MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, June 26
Stephen Brashear/Getty Images. Pictured: Luis Castillo of the Seattle Mariners.
Monday features a smaller slate of MLB games, but we still found some value with a few first-inning bets. Let's get the week started off right with some wins.
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, June 26
Baltimore Orioles vs. Cincinnati Reds YRFI: This game has a 10-run total, two of the more top-heavy teams in baseball, and average (at best) pitching in terms of stats the first time through the order. I don't love taking -130 lines on first-innings bets, but this is a situation where it's worth it.
New York Mets vs. Milwaukee Brewers NRFI: Justin Verlander has been pretty rough this season, both in general and his first time through the order. However, I'm banking on him being slightly better than that since he's faced two top-five offenses in his last four starts, plus played one game at Coors Field.
Atlanta Braves vs. Minnesota Twins NRFI: Spencer Strider is one of the best pitchers in basebal the first time through the order, giving the Twins a very low chance of a first-inning run. While there's some risk on the Braves side, Twins' starter Sonny Gray has strong splits as well.
Seattle Mariners vs. Washington Nationals NRFI: Both teams rank near the bottom in production from their top three hitters, and both pitchers have strong splits the first time through the order — and I'd take this line even if none of that were true, thanks to the 7.5-run total.