MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, September 18

MLB NRFI Picks Today, Model Predictions for Monday, September 18 article feature image

Rich Schultz/Getty Images. Pictured: Eduardo Rodriguez

Just a couple weeks of baseball left, so let's look to finish on a high note.

It's a smaller slate Monday, but we have a few picks to start the week off.

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 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, September 18

Cleveland Guardians vs. Kansas City Royals (NRFI): We have bad offenses facing bad pitching today in Kansas City. These teams rank 19th and 27th in wRC+ against righties, but both starters have ERAs in the fives. However, both have also been considerably better their first time through the order, making this a solid pick at plus money.

Boston Red Sox vs. Texas Rangers (YRFI): On the other hand, we have two good (or at least average) offenses in reasonable pitching matchups in Texas. The Rangers, with a top-five offense against righties, are taking on Kutter Crawford, whose ERA as a starter is 4.88. On the other side, Boston gets Jordan Montgomery, who has solid ERA numbers (both overall and first time through the order) but whose xFIP and other indicators suggest he has been pretty lucky.

Detroit Tigers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (NRFI): The projection on Detroit is minimal, thanks to its 3.5-run implied total. Therefore, it comes down to Eduardo Rodriguez against the stacked Dodgers lineup. Los Angeles has been (slightly) worse against lefties this season, and E-Rod has a 3.08 ERA his first time through the order. That's enough, given the low juice on this NRFI bet.

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