MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, July 7
Via Gina Ferazzi/Getty Images. Pictured: Los Angeles Angels DH Shohei Ohtani (17) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run to tie the game in the fourth inning against the Chicago White Sox at Angel Stadium on June 26, 2023 in Anaheim, California.
We had another solid day on Thursday, going 2-1 and turning a moderate profit. We have another shot at a big day today, with six bets on a full Friday slate.
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 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 7
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Miami Marlins NRFI: This is an easy one with a 7.5-run total and two excellent starting pitchers. It helps that DraftKings left this NRFI price at -125 when the rest of the market is in the -130s.
Kansas City Royals vs. Cleveland Guardians YRFI (Caesars): Both starting pitchers have been slightly worse their first time through the order, which raises the odds of a first-inning run considerably.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Milwaukee Brewers YRFI (Caesars): Brewers starter Corbin Burnes is one of my favorite YRFI pitchers, thanks to solid overall numbers but a 4.84 xFIP his first time through the order. Reds starter Andrew Abbott struggles early as well.
St. Louis Cardinals vs. Chicago White Sox NRFI: This game has a somewhat high 8.5-run total, but both teams rank near the bottom in terms of production from the top of the order. Additionally, both starters have solid early-game numbers.
Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros NRFI (DraftKings): This is strength-on-strength, as two of the better offenses — both overall and in production from the top — meet two tough starting pitchers. The 7.5-run total tells the story though, as we expect good pitching to prevail over good hitting.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Los Angeles Dodgers YRFI: While the Angels lineup is considerably weaker at the top without Mike Trout, the Dodgers are providing more than enough value to make up for it here. The Dodgers provide most of the equity here, but don't count out the Angels — they still get a guaranteed at-bat from Shohei Ohtani after all.