MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, May 1

Credit:

Michael Reaves/Getty Images. Pictured: Drew Smyly

Another quiet Monday in MLB, with the potential for an even quieter day if rain impacts any of the three games in New York City.

Still, we've managed to find three first inning bets worth playing, including in Game 2 of the MetsBraves doubleheader. Be extra careful that you're betting the later game when making that selection.

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 nights 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 DAY, DATE

Atlanta Braves vs. New York Mets Game 2 YRFI: There's obviously a bit of fragility in projecting doubleheaders this early in the morning, but I prefer to get ahead of any potential line movement. Game 2 has a half-run higher total, and a Braves pitcher in Charlie Morton who's considerably worse the first time through the order than is featured in Game 1.

If you're getting to this one later in the afternoon and any of the star hitters from either team are getting Game 2 off, it could be worth passing. I've modeled this assuming the first three hitters from each team is the same in both games since all four starting pitchers are right-handed.

WashingtonNationals vs. Chicago Cubs NRFI: The Cubs and Nationals are two of the least productive teams in terms of their first three hitters, and they get worse the more heavily we weigh 2023 data. Combine that with an 8.5 run total and two reasonably solid starters and we have an ideal NRFI game.

Bet Nationals-Cubs NRFI Instantly with QuickSlip!

Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays YRFI: This is a rare non-Coors game with a double-digit total. Even if we pretended that those runs would be distributed at random, this would be a good bet. They aren't, though, with the first inning being likelier than others to produce runs.