MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, September 11
Tim Heitman/Getty Images. Pictured: Gavin Williams
We ended last week on a high note, going 4-1 on Friday, including a team-specific YRFI hit.
We have a pair of those today, as well as four more full-game selections.
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, September 11
Atlanta Braves vs. Philadelphia Phillies Game 1 (ATL-Only YRFI): The Braves are taking on Taijuan Walker in the first game of their doubleheader today. Walker has an ERA of 4.91 his first time through the order, meaning he's allowed more than half a run per inning against average offenses. The Braves are anything but average — they're the best offense in baseball against righties (and overall). As always, bet these at half of your usual unit.
Texas Rangers vs. Toronto Blue Jays (YRFI): This game features a nine-run total and Dane Dunning, whose ERA and xFIP are both considerably higher his first time through the order than overall.
New York Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox (NRFI): My model has this one at a bit less than 50% to have a run in the first inning despite the high total, creating value at plus-money on the NRFI. Both pitchers are much better early in games than late, with Kutter Crawford having a 3.19 ERA his first time through the order and Clarke Schmidt at 3.38. This is another half-unit play for me.
Miami Marlins vs. Milwaukee Brewers (NRFI): This game has a 7.5-run total, two solid starters, and two below-average offenses against the pitcher handedness they're facing today. That's worth paying the juice for.
Los Angeles Angels vs. Seattle Mariners (SEA-Only YRFI): Seattle is facing Reid Detmers, whose 3.67 ERA his first time through the order suggests he gives up a run in one-third of the innings he pitches. With Seattle's somewhat top-heavy offense and solid splits against lefties (111 wRC+), the true odds are a bit better than one in three today, making anything past +200 a good value.
Cleveland Guardians vs. San Francisco Giants (NRFI): San Francisco is the better offense here and is taking on a starter in Gavin Williams with a 1.53 ERA his first time through the order. Alex Cobb has worse (but not awful) numbers, but the easier matchup with Cleveland.