MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, July 24
R.J. Johnston Toronto Star/Toronto Star via Getty Images. Pictured: Blue Jays pitcher Jose Berrios.
We ended last week on a high note, going 5-1, including a +225 team-specific YRFI. It's a slightly smaller slate on Monday, but there's still some value to be found with four total bets.
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, July 24
Minnesota Twins vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: We've gone four-for-four with NRFI bets on Mariners games in the last week, including twice in their previous series against the Twins. Seattle ranks bottom-seven in proportion of runs from its the top three hitters, while the Twins rank dead last. We won't win every NRFI on these teams, but we'll win a lot more than we lose.
Houston Astros vs. Texas Rangers YRFI: On the other side of the coin, we have the Astros, who are the fourth-most "top-heavy" team in baseball. That's not quite enough for an automatic YRFI bet, but when they have a nine-run total, we'll land on that side more often than not.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: This pick is as much about the starting pitching as it is the offenses, with both starters being pretty mediocre overall and owning bad first-inning splits.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Toronto Blue Jays YRFI: The combination of a 9.5-run total and the Dodgers being the most "top-heavy" team in the league makes this an easy pick. BetRivers offering a slightly off-market line makes it even easier.