MLB NRFI Odds, Picks: Model Projections, Predictions for 4 Monday Games

Credit:

Via Winslow Townsend/Getty Images. Pictured: Nick Pivetta #37 of the Boston Red Sox against the New York Yankees during the seventh inning of game one of a doubleheader at Fenway Park on June 18, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts.

• With 10 MLB games on Monday's slate, Billy Ward's NRFI/YRFI model came through with four picks.
• Ward has NRFI/YRFI bets for games including Red Sox vs. Mariners, Guardians vs. Astros and more.
• Check out all four of Ward's NRFI/YRFI picks for Monday's MLB games below.

We had a solid last week, turning a profit of a bit over two units. We're back at it today, with my model updated to reflect all of the recent trades happening throughout the league.

The Model

The process is relatively simple. First, I start by assuming that the full-game (implied) run totals for each 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 31

Baltimore Orioles vs. Toronto Blue Jays NRFI: Kyle Gibson and Chris Bassitt are two of the better pitchers in the majors the first time through the order, both featuring xFIPs below four. Neither team is especially top-heavy either, making this a perfect example of what my model is designed to catch — a high-total game where the runs are likely to come later on.

Los Angeles Angels vs. Atlanta Braves YRFI: This game features a double-digit total, plus one starter (the Angels' Griffin Canning) who's been slightly worse his first time through the order. Even without factoring in the Angels' recently acquired bats, this one is a value, but in theory the additions could boost the Angels' side of the projection a bit as well.

Cleveland Guardians vs. Houston Astros YRFI: Noah Syndergaard is set to make his Guardians debut, as he returns from the injured list tonight. He has a 6.43 ERA his first time through the order this season, and it's hard to imagine he's better in his first game post-injury.

Boston Red Sox vs. Seattle Mariners NRFI: This is a great line considering the run total of 7.5 for the game. It's an even better one when you factor in both lineups ranking among the bottom 10 in the majors in production from the first three hitters and both pitchers having solid first time through the order splits.