MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, July 28
Via Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Wilmer Flores #41 of the San Francisco Giants rounds the bases after hitting a home run in the sixth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on July 17, 2023 in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Our hot streak definitively came to an end on Thursday, with a reverse sweep losing all four picks. Nonetheless, that brings our record on the week to a solid 11-7, with one more chance to improve with our Friday NRFI picks.
The NRFI Model
The process is relatively simple. First, I start by assuming that the full-game (implied) run totals for each 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 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, July 28
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Pittsburgh Pirates NRFI: This would be a strong value at -105 on BetMGM under normal circumstances, but it is an outstanding one thanks to their Friday NRFI Promo. Both pitchers have excellent first time through the order splits, and neither team is especially top-heavy.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Houston Astros YRFI: Rays starter Shane McClanahan has excellent overall numbers, but he possesses a more pedestrian 3.72 xFIP his first time through the order. Plus, both of these teams rank among the top five in production from their first three hitters.
Texas Rangers vs. San Diego Padres NRFI: This is another viable option for the BetMGM promo, though I greatly prefer the Pirates-Phillies game listed above. We have an eight-run total and two pitchers with strong first time through the order splits, making this a solid pick at fairly low juice.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Los Angeles Dodgers YRFI: The line at Kambi-affiliated books (BetRivers, PlayGunLake, etc.) is a bit off the market here, making this a value if you have access to those. If not, I'd consider using this as a parlay piece on other sportsbooks.
Boston Red Sox vs. San Francisco Giants YRFI: Both starting pitchers here have worse numbers their first time through the order than overall, which more than makes up for the eight-run total on the game — especially at plus-money.