MLB NRFI Picks Today, Expert Model Predictions for Friday, June 9

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Expert Model Predictions for Friday, June 9 article feature image

Via Scott W. Grau/Getty Images. Pictured: Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Dylan Cease (84) pitches during a regular season Major League Baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers on May 28, 2023 at Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan.

  • Major League Baseball features a full slate of 15 games on Friday, and our predictive analyst has found four first-inning bets worth backing.
  • He's playing two YRFIs, one NRFI and one team-specific YRFI.
  • Find Billy Ward's YRFI/NRFI picks and predictions below.

Let's finish the week strong, despite a rough Thursday where one of our picks was cancelled and the other two lost. We have three regular picks tonight, plus a team-specific YRFI at juicy odds.

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

For 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 9th

Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks YRFI: I'm projecting this one at just over 50% to have a run in the first inning, making the plus-money lines a reasonable value. Most of the equity is on the Arizona side, but the Tigers have a reasonable projection as well thanks to D'Backs starter Merrill Kelly having mediocre first time through the order splits.

New York Yankees Team-specific YRFI: I was hesitant on this pick since the top of the Yankees order is obviously less potent with Aaron Judge on the DL — though the return of Giancarlo Stanton mitigates the drop-off a bit. However, the extremely juicy +230 line on DraftKings is too good to ignore, and Boston starter Garrett Whitlock has awful splits his first time through the order.

Pittsburgh Pirates vs. New York Mets YRFI: This is a shockingly low line on FanDuel considering the game has a 9.5-run total. Neither lineup is especially top-heavy, but they don't need to be if we're expecting an average of 9.5 total runs this game.

Chicago White Sox vs. Miami Marlins NRFI: Marlins rookie Eury Perez doesn't have quite enough innings to be totally confident in his projection today, but his splits are tremendous. Through five starts, he's yet to allow a run his first time through the order. With Chicago starting their ace Dylan Cease, it could be a while before either team scores.

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