MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Friday, May 5
John Fisher/Getty Images. Pictured: Corbin Burnes
We have another busy Friday in the MLB, which means even more opportunities for the best bet in baseball.
It’s a four-piece meal tonight, with one of them coming as a specific team YRFI at very juicy odds.
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.
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 5th
Atlanta Braves vs. Baltimore Orioles YRFI: I have this one projected around 60%, with Atlanta doing the bulk of the work. Even so, Baltimore is a top-three team overall against left-handed pitching, so it wouldn’t shock me if the Orioles come through despite the somewhat difficult matchup with Atlanta’s Max Fried.
St. Louis Cardinals YRFI: This is a perfect spot for our occasional one-team-only YRFI, which I’d recommend as a half-unit bet. The Cardinals are facing the Tigers’ Matthew Boyd, who has a 5.47 ERA and 5.26 xFIP on the season. When looking specifically at their top three hitters, St. Louis is the fourth-best team against lefties this year. Detroit projects so poorly I’m actually showing a slight value on the game NRFI, but the Cardinals-only YRFI is significantly better EV.
Seattle Mariners vs. Houston Astros NRFI: This one is a bit more juice than I generally like to lay on these bets, but it’s projecting extremely well. The game has a seven run total (with the under favored) and both pitchers involved have good splits their first time through the order.
San Francisco Giants vs. Milwaukee Brewers NRFI: The Giants are on the right side of their platoon splits tonight, but have a tough matchup with Corbin Burnes in a game with an eight run total.The Brewers have a better matchup, but their first three hitters are combining for a 61 wRC+ against lefties (100 is average.) Taken together, I have this a hair under 40% for a first inning run, well better than the 45% or so implied by the line.
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