MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, May 19

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Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Sandy Alcantara

It's another busy Friday in the MLB, with a full slate of games and plenty of RFI bets.

Let's finish out the week strong after a solid winning streak over the last few days.

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, May 19

Washington Nationals vs. Detroit Tigers NRFI: The total on this game is surprisingly high given the poor offenses involved, but even so my model still likes the under. Both teams are in the bottom-third in percentage of their production from their first three hitters, while both pitchers have solid splits their first time through the order.

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Philadelphia Phillies vs. Chicago Cubs YRFI: This line is -128 on FanDuel but just -105 on DraftKings at the time of writing, and I expect the consensus to settle closer to the FanDuel line by game time. It's not the biggest edge in my model, but given what the rest of the market is telling us, I'll take the -105 all day.

Toronto Blue Jays vs. Baltimore Orioles YRFI: This line is a bit juicier than I prefer, but hard to pass up on given the 10-run total on the game. Jays starter Yusei Kikuchi is one of the worst pitchers his first time through the order (relative to his overall stats) in baseball, and Baltimore is a top-five overall offense against lefties.

Atlanta Braves vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: Both Bryces on the mound tonight — Elder and Miller — have excellent early game splits, typical of young starters. That makes even money on a NRFI a great deal, even with a nine-run game total.

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Chicago White Sox vs. Kansas City Royals YRFI: Another somewhat juiced line in a game with a double-digit total. This one projects slightly better than the Jays game, thanks to a pair of pitchers with brutal first time through the order splits.

Bet Royals-White Sox YRFI Instantly at FanDuel with QuickSlip!

San Francisco Giants vs. Miami Marlins YRFI: This game is projecting as roughly a toss-up, but the solidly plus-money odds make it worth a shot. Both offenses involved are top-three in terms of production from their first three hitters. That's enough to make up for difficult pitching matchups and a low total at the current odds. This is a half-unit bet for me.