MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, August 7
Via G Fiume/Getty Images. Pictured: Logan Webb #62 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on July 22, 2023 in Washington, DC.
We're winding down the home stretch of the MLB season, with a bit under two months to go. Projections are getting a bit trickier for teams that have been effectively eliminated from contention and are giving opportunities to younger players without much MLB data. We'll be sticking with spots where we have enough data to trust the model moving forward, which could limit the number of opportunities on some days.
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 night's 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, August 7
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies NRFI: I'd recommend betting half of your usual unit here, as this one is effectively a coin flip with our edge coming from the plus-money line. While the game has a 10-run total, these teams both rank bottom-five in terms of production from their first three hitters.
Miami Marlins vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: This game has a 10.5-run total, the Marlins on the preferred side of their platoon splits against a lefty, and Eury Perez making his first big-league appearance in over a month. Plus, both teams are among the top 10 in run production from their first three hitters.
Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates NRFI: Spencer Strider getting the start for Atlanta means all the risk is on the Braves to score today. However, Pirates starter Osvaldo Bido has solid splits his first time through the order — albeit in a limited sample size. This could be hedged with the Braves' team-specific line (+175 at DraftKings) for the risk-averse.
New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox NRFI: This is similar to the Braves' game, in that Gerrit Cole taking the mound for the Yankees makes the risk on this game fairly one-sided. While it's a worse line, New York is implied for more than a full run fewer than Atlanta, and Chicago starter Dylan Cease has strong numbers — both overall and especially his first time through the order.
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI: Both pitchers here have higher xFIP figures their first time through the order than overall, with 100+ inning sample sizes. Additionally, both offenses rank within the top-five in production from their first three hitters — though the Angels are somewhat lower since losing Mike Trout. Still, that's more than enough to make this worth taking at plus-money.