MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, June 16

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, June 16 article feature image

Via Dustin Bradford/Getty Images. Pictured: San Diego Padres left fielder Juan Soto (22) bats in the third inning during a game between the San Diego Padres and the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on June 10, 2023 in Denver, Colorado.

  • There's a full MLB slate on Friday night, and our first-inning betting model has six picks ready.
  • Billy Ward is eying five YRFIs and one NRFI, including a play for Rays vs. Padres.
  • Find his MLB first-inning model picks and predictions below.

Our strong week continues after going 4-1 on Thursday, including the recommended half-unit bet on the Padres game. Overall, we're up a bit more than three units this week, so let's finish strong.

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 Friday, June 16th

Miami Marlins vs. Washington Nationals NRFI: There's a bit of risk here on the Marlins side, since they rank second in terms of the production of their top-three hitters relative to the rest of their lineup. However, both pitchers have excellent fist time through the order splits, with large enough sample sizes to feel confident about that projection.

Pick: Nationals-Marlins NRFI -113 (Play to -130)

St. Louis Cardinals vs. New York Mets YRFI: While neither offense is especially top-heavy, this is an oddly cheap price for a YRFI on a game with a nine-run total. Both pitchers are below average their first time through the order as well, which helps make up for the balanced lineups.

Pick: Cardinals-Mets YRFI -106 (BetRivers | Play to -130)

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Texas Rangers YRFI: This is a similar situation as the Mets game, but with even worse pitching splits the first time through the order.

Pick: Blue Jays-Rangers YRFI -108 ( Play to -135)

Los Angeles Angels vs. Kansas City Royals YRFI: I love betting Angels YRFIs more than the numbers say I should — but the numbers really like this one too. A 9.5-run total and the Royals being on the better side of their platoon splits lead to the strong projection.

Pick: Angels-Royals YRFI -110 (DraftKings | Play to -130)

Cincinnati Reds vs. Houston Astros YRFI: These teams rank fourth and fifth in terms of the proportion of their production from the first three hitters, and the Astros hit lefties much better than righties. I used a fairly conservative projection on Reds lefty starter Andrew Abbot (who has made just two big league starts) and still came up with a big edge here.

Pick: Reds-Astros YRFI -110 (BetMGM | Play to -125)

Tampa Bay Rays vs. San Diego Padres YRFI: We're getting plus-money here thanks to the pitching matchup — Shane McClanahan vs. Yu Darvish. While both pitchers are solid overall, they've both been worse their first time through the order this season, so expect the runs here to be front-loaded.

Pick: Rays-Padres YRFI +110 (BetMGM | Play to -105)

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