MLB NRFI & YRFI Picks: Predictions & Projections for 3 Monday Games

MLB NRFI & YRFI Picks: Predictions & Projections for 3 Monday Games article feature image

Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images. Pictured: Twins pitcher Sonny Gray.

  • With a 10-game MLB slate, Billy Ward's NRFI model found betting value on three of them.
  • The three games with NRFI and YRFI battle are Reds vs. Giants, Rangers vs. Rays and Mariners vs. Twins.
  • Check out all three of Billy Ward's first-inning bets below.

Monday is a travel day for many major league teams, so we have a light day in terms of YRFI/NRFI bets. Let's start the week off right with a few picks while we prepare for tomorrow's massive Tuesday slate.

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 night's 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 Monday, July 17

Cincinnati Reds vs. San Francisco Giants YRFI: Great American Ball Park is essentially Coors Field East, with this game having the only double-digit implied total on the slate. Both teams rank inside the top five in terms of run production from their first three hitters, making this an obvious YRFI spot.

Texas Rangers vs. Tampa Bay Rays YRFI: While this one is less obvious, the value is nearly as good. Yes, the Rays are starting Shane McClanahan. However, Texas owns a 132 wRC+ against lefties. On the Tampa side, it has an easier matchup with Dane Dunning — and it's the best offense in baseball against right-handed pitching.

Seattle Mariners vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: The -130 line is a bit juicier than I normally like to play on first-inning bets, but the value is more than enough to make up for it. It's a 7.5-run total, and the Twins are the worst team in baseball in terms of production from their top three hitters. The Mariners, meanwhile, rank 24th.

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