MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, July 3
John Cordes/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Angels pitcher Jaime Barria.
It's the last week before the All-Star break, the unofficial halfway point of the MLB season. Let's close out the first half strong with some first-inning picks.
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 3
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros YRFI: With a total of 9 or 9.5 depending on the book, it's a pretty obvious YRFI situation — especially with the Astros as one of the most "top-heavy" teams in baseball this season.
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Chicago Cubs NRFI: While this game also features a total of (or around) 9, both pitchers have excellent splits the first time through the order — and both teams are fairly balanced in terms of where their runs come from in the lineup.
Washington Nationals vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: FanDuel is well off the market with a -122 line here, as most books set it at -140 or longer. Those longer odds are closer to the true chance of a run here, with a double-digit total and a Reds lineup that's stacked at the top.
New York Yankees vs. Baltimore Orioles YRFI: I'm on the fence with this one, as I still hesitate to bet Yankees YRFIs without Aaron Judge in the lineup. However, Baltimore is providing most of the equity here against Domingo German, who has poor splits the first time through the order. I wouldn't take any of the juicier lines at books that aren't BetMGM, though.
San Diego Padres Team-Specific YRFI: I have this game as almost exactly a toss-up to have a first-inning run, but the bulk of that equity belongs to the Padres. The full-game line is worth it if you can find plus-money, but there's slightly better EV on the team-only line at +195. Make it half of your usual unit given the higher variance.