impact your bets, click here.
Giants vs. Tigers (NRFI) : The -115s are pretty close to the edge of my threshold for value here. Both starters are solid the first time through the order, and the Tigers’ terrible offense in general helps a ton. There’s some risk on the Giants side, but they’ve struggled a ton against lefties so far this season.
Guardians vs. Nationals (YRFI): There’s a ton of projected edge here, with both starting pitchers actually performing slightly worse their first time through the order.
Angels vs. Red Sox (YRFI): The Angels are probably my favorite YRFI team to bet, with the top three hitters of Taylor Ward, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani accounting for a huge chunk of the team’s overall production. Today, the Red Sox give them a solid boost as well, since Angels’ starter is slightly worse early in games. Either team’s individual YRFI line at +200 or better is a +EV bet too, but the game line is a better value.
Orioles vs. White Sox (YRFI): This one is a function of the offenses, with the White Sox in particular disproportionately favoring the top of the order. Baltimore is solid in that regard too, especially if you include likely cleanup hitter Ryan Mountcastle, who has six home runs and 19 RBI through 13 games.
Rockies vs. Mariners (YRFI): The Mariners’ offense is doing most of the work here. If you can’t get the -105 at BetMGM, I prefer the Mariners to score in the first inning at +190 on DraftKings. That’s a better value than the -120 both team line listed there and FanDuel.
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