MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, April 24
Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Pictured: Alex Cobb (Giants)
We’re back with 11 games on Monday, including four showing value in my model.
Be sure to read the explanations down at the bottom, as we’re taking a bit of a leap on one of these bets, though at plus-money I’m more willing to roll the dice than if we had to lay heavy juice.
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 Monday, April 24
Cleveland Guardians vs. ColoradoRockies YRFI: The Guardians have struggled a bit against lefties to start the season, but that seems mostly like a combination of noise and poor production from the bottom of the lineup. Rockies starter Austin Gomber has well below-average splits the first time through the order both in his career and recently. Cleveland makes up the bulk of the opportunity here, but the Rockies give us a reasonable shot as well.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Boston Red Sox YRFI: Red Sox starter Chirs Sale has thrown fewer than 70 innings combined since 2019, which is nowhere near enough for my model to pull data from. However, he’s gotten rocked in three of four starts this year and might just not have it anymore. Baltimore has been a top-10 team against lefties this season, with nearly all of that coming from their first three hitters. If we plug in Sale’s career splits to the model this one ends up projecting at just over 50% for a first inning run, making any plus-money bet a solid value — though I’d put the true odds of it happening even higher, since he’s been considerably worse in recent years.
Atlanta Braves vs. Miami Marlins NRFI: Two solid pitchers in Spencer Strider and Edward Cabrera square off, with both having extreme first time through the order splits. Both offenses are solid, but pitching is the more important factor as a general rule.
San Francisco Giants vs. St. Louis Cardinals NRFI: Similar situation as above, with an eight-run implied total and two pitchers who do better early in games — with large enough sample sizes to feel comfortable making that pronouncement.
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